Aberrant personality and career performance (IO Psychology)

Previous research has shown that personality traits – such as being conscientious, open to experience, and outgoing – predict job performance 1. What about uncommon (i.e., aberrant) characteristics such as being obsessive-compulsive, antisocial, and narcissistic?

According to a study by Bart Wille , Filip De Fruyt, & Barbara De Clercq of Ghent University, aberrant personality characteristics also predict job performance. Specifically, borderline features, which includes having unstable interpersonal relations and poor impulse control; schizotypal traits, such as odd thoughts and disorganized thinking; and avoidant tendencies, such as social inhibition and hypersensitivity to criticism, were related to negative career outcomes.

In contrast, antisocial traits, such as superficial charm and a disregard for others, and narcissistic features, such as a strong sense of self-importance and a need to be admired, were related to positive career outcomes. As an illustration of how antisocial and narcissistic traits may have a positive affect on career outcomes and allow people and companies to achieve great success, think of Gordon Gecko from the movie Wall Street. Or, if you prefer non-fiction, think of the various leaders of organizations who are charged with insider trading (e.g., Raj Rajaratnam), fraudulent accounting (e.g., Enron), or creating a ponzi scheme (e.g., Bernie Madhoff).

Overall, these results were found through a 15-year study of 247 Belgian college students. In 1994, participants responded to a personality questionnaire, and 15 years later, their career performance was evaluated. The NEO PI-R, a comprehensive personality questionnaire, measured personality. Income, number of subordinates, and managerial position served as indicators of extrinsic career success, and job satisfaction, career satisfaction, and perceived job stress served as indicators of intrinsic career success.