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2022. december 15. Dr. Papp Gábor

What is HEXACO model and why do we use it?


As we have already stated about skills and abilities, it is useful to have an empirically supported theory when examining human characteristics. There are plenty of theories decribing and categorizing personality traits in psychological literature. Some of them are more relevant in workplace environments (e. g. the five factor model of personality, i.e. Big Five), some of them are not. At PractiWork, we use the HEXACO model as a basis for examining personality traits. In this article we are describing this model.


Recently, instead of the Big Five model of personality, the HEXACO model has been gaining popularity. Counter to Big Five, it consists of six personality domains instead of five. Besides the Big Five dimensions (Emotionality, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience) it has a sixth dimension: Honesty-Humility. The addition of this sixth dimension also caused a slight change in the content of the Emotionality and Agreeableness dimensions (Breevart & De Vries, 2017). Due to the addition of Honesty-Humility, the HEXACO model has proven to be a better predictor than the Big Five of workplace behaviors (e. g. Lee, Ashton & De Vries, 2005).

Saltukoğlu, Tatar and Özdemir (2019) examined the relationship between HEXACO personality traits and job parformance and job satisfaction. Their results suggest that only the Emotionality domain is ineffective in predicting job performance and job satisfaction. Extraversion and Conscientiousness were the best predictors of job performance, while job satisfaction was predicted the best by Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Agreeableness. Wiltshire, Bourdage and Lee (2014 as cited in McAbee, Casillas, Way & Guo, 2019) also found a robust relationship between the Extraversion domain and job satisfaction.
Johnson, Rowatt and Petrini (2011) investigated the relationship between HEXACO dimensions and job satisfaction among care providers. According to their results, there is a strong positive correlation between job performance and Honesty-Humility, whereas Emotionality has a negative relationship with job performance. However, they stressed that assessing exclusively personality traits would be insufficient, as person-job fit (i.e. the degree to which employees’ personalities commensurate with job requirements) also plays a significant role in job performance (Kristof-Brown, Zimmerman & Johnson, 2005). While in care-giving jobs high scores in the Honesty-Humility and Conscientiousness dimensions could be crucial, these traits would be useless in jobs that require self-promotion and pushiness (Johnson et al., 2011).

Honesty-Humility can not only successfully predict general job performance, but is a good predictor of task performance too. Furthermore, employees who score higher in this dimension, are less prone to adjust they performance to percieved context. They performed equally well irrespective of percieved organizational politics or percieved interactional justice. On the contrary, employees lower in Honesty-Humility tend to perform poorly when percieving a lower level of interactional justice or a higher level of organizational politics (Wendler, Liu & Zettler, 2018).
Measuring personality traits based on the HEXACO model in personnel selection also has benefits beyond predicting job performace and job satisfaction. The meta-analysis of Pletzer, Bentvelzen, Oostrom and De Vries (2019) examined the relationship between workplace deviance and the personality traits of Big Five and HEXACO. Their results found that HEXACO Honesty-Humility ahows the strongest relation with workplace deviance, followed by Conscientiousness, Agreeableness and Emotionality. Extraversion and Openness to Experience do not contribute to the prediction of workplace deviance. Besides this, HEXACO domains appear to be more valid predictors than Big Five domains.

Nevertheless it is useful to pay attention to narrow personality facets as well, since they can outperform broad domains when predicting workplace deviance. For instance, Fairness and Sincerity facets can predict workplace deviance not only through the Honesty-Humility domain, but they also contain facet-specific, non-random variance that is predictive to workplace deviance, but is lost when only using Honesty-Humility as a predictor. Moreover, there are facets of Emotionality and Extraversion (Sentimentality and Social Self-Esteem) that have stronger correlations with workplace devoance than the respective domain to which they belong (Pletzer, Oostrom, Bentvelzen & De Vries, 2020).

In addition to workplace deviance, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) can also be predicted using HEXACO-based personality assesments. OCB is related to task performance (Podsakoff, Whiting, Podsakoff, & Blume, 2009), but is considered more discretionary and spontaneous. Thus, it is more likely to be predicted by personality traits than by the individual differences (like cognitive ability or job knowledge) associated with task performance (Chiaburu, Oh, Berry, Li, & Gardner, 2011). OCB contribute sufficiently to organizational effectiveness (Podsakoff & McKenzie, 1997), hence its prediction may be valuable in personnel selection. All domains except Emotionality can be predictive of OCB. Especially those who score high on Extraversion are likely to engage in OCB, though higher scores of Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Honesty-Humility and Openness to Experience are also related to higher levels of OCB. Some facets have high predictive validity too, therefore assessing exclusively facets with high criterion-related validity (Diligence, Sociability, Liveliness) may be sufficient to accurately predict OCB. Relying on these facets will reduce testing times because they can be measured with fewer items which is a key benefit in personnel selection contexts (Pletzer, Oostrom & De Vries, 2021).

Workplace deviance and OCB are not only related to personality but also to age. The meta-analysis of Pletzer (2021) found that Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, and Conscientiousness mediate this relationship as these are the personality domains that change across adult lifespan (e. g. Ashton & Lee, 2016), as well as having strong correlations with workplace deviance and OCB (Pletzer et al., 2020).

Investigating the connections between HEXACO Honesty-Humility domain (which is absent from Big Five) and workplace outcomes is particularly popular. Besides workplace deviance, this domain correlates negatively with sexual harrasment in the workplace (Lee, Gizzarone & Ashton, 2003), with unethical decision-making (Heck, Thielmann, Moshagen, & Hilbig, 2018) and with abusive supervision (Breevaart & De Vries, 2017). Furthermore, Honesty-Humility correlates positively with ethical decision-making (Ashton & Lee, 2008) and ethical leadership (De Vries, 2012) in addition to aforementioned job performance and organizational citizenship behavior. Supervisors’ personality and leadership styles have important emotional and financial consequences to organizations (Breevart & De Vries, 2017). Although not only Honesty-Humility could be a useful predictor: HEXACO dimensions and leadership styles have strong correlations. Honesty-Humility has been associated with ethical leadership, Agreeableness with supportive leadership, Extraversion with charismatic leadership and Conscientiousness has been associated with task-oriented leadership style (De Vries, 2012).

As presented above, personality assesments could be useful in personnel selection and predicting workplace outcomes. However, it is important to note that respondents usually recognize which responses are more socially desirable, and are motivated to respond in more socially desirable ways in job applicant settings (Rothstein & Goffin, 2006). Anglim, Morse, De Vries, MacCann, and Marty (2017) compared the responses of applicants and non-applicants. They found that applicants faked their answers to achieve higher scores on Honesty-Humility, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. Despite that, Rothstein and Goffin (2006) claim that faking does not reduce the predictive validity of personality tests sufficiently, therefore their application is justified, although it is important to keep the possibility of faking in mind.


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