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Individual Factors and Professional Success Essay

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Updated: Jul 15th, 2021


There is no doubt that workplace performance is among the key factors that contribute to organisational success. The degree to which the results of an individual’s work improve a company’s situation is extremely important, and this is why job performance is a popular research topic. Today, there are multiple ideas concerning the ability of individual factors to determine professional success, and the paper presents and analyses them, paying special attention to such factors as memory, intelligence, and personality.

The works that are used to define predictions include the theories of working and transactive memory, the ideas concerning intelligence modalities and fluid-crystallized intelligence, and the five-factor model of personality. The theories were selected since they are extremely popular, have practical applications, and widely presented in modern researchers’ works. The importance of studying the links between the three factors and performance/behaviours is based on the potential uses of such findings in human resource management. Among their key applications is the ability to increase the effectiveness of recruitment processes and, therefore, avoid hiring high-risk employees.

Theoretical Background

In modern psychology, an individual is considered as a person who possesses a set of unique features, impacting his or her ways of understanding reality. People’s individual psychological factors are among the most interesting topics in the field that, however, are related to the continuous debate concerning credibility and scientific accuracy. This section provides the analysis of intelligence, memory, and personality theories aimed at defining the predictions and hypotheses linked to work performance.

There are different theories of memory that aim to explain the interactions of old and new memories and link the process of remembering something to various senses such as smell. When speaking about the most popular theoretical frameworks, it is pivotal to mention the work by Craik and Lockhart dated 1972 that criticises the multi-store approach to memory and links remembering to the prolonged exposure to stimuli (Park & Festini, 2017). According to the theory, the outcomes of memorising processes depend on the depth of semantic processing, whereas the remembering intention is secondary. Therefore, many theorists structure their models around the role of external cues and the characteristics of stimulus exposure.

Another concept that can serve as a link between memory theories and job performance is working memory, the notion that is central to many models. For instance, the theory by Baddeley and Hitch suggests that working memory is a part of long-term memory that utilises the information in the stage of active processing (Eriksson, Vogel, Lansner, Bergström, & Nyberg, 2015). All theories mentioned in the section have a significant implication for the problem of memory, and work performance since famous theorists of the past agree that memory declines with age. For example, discussing the theory of external support, Craik proves that the use of cues helps to improve older people’s memorising abilities, thus alleviating age differences (Park & Festini, 2017).

Apart from individual features, modern scholars attempt at linking memory to communication. Thus, according to the theory of transactive memory, people who learn through interpersonal interactions are successful in using external support to process and memorise information, which predicts their success at work (Kwahk & Park, 2018; Argote & Guo, 2016; Tsai et al., 2016). In spite of dissimilar opinions concerning the mechanisms of memorising, all researchers tend to see the proper information encoding and retrieval processes as a prerequisite to success at work.

Speaking about the well-known theories of intelligence, it is pivotal to note that numerous researchers in the field have attempted at explaining the concept through the use of classifications. The most popular example is the theory of multiple intelligences that is widely criticised but still attracts the attention of educators in different countries (Wang, 2017). Gardner’s theory introduces the idea of seven intelligence modalities, each of which is responsible for certain processing operations (Shearer & Karanian, 2017).

In spite of certain intuitive conclusions, the theory does not divide people into seven categories. Unlike the researchers who see intelligence as a general capacity, Gardner supposes that intelligence can manifest itself in different ways (Bas, 2016). Therefore, using this theory, it can be supposed that the prevalence of some intelligence modalities predicts a range of work-related tasks that can be fulfilled successfully.

Other intelligence theories that have implications for job performance and behaviour at work refer to the differences between new and crystallized knowledge. For instance, the theory of fluid-crystallized intelligence singles out two factors of general human intelligence that are responsible for the ability to solve new tasks and use the experience to solve logical problems (Redick et al., 2016; Hülür, Gasimova, Robitzsch, & Wilhelm, 2018). In the modern world, multitasking abilities are believed to be the feature of successful and productive employees. The notion of fluid intelligence is often associated with multitasking and fast decision-making, which makes the theory relevant to the discussion of job performance and behaviours at work.

Finally, there are famous personality theories that classify individual traits and make suggestions concerning their impact on job performance and behaviours. The five-factor theory of personality belongs to a number of well-researched theoretical models. According to the model, there are five traits that need to be paid focused attention to in order to create a comprehensive psychological profile. They include neuroticism, the degree of extraversion, openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, and agreeableness, which is an important social characteristic (Sutin et al., 2016; Tanksale, 2015).

All five aspects of personality have implications for behaviour at work and job performance. For instance, it can be hypothesised that the degrees of agreeableness and neuroticism predict the quality of interpersonal interactions and people’s teamwork skills that are important for job performance in many industries (Atli, 2017). Similar predictions can be made for other personality traits, but to make more credible hypotheses, it is necessary to consider differences in job requirements related to various fields of activity.

Behaviour and Performance at Work

The abovementioned theories that describe personality, memory, and intelligence point at the presence of links between these individual traits and the way that people approach various work-related tasks. The credibility of the points is different if attention is paid to the existing scientific support. In reference to the first topic discussed in the essay, there are studies that support the idea that memory determines people’s job performance and behaviours. For instance, the theory of transactive memory suggests that people with “high transactive memory capabilities” are successful in teamwork and, therefore, tend to be effective employees (Kwahk & Park, 2018, p. 315).

The experimental study by Kwahk and Park (2018) supports this viewpoint, proving that the ability to engage in transactive encoding processes is associated with the tertius dungeons behaviours. The latter, in their turn, have a positive impact on job performance, especially when it comes to specialists who are supposed to act as intermediaries and interact a lot with other people.

The theories of working memory that link it to the ability to perform a range of tasks simultaneously, thus having implications for work performance, also find support in recent studies. According to Redick (2016), individual differences in working memory impact the success of people’s multitasking performance. Pollard and Courage (2017) support this opinion and add that the high capacity of working memory paired with self-confidence predict success in business and learning. Judging from the results reported by modern scholars, the ideas about memory that list it among the predictors of job performance are not baseless.

More than that, individual differences related to memory can depend on some physical factors such as brain traumas or age. However, the role of memory in job behaviours (apart from the unwillingness to engage in multitasking) is unclear.

In terms of intelligence, its relationship to work performance is also discussed in numerous studies. Although Gardner’s theory is criticised due to the absence of objective measures, the ideas that overlap with some of his “modalities” and their connections with job performance are of interest to modern scholars. Gardner’s interpersonal intelligence is often equated to emotional intelligence, and the latter is known to impact the job performance of lawyers and sales managers (Pekaar, van der Linden, Bakker, & Born, 2017). Interestingly, the associations between this aspect of intelligence and employee performance do not seem to depend on culture since studies in different countries produce similar results (Shamsuddin & Rahman, 2014). Therefore, the ability of emotional intelligence to predict job performance finds extensive support in current literature.

As distinct from the aforementioned prediction, the links between job performance or behaviours and fluid/crystallized intelligence abilities are not obvious. Modern scholars report relevant results for other populations, such as school students. For example, Flores-Mendoza et al. (2015) report positive correlations between fluid intelligence or the ability to analyse information and solve new problems and school performance. Importantly, the situation is more ambiguous when it comes to performance at work. Many researchers accept the idea of IQ tests being the indicators of fluid intelligence abilities, and numerous studies report moderate links between IQ scores and job performance (Richardson & Norgate, 2015).

Some authors, however, criticise this point, referring to the subjective nature of workplace performance ratings, test validity issues, and mistakes in statistical analysis (Richardson & Norgate, 2015). If these distorting factors are excluded, the evidence of the links between intelligence and performance at work still exists. Therefore, well-developed fluid intelligence abilities are likely to predict the choice of beneficial job behaviours.

Finally, when it comes to personality and workplace performance, the link between the two concepts is widely discussed in recent studies. Having analysed job performance with reference to the five-factor model of personality, Judge and Zapata (2015) prove that all five traits predict employees’ excellent or unsatisfactory workplace performance in certain jobs. In particular, people with high extraversion scores tend to be successful in jobs that involve a lot of interaction, whereas high agreeableness is negatively related to professional performance in jobs that involve a lot of competition (Judge & Zapata, 2015). Based on that, it is possible to use the Big Five model and tests for professional orientation.

The ability of personality traits to predict workplace performance is widely supported in the existing academic literature. One interesting feature of this correlation is that it can be found at all levels of organisational hierarchies (Leutner, Ahmetoglu, Akhtar, & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2014).

Also, recent studies demonstrate that such traits as emotional stability and conscientiousness predict high performance in different professional fields, whereas, in reference to the remaining traits, the correlations are sensitive to context (Leutner et al., 2014). In the end, the theoretical predictions of the five-factor model concerning differences in workplace performance seem to be valid. Taking into consideration that job performance is defined based on a variety of factors related to behaviour, the role of personality factors in predicting behaviour is also evident.


To sum it up, it is critically important to study the phenomena of job performance and workplace behaviours in the context of their key predictors. Different types of memory predict job performance in various organisational contexts. For instance, the ability to engage in transactive memory processes is related to success in tasks that involve communication and interagency. The high capacity of working memory, as is shown in the reviewed literature, is indicative of employees’ ability to engage in multitasking. The ability to perform a range of tasks at once adds to the successful performance at work, but the links between memory and workplace behaviours do not seem clear.

Other individual characteristics such as intelligence and personality traits are also related to employee performance. Emotional intelligence, for instance, is known to predict professional success in employees who support clients. As for cognitive intelligence, the links between IQ scores and job performance are found in some studies, but these conclusions are widely criticised due to methodological issues. In reference to personality, the predictions concerning differences in job performance made in the five-factor theory of personality seem to be valid due to the extensive research support.


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