Big Five Personality Traits in the Workplace: What They Mean & Why They Matter

Katie McBeth  | 

Personality can have a lot to say about your place in society and your status in life, and scientists have always been eager to try to better understand personality types. However, the science behind personality is tricky, and rarely accurate. Some of the most common personality tests, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, are not based on scientific findings or research. The method for the MBTI wasn’t even created by doctors or psychologists, but by mystery writers that enjoyed the work of 1920’s psychologist, Carl Jung.

The MBTI is not the only personality test that has maintained popularity despite its lack of support from psychologists. There are many other personality tests available online for free that don’t always hold merit. They can be fun to take, but the results should always be regarded with some scepticism, as they can change dramatically over time, and may even change depending on your mood. Many of these tests have fickle results just because humans are fickle creatures: our moods, worldview, emotions, and interests are constantly changing and adapting. Although some traits may stay the same throughout our life, many of our other personality quirks will evolve over our lifetime.

However, there is one personality test that has received resounding support — so far — from many psychologists and scientists. That is the Big Five Personality Traits or the Five Factor Model (FFM).

Let’s look at the origin of this new personality assessment, what factors are included, and how you can apply this knowledge to your everyday life and career.

What Are the Big Five Personality Traits?

While other tests such as the MBTI are aimed at career aptitude, the Big Five is more focused on academic behaviors in relation to personality. The origin of the Big Five started with Ernest Tupes and Raymond Christal in 1961, but it failed to reach a wider audience until about 20 years later, in the 1980s. Tupes and Christal were aiming to identify the core traits of human personality, and to analyze how these core personality traits can predict or explain human behavior.

However, unlike other personality tests, the Big Five is much more scientifically sound in method, as three other research groups were able to come to the same conclusion as Tupes and Christal, all while using differing methods. Although some researchers changed the names or general definition of the traits, their core understanding of those traits are easily interchangeable and are factor-analytically aligned.

The other groups that narrowed down personality to five traits were: Goldberg with the Oregon Research Institute, Cattell at the University of Illinois, and Costa and McCrae with the National Institutes of Health. Costa and McCrae were able to publish their work for a wider audience in 1978, when they released Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Inventory (NEO-I), which they later expanded to NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI) in 1985. The NEO PI is the most widely recognized model and test for the Big Five or Five Factor Model; however, the four research groups all came to similar conclusions.

OCEAN

OCEAN is an acronym that refers to the core traits that psychologists have called the Big Five or the Five Factor Model. The acronym CANOE has also been used. Each category of personality has two possible extremes, and people can review their personality on a scale related to that overarching personality trait. These are the five core personality traits and their respective extremes, and further explanations will be provided below:

  • Inventive/Curious vs. Consistent/Cautious for Openness to Experience
  • Efficient/Organized vs. Easy-going/Careless for Conscientiousness
  • Outgoing/Energetic vs. Solitary/Reserved for Extraversion
  • Friendly/Compassionate vs. Challenging/Detached for Agreeableness
  • sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident for Neuroticism

Openness to Experience

Openness to Experience, also known as “intellect or imagination,” is a bit self-explanatory: are you open to new experiences or are you afraid of changing circumstances? Are you a detailed planner or a more spontaneous person? Are you comfortable with new ideas brought into your life or work, or does change and new ideas give you nightmares?

This aspect of your personality is ranked on a scale from consistent/cautious (low openness) to inventive/curious (high openness).

Traits, Strengths, and Weaknesses

If you rank high in openness, or inventive/curious, you are more open to new experiences or eager to explore art, music, emotions, and new places. Highly open people are more curious and open minded. They tend to be more liberal in viewpoint, and are more eager to consume new media, technology, art, or culture.

However, your need to explore and experience new things can be expensive, and you may feel downtrodden if you don’t have the opportunity to live out your wanderlust. Additionally, it may be hard for you to work a comfortable 9-to-5 job, and you may find yourself job hopping more often as you don’t want to settle into a routine.

Some statements you might relate to include:

  • I am full of excellent ideas.
  • I am quick to understand things.
  • I use difficult words.
  • I am very interested in abstractions or abstract ideas.
  • I have an active imagination.
  • I enjoy exploring new places and attending art museums or other places where I can experience a new culture/idea.

If you rank low in openness, or closer to consistent/cautious, you are more likely to be creative and aware of your feelings, and might even hold unconventional or conservative beliefs. You may still be interested in exploring new places if you’re on this end of the spectrum, but you’re less invested in art or poetry. You’re comfortable with your place in the world, and aren’t as interested in exploring new ideas or cultures.

Unfortunately, this can mean that change is very challenging for you, whether that means you’re uncomfortable with it, or less eager to explore new opportunities. In an office environment, organizational change can be very intimidating if you’re not prepared or the changes are explained to you. You rely on habits, and you might be less likely to explore new jobs — even if the one you’re in isn’t right for you — simply because you’re not eager to seek out change.

Some statements you might relate to include:

  • I am comfortable in my worldview.
  • It can be difficult for me to understand new concepts.
  • I use a basic vocabulary. (Who needs fancy words?)
  • I am not interested in abstractions.
  • I do not have a good imagination.
  • I have difficulty understanding abstract ideas.
  • I avoid challenging my own belief system.

Opposing Personalities: Openness to Experience

The “Big Five” can also be useful when considering how others interact with you or perceive you. Additionally, you can use it to better understand the mannerisms of others, such as your manager.

Unlike coworkers, managers are a little harder to avoid if you have opposing personalities. However, butting heads with your manager is also not advisable. When learning about your personality, the knowledge you acquire can help you better understand how to deal with opposing personalities — even your managers.

If your boss is eager for change (high openness) but you are not, don’t let that difference discourage you! Change can be good in many circumstances, and your boss is most likely making a change that is good for the business. If you need evidence, just ask your boss why they’re making a change so that you can better understand their point of view. Hopefully they’ll be eager to share their idea, and you’ll be more comfortable with the constant flux of the business.

If you are eager for change but your boss is not (low openness), then the best option is communication. For example, if your manager has a very rigorous checklist of things that need to be done, but you know of a way to do them in less time, then all you need to do is take the time to explain yourself to your manager. If they’re not open to your suggestions, then don’t go behind their back. They could have a very good reason as to why they’re not willing to budge on some things, and remember that they always have the business’ best interests in mind. Communication and understanding is the key here, so be sure to listen, empathize, and explain yourself when you need to.

Best Jobs and Careers

For people that are high openness to experiences, you might be more interested in a job that allows you to explore new places, ideas, or cultures. Consider some of these positions:

  • Anthropologist or Archaeologist
  • Archivist (Museum)
  • Artist
  • Biologist
  • Flight Attendant or Commercial Pilot
  • Historian
  • Human Resource Specialist or Manager
  • Journalist, Writer, Blogger
  • Librarian
  • Photographer
  • Political Activist or Politician
  • Reporter
  • Social Worker
  • Sociologist
  • Travel Agent

For people that are low openness to experiences, you will be much more interested in a comfortable and stable job that has very little change over time. Consider some of these callings:

  • Architect or Drafter
  • Accountant
  • Auditor
  • Construction Worker or Manager
  • Economist
  • Engineer (Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, etc)
  • Financial Advisor
  • Insurance Sales Agent
  • Investigator or Detective
  • Police Officer or Correctional Officer
  • Politician or Political Activist
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Retail Salesperson

Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is often related to lawfulness, or how you control and regulate your impulses. It evaluates your self-discipline and how you react to outside expectations.

Either you’re a highly conscientious person who follows rules and guidelines (efficient/organized), or you’re low conscientious person who might scoff at rules and break barriers to come up with creative solutions (easy-going/careless).

Traits, Strengths, and Weaknesses

High conscientious people have a tendency to display self-discipline and act dutifully in everything that they do. You may be more capable of following a strict diet, and are much more conscientious of rules, laws, and guidelines. You are also more of a planner, and might take the time to plan out every hour or detail of your day.

Unfortunately, if you’re highly conscientious, you might be thrown for a loop if plans have to change last minute. Spontaneity stresses you out, and it can be hard for you to recover when caught by surprise. Additionally, messy and unorganized places or environments can also lead to stress. Without guidelines or rules, you can feel lost and confused.

Some statements you might relate to include:

  • I am always prepared, as long as things go according to plan.
  • I pay attention to details.
  • I get chores done right away.
  • I like order.
  • I follow a schedule.
  • I am exacting in my work.
  • I am very clean and organized.
  • Everything in my life has a place.
  • I am quick and precise in executing my duties.

Sometimes low conscientious people require more supervision, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad worker — you can be some of the most creative people on a team. You’re more likely to scoff at rules or challenge conventionally held beliefs or guidelines. You’re much more interested in trying out new and exciting methods — even if they seem impossible or unlikely to work out. You’re also a bit less organized, more open for spontaneity, and are not always aware of your surroundings.

Of course, this behavior also comes with it’s disadvantages. You can feel overwhelmed or overburdened when you’re in an environment that relies heavily on rules and guidelines. You certainly won’t work well in a business that doesn’t provide you with creative freedom. Additionally, your living environment might be messy and disorganized — where things can easily be misplaced — and you might often be referred to as a “space cadet” because you can’t concentrate on a single task at a time.

Some statements you might relate to include:

  • I am rarely prepared.
  • I ignore small details.
  • I get chores done when I want to.
  • I like disorder.
  • I never follow a schedule.
  • I am sporadic in my work.
  • I leave my belongings around.
  • I make a mess of things.
  • I often forget to put things back in their proper place.
  • I shirk my duties.

Historical trends show that many young individuals might lean more towards easy-going or careless natures, but as they grow older they may lean more towards efficiency and orderliness.

Opposing Personalities: Conscientiousness

Again, if you find yourself having a very different personality from your coworkers or bosses, it can be helpful to understand where their personality lies on the spectrum so you can better communicate your needs to them.

For conscientiousness, your boss is either an eager planner — well organized with thorough research and notation done prior to every project — or they’re less of a planner and a bit more scatterbrained. Sometimes dealing with an opposing boss in this scenario can be more challenging, but it’s certainly not impossible.

If you’re an efficient and organized type but your boss is not, then it might be overwhelming to see how disorganized or spontaneous they are. But you don’t have to spend your time organizing their business for them — they work best in the environment they’ve built for themselves. However, you can be sure to keep your own workspace organized, be thorough about notes, and communicate patiently to your boss that you appreciate guidelines, prompts, or rules to help you complete your work. If your boss is prone to changing projects, has almost erratic thought processes, or is a “big ideas” person, then the best you can do is communicate your needs and try to manage and organize the work you produce. Match their enthusiasm (avoid bogging them down with “yes, but…” interruptions) and suggest ways in which to build off their initial ideas.

If your boss is a big planner, but you are more easy going and careless, then it might be easy to overwhelm your boss. However, as long as you can explain your process, show detailed examples of the methods you used, and be in regular communication with your boss, then you should be able to find a middle ground with them. Your boss will be interested in knowing your process, and might feel adverse to creative solutions. Luckily, if you can thoroughly explain why you want to try this new creative process, then you should be able to earn their support. Allow them to give input and guidance, and be thorough in explaining your logic.

Best Jobs and Careers

For people that are highly conscientious, you will be invigorated by jobs that provide routine, guidelines, and that prioritize organization and attention to detail. Consider some of these callings:

  • Architect or Drafter
  • Accountant or Auditor
  • Construction Worker or Manager
  • Doctor, Dentist, Pharmacist, or Physician
  • Economist
  • Engineer (Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, etc)
  • Financial Advisor (Personal or Business)
  • Fire Inspector
  • Investigator or Detective
  • Judge or Legal Aid (Lawyer, Trustee, etc)
  • Police Officer
  • Statistician

For people that are low conscientious, you will be much more interested in jobs that provide you with a creative outlet or encourages and maintains innovation. Consider these positions:

  • Architect
  • Artist
  • Designer (Interior, Fashion, etc)
  • Computer Programer or Software Engineer
  • Executive (CEO, COO, C-Suite, etc)
  • Film Designer, Assistant, Producer, or Director
  • Game Designer or Creator
  • Inventor or Researcher
  • Journalist, Writer, Blogger
  • Librarian
  • Musician or Composer
  • Photographer
  • Small Business Owner (Industry Disruption)
  • Sociologist
  • Zoologist or Wildlife Biologist

Also remember that if you’re young and more easy-going now, your behavior could change over time. It’s important to not only find a job that can fit your current personality, but that you can grow into and that will embrace your changing personality down the road.

Extraversion

Extraversion often has to do with attention, breadth of social activities, energy creation from external situations, and mental energy. This is one of the most commonly known personality traits, and is shared with many other personality tests.

You can be ranked on a scale of high extraversion (extrovert, outgoing and energetic) to low extraversion (introvert, solitary and reserved).

Traits, Strengths, and Weaknesses

Extroverts are energized in social situations and outgoing. Are you the sort of person that loves to be the center of a party, and refuels by going out to a bar with your friends? Perhaps you feel more fulfilled when your calendar is full of events and you have a million things on your plate — you enjoy being highly visible in social situations, and you often assert yourself. You have a large friend circle, and everywhere you go you see someone you know.

However, you can easily overwhelm yourself or overburden your calendar by being too socially active. You might find yourself getting less sleep and spending less time taking care of your personal needs. Additionally, extroverts often talk over other people, which can be hurtful or stifling in business settings. Quieter people might have excellent ideas to offer, and by talking over them you might miss a good point or idea. It’s good to find a balance between talking and listening.

Some traits that you might find relatable include:

  • I am the life of the party.
  • I don’t mind being the center of attention.
  • I feel comfortable around people.
  • I start conversations.
  • I talk to a lot of different people at parties.
  • I often act without thinking.
  • I enjoy drawing attention to myself.
  • I am comfortable and talkative with strangers.
  • I can easily talk in large crowds.
  • I can easily assert myself or my ideas in meetings.

Introverts are reserved and solitary. You may be the sort of person that is more reserved at parties, and then refuels by being alone in your home. You’re not shy by any means, but you’re more independent of your social calendar and prefer less stimulation in your environment. You’re much more aware of your mental needs and can easily self-care; you’re also much more independent. You certainly have a vivid and active imagination, but you rarely let others know what you’re thinking. Unlike extroverts, your friend circle is much smaller but more intimate.

However, because you’re more quiet and reserved, you may find it difficult to assert yourself when you need to, and you might not enjoy working in groups. Especially in business settings, it can be hard for you to participate in meetings, groups, or brainstorms, just because you’re not comfortable with drawing attention to yourself. You also work better in quiet environments, which can make busy and bustling businesses very overwhelming. In fact, many business environments are not catered to the needs of introverts, so it can be hard to find a place that works well with your desire for quiet. Luckily, the advancement of remote workers is helping some introverts find the peace they need.

Some statements you might relate to include:

  • I rarely go to parties, and appear on the sidelines when I do.
  • I hate being the center of attention.
  • I feel most comfortable by myself.
  • I have a vivid imagination.
  • I have a small group of close friends.
  • I don’t talk a lot, especially not to strangers.
  • I think a lot before I speak or act.
  • I am quiet around strangers.
  • I have no intention of talking in large crowds.

Opposing Personalities: Extraversion

This is one of the most common personality traits to find examples of in the office. Many people that are in leadership positions might be extremely extroverted and outgoing. In fact, many businesses of the past have prioritized creating environments and business styles that favor a more extroverted personality. However, introverts are just as important and beneficial for business, and it’s important for you to understand how the two can work in harmony with each other.

If you’re an extrovert and your boss is an introvert, then you might find it difficult to get feedback from your boss. However, this doesn’t mean they dislike you, this just means they’re more likely to listen than they are to speak. Introverted bosses are exceptional listeners, are great collaborators, and can appear closed off, but over time you might be able to earn their trust and get to hear their inner thoughts. Be patient with introverted bosses (and coworkers), and you’ll come to find that they’re both creative, mindful, and appreciative of your hard work.

If you’re an introvert but your boss is an extrovert, then you might easily be overwhelmed by the bubbly behavior of your boss. After all, sometimes even listening can get tiring. However, introverts shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves in the office. There are ways to communicate to your boss that you’re not shy, just a better listener than a talker. You’re someone who likes to support the business without taking up the spotlight, and you’re skilled at taking everyone’s needs into consideration before making a decision. If you can accurately communicate your value to your boss, then they should be appreciative of your effort and your unique personality.

Best Jobs and Careers

For people that are extroverted, being in positions that allow you excessive human contact or the ability to assert yourself can be very rewarding. You may find these jobs especially appealing to you:

  • Actor or Performer
  • Advertising Manager, Sales Agent, or Specialist
  • Business Executive (CEO, COO, C-Suite etc)
  • Call Center Worker or Manager
  • Career Counselor
  • Communications Manager
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Human Resource Manager or Specialist
  • Journalist or Blogger
  • Media Manager (Social Media, Marketing, Advertising, etc)
  • Physical, Occupational, Massage Therapist (etc)
  • Receptionist
  • Reporter
  • Sales Manager, Agent, or Salesperson (Retail, Care, Real Estate, Insurance, etc)

For people that are more introverted, the jobs that would best work for you might include quiet and independent work, that prioritize meeting individual goals and don’t involve a lot of human contact. These jobs might be the most appealing to you:

  • App Developer
  • Artist
  • Designer (Interior, Fashion, Graphic, etc)
  • Computer Programer or Software Engineer
  • Counselor or Mental Health Therapist
  • Editor
  • Film Designer, Assistant, Producer, or Director
  • Game Designer or Creator
  • Journalist, Writer, or Blogger
  • Librarian
  • Marketing Specialist (Content Writer, SEO, etc)
  • Photographer
  • Social Media Planner or Manager
  • Stenographer
  • Translator or Interpreter

Agreeableness

Agreeableness is reflected by how much you want others to like you, or your concern for social harmony. This is also tangentially related to how you view the world: whether optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic.

This traits is measured on a scale from friendly/compassionate (high agreeableness) to challenging/detached (low agreeableness).

Traits, Strengths, and Weaknesses

If you’re a highly agreeable person (friendly/compassionate), then you most likely try to be the peacekeeper in arguments, have a hard time delivering criticism, and might struggle to be an authority figure. You’re much more interested in making friends, and hope that everyone can think positively about you. You’re trustworthy and helpful, generous and willing to sacrifice your own needs for the benefit of others. You often have an optimistic view of humanity.

However, as a highly agreeable person, you’re also much more likely to be taken advantage of by powerful people. You’re less likely to assert yourself because of your fear that others might not like you, and thus some people with malicious intent or a strong self-interest might use you to their advantage. Additionally, you’re much more likely to use up emotional energy trying to find solutions during conflict. It’s important to be aware of your personal needs, set boundaries, and take care of yourself when you feel as if you’ve become worn out.

Some statements you might relate to include:

  • I am interested in people.
  • I sympathize with others’ feelings.
  • I have a soft heart.
  • I take time out for others.
  • I feel others’ emotions.
  • I make people feel at ease.
  • I am afraid to make mistakes and hurt others.
  • I am often concerned for others.

However, if you’re a disagreeable person (challenging/detached), you care less about how others view you, and care more about getting your message across. You might be better suited for management positions, because you don’t mind giving constructive criticism or reprimanding others when they’ve made a big mistake.

However, being disagreeable also comes with it’s detriments, as you might not be as in tuned with your emotions as an agreeable person. You might even be more inclined to use people to your advantage, which can be abusive. You might have a lower emotional intelligence, don’t understand why others get upset with you, and might come across as cold-hearted to some. Working on your emotional intelligence can help you become a more well-rounded individual, and help you better understand the intentions of others and the impact you can have on them.

Some statements you might relate to include:

  • I am not interested in the lives of other people.
  • I am apathetic to others’ feelings.
  • I don’t have time for others’ troubles.
  • I prefer to hide emotions and feel uncomfortable around those who show theirs.
  • I prefer to be respected rather than liked.
  • I am not really interested in others.
  • I insult people.
  • I feel little concern for others.

Opposing Personalities: Agreeableness

Just as with extroversion, being a low agreeable person was a very favored trait for many managers of the past to have — it meant you were better at disciplining when needed, and were more likely to keep your team in line. You weren’t afraid of confrontation, which is often seen as a very masculine trait.

However, the world has changed quite a bit, and those traditionally “masculine” traits are less favored in the office. There is now more understanding and appreciation given to empathy and kindness, and people are feeling more supported by their bosses and place of employment when they can be shown compassion despite making a mistake.

Regardless of how you fall on this spectrum, it’s important to understand how these opposing personalities can benefit and understand each other. Is your boss a “yes man” that agrees to everything and easily hands out compliments to their employees? Then it could be that your boss is more invested in being liked than being challenged. However, if your boss is more comfortable micromanaging or being critical, then they might be harder to please. Depending on your personal traits, you might either be more open to connecting with this boss, or you might find it difficult to do so.

If you’re a highly agreeable person but your boss is not, then be sure to focus on how you receive and accept criticism. Your boss might be more open to handing it out, and although it might hurt to hear, use the information you gained to your advantage to improve your work and impress your boss. If anything, it’ll give you an opportunity to identify your boss’ values and preferences — both of which can be used to your advantage as an employee.

If you’re a low agreeable person but your boss is not, then your boss might be making an effort to become your friend when that idea seems very foreign to you. Instead of shutting them out completely, find some way in which to connect with them — whether that’s a shared love of sports or some other hobbie — and use that as a way to connect before you get ready to discuss business.

Best Jobs and Careers

If you’re a highly agreeable person, you may enjoy jobs that not only provide you with the chance to better the lives of others, but even find solutions to uniquely human problems. It could be that you invest in learning conflict resolution, or helping families find solace in counseling. If so, these jobs may be especially interesting to you:

  • Career Counselor
  • Community Service Manager
  • Human Resource Specialist
  • Interpreter or Translator
  • Librarian
  • Mental Health Counselor or Therapist
  • Non Profit Manager or Worker
  • Nutritionist
  • Pathologist
  • Psychiatrist or Psychologist
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • School Counselor
  • Social Worker
  • Teacher (K-12)
  • Therapist (Physical, Occupational, Massage, etc)
  • Training and Development Manager
  • Veterinarian or Veterinarian Assistant

If you’re a disagreeable person, you may enjoy jobs that have little contact with other people, and opportunities that allow you the chance to work off of numbers and data. You may be more analytically minded, which is why human emotions are so foreign to you. You may also be more inclined to work in positions of power, as you’re not invested in people liking you so much as respecting you and your authority. Luckily, there are plenty of jobs that can work with this personality type, and some of them may include:

  • Architect or Drafter
  • Accountant
  • Auditor
  • Construction Worker or Manager
  • Economist
  • Engineer (Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, etc)
  • Financial Advisor (Business)
  • Fire Inspector
  • Insurance Sales Agent
  • Investigator or Detective
  • Judge or Legal Aid (Lawyer, Trustee, etc)
  • Police Officer or Correctional Officer
  • Statistician

Neuroticism

Neuroticism is also known as emotional stability. It relates to how fast your emotions come to the forefront when faced with challenges — particularly negative emotions. Your anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression are all connected to your neurotic trait.

This is measured on a scale from low neuroticism (secure/confident) to high neuroticism (sensitive/nervous).

Traits, Strengths, and Weaknesses

If you rank high in neuroticism, then it could be that you’re very influenced by your emotional states. Some people might refer to themselves as “empaths” which means they are a highly sensitive person (HSP) and can reflect the emotions of others easily. This can be extremely useful for building relationships with friends, but might be difficult in an office setting — especially if the business often deals with tragic life events (health care disputes, hospice care, funeral arrangements, life insurance, etc).

Unfortunately, HSPs are often misunderstood, and if you are heavily influenced by your emotions, it can be hard to mask how you feel. You may find it difficult to receive criticism — even when it’s valid and helpful — and may find it difficult to calm down when someone has riled you up or upset you. You may be easily overwhelmed or stressed. In the modern office, emotional people can still feel alienated or unwanted, and you may find it difficult to fit into a traditional office environment.

You might find these traits to be relatable:

  • I get irritated easily.
  • I get stressed out easily.
  • I get upset easily.
  • I have frequent mood swings.
  • I worry about things.
  • I am much more anxious than most people.
  • I am easily influenced by the emotions of others.
  • I struggle with high anxiety, depression, or other common mental illnesses.

On the opposite side, there are those who are very in control of their emotions, or might even be more apathetic towards others. If you are low in neuroticism then you might appear stoic, can easily take criticism and grow from it, and can function well under stress. You’re much more calm and composed, and might have a constantly positive outlook on life. Not all low-scoring people are going to be expressly positive, but you’re certainly much less likely to experience negative emotions.

Unfortunately, your lack of ability to feel negative emotions can often mean you’re disconnected from others when tragedy happens. You may not know how to process grief, sadness, or hopelessness, which means those emotions can hit you even harder than expected. Additionally, you may be a bit apathetic to those that are having a hard time, which can be harmful to others. You are much more relaxed, but that can also mean you’re a bit too relaxed when deadlines are looming.

You might find that these statements are relatable to you:

  • I don’t get easily stressed or irritated.
  • I constantly have a rosy outlook on life.
  • I rarely have mood swings.
  • I rarely worry about things.
  • I am much more relaxed than most people.
  • I seldom feel blue.

Opposing Personalities: Neuroticism

Similar to the previous two personality traits, low neuroticism was commonly the favored personality trait of the past in an office setting. Emotions were discouraged from being shown in a business setting. Unfortunately, there are still many office environments where emotions are encouraged to be bottled up, which can make it difficult for HSPs or empaths to find a connection with their place of work.

However, the culture is shifting slowly to be more welcoming to empathic people, and more and more their inherent talents are being recognized. Regardless of how you fall on this spectrum, it’s vital to know how to interact with these opposing personality types: especially if your boss has the opposite personality.

Emotional intelligence (the ability to control your own emotions and understand the emotional state of others) is important in business, but that doesn’t mean your boss is going to have mastered that soft skill. Some bosses might still be less likely to rely on their emotions, and might come across as apathetic or brusk. On the reverse, some managers might be more prone to outbursts of emotion, or might be more empathetic to your circumstances.

If you’re an emotional person (high neuroticism) but your boss is not, then you might feel as if there is an emotional disconnect between yourself and your boss. Some bosses might simply be more in control of their emotions, but this doesn’t mean that they’re robotic nor incapable of caring about others. Explaining your emotional state may be difficult, but communication is always the first step in finding a resolution or middle ground. It could be that your boss relies more on numbers or statistics than feelings, so be sure to do thorough research before you present a project or a problem. Let them see that your emotions are a benefit that help you stay driven and motivated, and not a barrier to your work.

If your boss is a highly emotional person and you are not (low neuroticism), then you might find their emotions a bit overwhelming. However, be aware that their emotions can help them become driven to complete a project. They might be more easily agitated or expressive, but that isn’t a detriment to their work ethic. If anything it helps them communicate, express, and identify their core values, which in turn can help you identify and find ways to relate to those values as well. Again, communication is key, so if you are having a hard time understanding the reason behind their emotions, then just ask for them to explain and be patient and understanding with their answer.

Best Jobs and Careers

If you rank high in neuroticism, it may be difficult for you to work in high-stress environments. Instead, you should opt for low-stress and relaxed careers that allow you independence and the space you need to better manage your emotions. However, your emotional connectedness could also come in handy if you become a therapist or counselor, as it allows you the opportunity to empathize with others in a one-on-one environment. Some jobs for you might include:

  • Artist or Graphic Designer
  • Content Writer or Blogger
  • Counselor or Therapist
  • Editor or Proofreader
  • Market Researcher
  • Massage or Physical Therapist
  • Researcher or Analyst

If you rank low in neuroticism, you may be more inclined to work a variety of different trades, as long as they are in a positive and rewarding field that can match your personality. Some of the best jobs for you might be:

  • Actor or Performer
  • Advertising Manager, Sales Agent, or Specialist
  • Career Counselor
  • Communications Manager
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Human Resource Manager or Specialist
  • Journalist or Blogger
  • Media Manager (Social Media, Marketing, Advertising, etc)
  • Physical, Occupational, Massage Therapist (etc)
  • Receptionist
  • Reporter
  • Sales Manager, Agent, or Salesperson (Retail, Care, Real Estate, Insurance, etc)

Big Five or Five Factor Model Personality Tests Free Online

There are a few ways to take the Five Factor Model or Big Five Personality Test online for free.

Costa and McCrae’s research has been compiled by Penn State on their website — named the International Personality Item Pool Representation of the NEO PI-R™ —  and they offer both a 300 question (the original) assessment, and a shortened 120 question assessment. This is considered one of the most complete versions of the test, but there are simpler (and less accurate) versions as well.

The University of Westminster also offers an online version of the test with about 41 questions.

Another version is offered by Psychologist World, and is based on the 1993 research of Goldberg at the Oregon Research Institute.

Psychology Today also offers an online version of the test that is free. However, if you want a more detailed analysis of your personality, you will be asked to pay for a full profile.


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Katie McBeth is a researcher and writer out of Boise, ID, with experience in marketing for small businesses and management. Her favorite subject of study is millennials, and she has been featured on Fortune Magazine and the Quiet Revolution. She researches SEO strategies during the day, and freelances at night. You can follow her writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth

This post was updated June 7, 2018. It was originally published June 11, 2018.