Summary

To build a high-performing team, research suggests that you should:

  • Increase the team average level of Agreeableness. This is related to improved team processes, such as collaboration and sharing information.
  • Increase the team average level of Conscientiousness. This is related to higher individual job performance as well as team members stepping in and assisting each other with their work.  

There may be advantages of evaluating other personality traits for team performance as well, but the research findings are weaker and more divided across different studies. In addition to the average level of traits, there is also some evidence for higher team performance with higher cohesion (less variance) is some traits. Again, the findings are not conclusive.

Big 5 personality traits and team performance

Agreeableness

A high team average in agreeableness is related to high team performance. Meta-analytic estimates of this correlation range between rho=0.34 (Bell, 2007) and rho=0.51 (Peeters et al., 2006). This is much stronger than the relationship between individuals’ agreeableness and task performance, which has been estimated to rho=0.11 (Hurtz & Donovan, 2000). 

Agreeableness is more important within the context of a team than for individuals. This may be explained by team processes - teams composed of members with high agreeableness may help each other more, share information with each other and therefore produce better results. 

There is some evidence that low team variance in agreeableness is related to high team performance (Peeters et al., 2006; Prewett et al., 2009; Prewett et al., 2018). The effects are however small and often found to be not statistically significant (e.g. Bell, 2007; Barrick et al., 1998; Neuman et al., 1999).

Conscientiousness

A high team average in conscientiousness is related to high team performance. This comes as no surprise, since there is an established relationship between the conscientiousness of individuals and their task performance (e.g. Hurtz & Donovan, 2000; Shmidt & Hunter, 1998). There is also evidence showing that team members high in conscientiousness are more likely to step in and assist other members with their work (Bell et al., 2018). 

A low team variance in conscientiousness also seems related to high team performance (Bell, 2007; Peeters et al., 2006; Barrick et al., 1998). In all studies, the effect of the team variance is smaller than the effect of the team average conscientiousness and agreeableness. The relationship has been found to be small and not significantly different from 0 in some studies (Prewett et al., 2009; Prewett et al., 2018; Neuman, Wagner & Christiansen, 1999).

Extraversion

There is some evidence that a high team average in extraversion is related to high team performance (Bell, 2007; Prewett et al., 2009; Prewett et al., 2018). The relationship is weaker than for average levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness, and may not be statistically significant (Peeters et al., 2006; Barrick et al., 1998; Neuman, Wagner & Christiansen, 1999).

There is little evidence that team variance in extraversion is related to team performance. If there is a relationship, it is likely to be small and positive (Prewett, 2009; Neuman et al., 1999).

Openness

There is some evidence that a high team average in openness is related to high team performance (Bell, 2007; Prewett et al., 2018; Neuman, Wagner & Christiansen, 1999). The relationship is weaker than for average levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness, and may not be statistically significant (Peeters et al., 2006).

There is little evidence that team variance in openness is related to team performance. If there is a relationship, it is likely to be small and negative (Bell, 2007). However, several studies do not find a significant relationship (Peeters et al., 2006; Prewett et al., 2018; Neuman, Wagner & Christiansen, 1999).

Emotional Stability

There is some evidence that a high team average in emotional stability is related to high team performance (Bell, 2007; Prewett et al., 2009; Barrick et al., 1998; Prewett et al., 2018). The relationship is weaker than for average levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness, and may not be statistically significant (Peeters et al., 2006; Neuman, Wagner & Christiansen, 1999).

There is no evidence that team variance in emotional stability is related to team performance even though this has been studied extensively (Bell, 2007; Peeters et al., 2006; Prewett et al., 2009; Barrick et al., 1998; Prewett et al., 2018; Neuman, Wagner & Christiansen, 1999). 


References

Barrick, M. R., Stewart, G. L., Neubert, M. J., & Mount, M. K. (1998). Relating Member Ability and Personality to Work-Team Processes and Team Effectiveness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83:3, 377-391.

Bell, S. T. (2007). Deep-level composition variables as predictors of team performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92:3, 595-615.

Bell, S. T., Brown, S. G., Colaneri, A., & Outland, N. (2018). Team Composition and the ABCs of Teamwork. American Psychologist, 73:4, 349-362.

Hurtz, G. M., & Donovan, J. J. (2000). Personality and Job Performance: The Big Five Revisited. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85:6, 869-879.

Neuman, G. A., Wagner, S. H., & Christiansen, N. D. (1999). The Relationship between Work-Team Personality Composition and the Job Performance of Teams. Group & Organization Management, 24:1, 28-45.

Peeters, M. A. G., Van Tuilj, H. F. J. M., Rutte, C. G., & Reymen, I. M. M. J. (2006). Personality and Team Performance: A Meta-Analysis. European Journal of Personality, 20, 377-396.

Prewett, M. S., Walvoord, A. A. G., Stilson, F. R. B., Rossi, M. E., & Brannick, M. T. (2009). The Team Personality–Team Performance Relationship Revisited: The Impact of Criterion Choice, Pattern of Workflow, and Method of Aggregation. Human Performance, 22, 273-296.

Prewett, M. S., Brown, M. I., Goswami, A., & Christiansen, N. D. (2018). Effects of Team Personality Composition on Member Performance: A Multilevel Perspective. Group & Organization Management, 43:2, 316-348.

Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124:2, 262-274.

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