Le, H., Oh, I-S., Robbins, S.B., Ilies, R., Holland, E., & Westrick, P. (2011). Too much of a good thing: Curvilinear relationships between personality traits and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 1, 113-133.
The relationships between personality traits and performance are often assumed to be linear. This assumption has been challenged conceptually and empirically, but results to date have been inconclusive. In the current study, we took a theory-driven approach in systematically addressing this issue. Results based on two different samples generally supported our expectations of the curvilinear relationships between personality traits, including Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability, and job performance dimensions, including task performance, organizational citizenship behavior, and counterproductive work behaviors. We also hypothesized and found that job complexity moderated the curvilinear personality–performance relationships such that the inflection points after which the relationships disappear were lower for low-complexity jobs than they were for high-complexity jobs. This finding suggests that high levels of the two personality traits examined are more beneficial for performance in high- than low-complexity jobs. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for the use of personality in personnel selection.