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  • 129 The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

    A Look in the Mirror:The Mastery-Oriented I-O Psychologist

    Jonathan M. Cottrell, Eleni V. Lobene, Nicholas R. Martin, and Anthony S. Boyce

    Aon Hewitt Consulting

    NOTE: Prior to being submitted for con-sideration in TIP, this paper was accepted for presentation at the 2016 Annual Con-ference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Research on personality, especially using the five-factor model (FFM; McCrae & Costa, 1987), has contributed greatly to industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology. In particular, this is because personality traits, especially Conscientiousness, are found to be valid predictors of job per-formance (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Hurtz & Donovan, 2000) while having relatively less adverse impact than other selection tools, such as cognitive ability tests (Ploy-hart & Holtz, 2008). Although the FFM is the most widely used personality mod-el, other traits have been studied in the context of work and have been found to correlate with key variables such as job performance and job satisfaction. Such variables include need for achievement (McClelland, Atkinson, Clark, & Lowell, 1976), core self-evaluations (Judge & Bono, 2001), and goal orientation (Phillips & Gully, 1997). As a result, it is of great interest to organizations to be able to un-derstand the personality of its applicants and its incumbents, and often such an ex-amination of traits goes beyond the FFM.

    Despite the success of using personality tests to predict job-related outcomes across a variety of occupations, I-O psy-chologists themselves, including members of the Society for Industrial and Organiza-tional Psychology (SIOP), have historically not been the subjects of these studies. In fact, very limited research exists examin-ing any individual differences between I-O psychologists and other professions. I-O psychologist has been rated as the fastest growing job in the United States (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014). As a result, it will become increasingly necessary to understand ways in which the I-O personality is distinct from (or sim-ilar to) other professions, which can have implications for realistic career previews for prospective I-O psychologists. Thus, the purpose of this paper is a preliminary investigation to compare the personalities of I-O psychologists to a baseline working population, as well as to professionals and nonprofessionals in other occupations across two studies. We hope that this will be the first of many studies that look to understand the I-O personality and that this will spark further research in the area.

    Aon-Hewitts Model of Personality

    Aon-Hewitts personality model is largely based on the FFM and is derived from

  • 130 April 2016, Volume 53, Number 4

    nearly 500 adjectives and descriptive states used by previous measures of personality and other traits. This model is based on previous personality models (e.g., FFM; McCrae & Costa, 1987) and is intended to be a comprehensive measure of both the FFM and broader traits not necessarily well-captured by the FFM (e.g., mastery, humility). This model captures lower-order aspects of the FFM, as recommended by recent research (e.g., DeYoung, Quilty, & Peterson, 2007). In addition, some person-ality aspects were included that were not captured by DeYoung et al.s model based on their importance for understanding employee personality. This model is partic-ularly relevant for selection across all jobs, as well as leadership and high-potential assessment. Aon-Hewitts model is opera-tionalized through the development of the Adaptive Employee Personality Test (AD-EPT-15). ADEPT-15 is a multidimensional pairwise preference computer adaptive as-sessment that mitigates faking and substantially reduces testing time. This, in conjunction with a large item pool, results in lower state-ment exposure, faster testing, and potentially higher criterion-related validity (Salgado & Tur-iz, 2014)

    The final model con-tains six styles and 15 aspects. The adapta-tion style contains the aspects of conceptual (intellectual curiosity),

    flexibility (adaptability and open minded-ness), and mastery (learning oriented and improvement focused). Task style contains the aspects of drive (proactivity and per-sistence) and structure (planful and detail oriented). Interaction style contains the aspects of assertiveness (decisive, bold), and liveliness (outgoing, energetic). Emo-tional style contains the aspects of Com-posure (calm, relaxed), Positivity (optimis-tic, resilient), and Awareness (reflective, self-aware). Teamwork style contains the aspects of Cooperation (trusting, helping others), Sensitivity (caring, understanding), and Humility (modest, genuine). Finally, Achievement style contains the aspects of Ambition (goal directed) and Power (mo-tivation to lead, controlling). Altogether, these make up the styles and aspects un-derlying the ADEPT-15 (for a more detailed description of each of the 15 aspects and how this model maps to the FFM, see Ta-ble 1; Boyce, Conway, & Caputo, 2014).


    Fivefactormodel(FFM) AonHewittstyle AonHewittaspect

















    Agreeableness Teamworkstyle

    Neuroticism Emotionalstyle

    UnmappedtoFFM Achievementstyle

    OpennesstoExperience Adaptationstyle

    Conscientiousness Taskstyle

    Extraversion Interactionstyle

  • 131 The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

    SIOP Member Personality

    Information on the personality of I-O psy-chologists may help inform approaches to training and selection. For example, it could allow firms and schools to use such infor-mation to make more informed selection decisions for I-O psychology positions in both academia and practice. As mentioned earlier, however, there is very little research that uses I-O psychologists as subjects. One such study found that SIOP academics and practitioners differ in certain workplace char-acteristics and values. Specifically, this study showed that practitioners valued affiliation, structure, and financial compensation more than their academic counterparts. Academ-ics, on the other hand, valued autonomy and science (e.g., endorsed the item, It is important for organizations that scientists continue engaging in basic psychological research) more than their practitioner counterparts (Brooks, Grauer, Thornbury, & Highhouse, 2003). Although this allows for an understanding of some of the differences between academics and practitioners, it does not give much information about how I-O psychologists differ from other occupations.

    There have been previous attempts to interview I-O consultants and understand what they believe are the personal char-acteristics that best describe a successful I-O consultant. For example, Zelin et al. (2015), as part of the SIOP Careers study, examined competencies required for suc-cess at various consulting levels. Examples of such competencies include integrity, trustworthiness, interpersonal skills, initia-tive, attention to detail, conscientiousness, and adaptability. Adaptability was rated

    as particularly important among manage-ment and executive positions.

    In addition, Vandaveer (2008) interviewed six highly accomplished I-O consultants in different settings and positions (e.g., CEO, partner, senior vice-president, etc.) in an attempt to answer this question. Characteristics named by the consultants included commitment, thirst for learning and growing, open mindedness, mental sharpness, need for achievement, as well as being interested in your work. They also suggest, like Zelin et al. (2015), that successful practitioners need competence in different levels of the organization, in-cluding the individual level (e.g., executive consulting), the group level (e.g., assess-ment and development of teams), as well as the organizational level, such as change management. Altogether, this suggests that I-O consultants require a wide array of knowledge, skills, and high trait levels of personality characteristics. However, this is limited to practitioners and did not ask about the many SIOP members who are in academia (around 40%; SIOP, 2011). As suggested by previous research (Brooks et al., 2003), one cannot infer the personality of academics from that of practitioners.

    In an effort to understand personality (as well as other) characteristics that I-O psy-chologists require to succeed at their jobs, the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) can be a useful tool. This interac-tive database allows anyone to research the characteristics of thousands of jobs, such as an I-O psychologist. This provides a wide range of information on the types of knowledge, skills, abilities, and other char-

  • 132 April 2016, Volume 53, Number 4

    acteristics required to succeed at a given job. Although not providing explicit per-sonality information, O*NET does suggest certain work styles that an I-O psycholo-gist should have. Several of these appear to map onto all of the FFM traits: Openness to Experience (adaptability, innovation), Conscientiousness (dependability, achieve-ment, persistence, attention to detail), Extraversion (social orientation, leader-ship), agreeableness (cooperation, concern for others), and neuroticism (self-control, stress Tolerance). This suggests that I-O psychologists need high levels of a variety of personality traits in order to succeed at their job. However, these ratings are based on ratings provided by job incumbents per-ceptions of work styles ne