Five factor model of personality & role stress.

AuthorRai, Snigdha


Stress in the workplace is increasingly a critical problem for employees, employers and for the organization as a whole, but it is inevitable and a necessary part of life (Doublet, 2000). Empirical researches in this area have demonstrated the direct and indirect costs of stress on individual employee's performance and performance of organization as a whole (Ortqvist & Wincent, 2006). Studies also indicate that the amount of experienced role stress is partly depended on the personality predispositions of the employee concerned (Keenan & McBain, 1979). Present study attempts to investigate the relationship between five factor model of personality and role stress.

Interest in occupational role stress has grown considerably since Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn & Rosenthal (1964) classic study of role stress. Within an organizational context, the term 'role' can be defined as a set of expectations applied to the incumbent of a particular position by the incumbent and by role senders within and beyond an organizational boundary (Banton, 1965). Role stress originate when an individual in a particular work role is torn by conflicting job demands or doing things he/she does not think are part of the job specification (Cooper & Marshall, 1976).

Role conflict, role ambiguity, role overload are widely examined individual stressors and there is a large body of literature(House & Rizzo, 1972; Mc Grath, 1976; Schuler, Aldag & Brief, 1979; Fisher & Gitelson, 1983; Jackson & Schuler, 1985; Newton & Keenan, 1987; Luszczynska & Cieslak, 2005). Since the 1960s, more than 300 articles have been published on role stress or one of its three dimensions; role conflict, as the discrepant role expectations sent by members/outstanding persons of an individual's role set, role ambiguity, as the degree of vagueness, ambiguity in desired expectations that creates difficulties for a person to fulfil requirements, and role overload, as the extent to which time and resources prove inadequate to meet expectations of commitments and obligations to fulfil a role. The diversity of journals where the articles are published suggests that similar concepts are tested over and over again in different contextual settings and on different actors performing different roles.

Studies in India have also attempted to establish the degree of association or causal relationships of stress with other variables such as organizational, job, leadership, communicational and personal factors (Pestonjee, 1992). Pareek (1993) has pioneered work on role stress by identifying as many as ten different types of organisational role stresses namely: Inter Role Distance (IRD), Role Stagnation (RS), Role Expectation Conflict (REC), Role Erosion (RE), Role Overload (RO), Role Isolation (RI), Personal Inadequacy (PI), Self-role Distance (SRD), Role Ambiguity (RA), and Resource Inadequacy (RIN).

Role Stress & Personality

Role stress can arise from different patterns of mismatch in expectations, resources, capability and values about the role. In this matching process personality factors act as the conditioning variables. A person's personality affects how that person experiences and copes with stress. It is generally believed that the competitive, aggressive and anxious people are more prone towards experiencing stress (Ivancevich et al., 1982; Cooper, Dewe & O'Driscoll, 2001).

Spector (1982) has made the point that personality variables play an important role in the understanding of a range of behaviours at the workplace. Researchers offer a range of frameworks relating personality and the stress that a person experiences. Hart (1999) developed a model for linking personality to work, non-work, and life satisfaction. Bolger and Zuckerman's (1995) framework illustrates how personality affects both the exposure and reactivity to stress, health and physiological outcomes. O'Brien and Delongis (1996) suggest that personality and situational factors play an important part in three forms of coping responses; problem, emotion, and relationship focused. Personality and stress has been studied in other ways. For example, the concept of hardiness; commitment, control, and challenge has generated considerable interest as a moderator of the stress-exhaustion process (Luszczynska & Cieslak, 2005).

Personality has been also linked to the likelihood of experiencing stressful situations (Bolger & Schilling, 1991), the appraisal of an event as stressful (Gunthert, Cohen & Armeli, 1999). Kahn et al. (1964) studied personality variables as determinants of role ambiguity and role conflict in organizations. Most of the other researchers have focused on other dimensions of personality, i.e. Type A Behavior pattern, psychoticism-reality (P), extroversion-introversion (E), Neuroticism-stability (N) and organizational role stress (Pestonjee & Singh, 1988; Pandey, 1998). Recently, Five Factor Model (FFM) traits have also been studied in the stress process (Conard & Matthews, 2008; Grant & Langan-Fox, 2007; Miller, Griffin, & Hart, 1999). There are some recent studies which advocates the relationship between big five personality and stress (Berg & Hilde, 2011; Fogarty et. al., 1999). Building on this literature, the present study examined how FFM traits influence the stress process.

Five Factor Model (FFM)

The Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality is widely used as a basis for assessment of stress vulnerability (Costa, Somerfield & McCrae, 1996).The five key dimensions of personality are known as Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to experience, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness which represent the basic dimensions underlying personality (Costa & McCrae 1991; Digman 1990). Research using both natural language adjectives and theoretically based personality questionnaires supports the comprehensiveness of the model and its applicability across observers and cultures (McCrae, 1992).

In many studies it has also been shown that the Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality are meaningful drivers of individual behaviour and performance (James & Mazerolle, 2002; Zhao & Seibert, 2006). O'Brien and Delongis (1996) used this five-factor model of personality and dimensions of the social context to understand how people cope with stress. Although these five factors have become widely accepted as being core dimensions of personality, relatively few studies have investigated their relationship with role stress (Berg & Hilde, 2011; Fogarty et. al., 1999). Also few studies have examined the independent effects of each of the five factors individually on work stress (Ozutku & Selma Altindis, 2011). This study examines the relationship between the Five Factor Model of Personality with the three dimensions of role stress namely role conflict, role ambiguity and role overload.

Hypothesis Development

Neuroticism (N): Individuals high on N are prone to experience negative emotions such as depression, anxiety or anger and tend to be impulsive and self conscious (McCrae & Costa 1987). On the other hand individuals low on N are emotionally stable, even tempered, relaxed and exhibit characteristics of calmness. Neuroticism has been negatively associated with life satisfaction and positively associated with self reported stress (Hills & Norvell, 1991). Individuals who are high on N may be less likely to deal with pressures between the work...

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