The Impact of Big Five Personality Traits on Resilience at Work: The Mediating Role of Trait Mindfulness and
Exploration Into the Effect of Meditation Practice
Bsc Business Administration
Anna Jobse 12149233 Olga Kowalska 29th of June 2021
Statement of Originality
This document is written by Student Anna Jobse who declares to take full responsibility for the contents of this document.
I declare that the text and the work presented in this document are original and that no sources other than those mentioned in the text and its references have been used in creating it.
The Faculty of Economics and Business is responsible solely for the supervision of completion of the work, not for the contents.
Table of Content
ABSTRACT ______________________________________________________________ 4 I. INTRODUCTION ______________________________________________________ 5 II. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK ________________________________________ 8 THE BIG FIVE _____________________________________________________________ 8 RESILIENCE AT WORK ______________________________________________________ 9 THE BIG FIVE AND RESILIENCE AT WORK ______________________________________ 10 MINDFULNESS ___________________________________________________________ 11 MINDFULNESS AND BIG FIVE ________________________________________________ 13 MINDFULNESS AND RESILIENCE AT WORK _____________________________________ 14 MEDIATION _____________________________________________________________ 14 MEDITATION PRACTICE (MODEL 2) ___________________________________________ 16 MEDITATION PRACTICE AND BIG FIVE ________________________________________ 16 MODERATION ___________________________________________________________ 17 III. METHODOLOGY __________________________________________________ 18 DESIGN ________________________________________________________________ 18 SAMPLE &PROCEDURE ____________________________________________________ 19 MEASUREMENTS _________________________________________________________ 19 ANALYTICAL PLAN _______________________________________________________ 20 IV. RESULTS __________________________________________________________ 21 DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS AND CORRELATIONS __________________________________ 21 ASSUMPTIONS ___________________________________________________________ 23 REGRESSION ANALYSIS ____________________________________________________ 23 MEDIATION AND MODERATION ANALYSIS _____________________________________ 25 V. DISCUSSION ________________________________________________________ 27 SUMMARY ______________________________________________________________ 27 INTERPRETATION AND CONTRIBUTIONS ________________________________________ 28 LIMITATIONS ____________________________________________________________ 30 FUTURE RESEARCH _______________________________________________________ 31 PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS __________________________________________________ 32 VI. CONCLUSION _____________________________________________________ 32 VII. REFERENCES _____________________________________________________ 34 VIII. APPENDIX ________________________________________________________ 42 APPENDIX A:20-ITEM MINI IPIPBIG FIVE SCALE _______________________________ 42 APPENDIX B:RESILIENCE AT WORK SCALE ____________________________________ 43 APPENDIX C:FFMQ-15 ___________________________________________________ 44 APPENDIX D:RELIABILITY SCALES OUTPUT ____________________________________ 45 APPENDIX E:DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS ________________________________________ 48 APPENDIX F:CORRELATION ________________________________________________ 44 APPENDIX G:ASSUMPTION TESTING __________________________________________ 50 APPENDIX H:HYPOTHESIS TESTING __________________________________________ 54 APPENDIX I:MEDIATION EFFECTS ____________________________________________ 67 APPENDIX J:INTERACTION EFFECTS __________________________________________ 68
Albeit mindfulness, the non-judgemental and purposeful attention to the present moment, has been proven to be beneficial for individuals and their workplace performance, its relation to dynamic resilience in specific is still under researched. Existing research on the topic presents conscientious individuals as most resilient, and neurotic individuals as least resilient. Knowledge on what role trait mindfulness plays on resilience, however, lacks. In an attempt to further clarify the relationship between these personality traits and trait mindfulness, the role of meditation was investigated as well (model 2). Adding to existing literature, this research consists of eleven hypotheses, of which two mediating and two moderating hypotheses. Specifically, it is argued that the relationship between conscientiousness, neuroticism and resilience at work is mediated by trait mindfulness, and that the positive relationship between conscientiousness/neuroticism and trait mindfulness is stronger/weaker resp. for meditating individuals. Data gathering was conducted through an online survey, which led to 208 (model 1) and 114 (model 2) eligible responses. Analysis revealed support for six hypotheses, one mediation hypothesis that confirms trait mindfulness mediates the conscientiousness – resilience relationship.
Model 2 hypotheses were not supported, suggesting in this sample, meditation practice does not moderate the personality – trait mindfulness relationship. Methodological limitations are present here.
For the past year, nothing has impacted daily life the way Covid-19 did. Virtually everyone has had to fundamentally alter their behaviour to form a new ‘normal’, but with detrimental consequences for mental health. Vindegaard and Benros (2020) found higher levels of depression and PTSS in Covid-19 patients, and reduced overall well-being in the general population, as anxiety, psychological distress and depression levels have significantly increased. Obviously, this is problematic, but the literature poses a coping mechanism.
Mindfulness, stemming from Buddhist psychology, might alleviate some of the strain.
Generally speaking, mindfulness entails the non-judgmental, purposeful attention to the present moment (Baer, 2003). The literature presents two conceptualisations, namely mindfulness as a trait and as a state. Mindfulness as a trait refers to the predisposition to be mindful in everyday activities (Baer et al., 2006). Several scales have been developed to measure this, in which most put emphasis on attention, awareness, acceptance and a focus on the present (Rau & Williams, 2016). Mindfulness as a state, on the other hand, denotes an umbrella term of exercises that encourages the development of a mindful state by attending internal and environmental experiences (Manocha, 2000).
The topic of mindfulness had not sparked researchers’ interests until recently.
Nevertheless, evidence has been startling for clinical as well as non-clinical research.
Mindfulness practice is proven to reduce anxiety, hostility, depression and stress levels (Grepmair et al., 2007; Eisendrath et al., 2008; Shapiro et al., 2008), and alters brain regions associated with memory, emotional regulation and attention (Fox et al., 2014). There are some considerable work-related benefits that logically flow from the aforementioned, such as improved job performance and citizenship behaviour (Good et al., 2006). Similar to mindfulness, resilience is relatively new to the organisational literature and is increasingly perceived as psychological capital at work. Broadly defined, it is the ability to ‘bounce back’
after hardship and is increasingly seen as a dynamic capability rather than a trait (Malik & Garg, 2018; Joyce et al., 2018). Specifically, ego-resiliency, stemming from personality development theory, is described as an individual’s ability to shift behaviours and remain calm in stressful situations. It has been proven to be a powerful predictor of adaptive functioning in later life (Oshio et al., 2018). Similarities between the concepts of resilience and mindfulness are found in the way they promote cognitive control processes such as working memory and attention (Jha et al., 2019), and are both under-researched.
Given the impact of Covid-19 and its fundamental impact on daily life, cultivating mindfulness and therefore possibly fostering resilience might be beneficial to many. In an effort to pragmatize this, several big five personality traits can be distinguished. These include conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness, and extraversion.
Particularly the former two are interesting, as Giluk (2009) found a remarkably large effect of conscientiousness on mindfulness, and it is regarded as an under-researched trait in this field.
Giluk (2009) suggests that researchers might not see a natural relationship with mindfulness, but which could actually be the case, making it interesting to investigate. Moreover, neuroticism was found to correlate highly with mindfulness, but in the opposite direction. This could possibly mean that neurotic individuals benefit the most from cultivating mindfulness, and therefore possibly also from fostering resilience. However, research output is limited.
Therefore, this paper will contribute to the literature by trying to answer the following research question:
To what extent does trait mindfulness mediate the relationship between conscientiousness, neuroticism, and resilience at work?
Another model, though more of an exploratory nature, is on the moderating effect of mindfulness as a state on personality traits and mindfulness as a trait. Kiken et al. (2015) found variability in levels of mindfulness as a state as a result of repeated meditation practice, and that such led to increases in trait mindfulness. The variability of levels of state mindfulness are traced back to individual’s levels of learning, which are at least partly due to personality differences. Drake et al. (2015) found that mindfulness moderated the relationship between neuroticism and stress significantly, such that neurotic individuals benefit the most from meditation over the other personality traits. Therefore, the correlation between personality traits and trait mindfulness might be influenced by meditation practice and could have practical implications for business. The research question for the second model is therefore as follows:
To what extent does meditation practice moderate the relationship between conscientiousness, neuroticism and trait mindfulness?
This paper contributes to the literature by conducting research on newly developed conceptualisations on both forms of mindfulness and resilience as a dynamic capability. This will be relevant for organisational science, as mental health problems are becoming more prevalent in society and can possibly be (at least partly) countered by these mechanisms.
Potentially, meditation practice and training can be implemented to improve individual well- being which then can spill over to workplace performance. After a literature review on these topics, the methodology will be lined out and a hypothesis testing will be conducted, after which results, discussion and conclusion are reported.
II. Theoretical Framework
This section will review existing literature on the topics of the big five personality traits, trait mindfulness, resilience at work and possible (mediating) relationships between these variables which collectively make up the first model. The second model will consider the effect of big five personality characteristics on trait mindfulness and the possible (moderating) effect of meditation practice.
The Big Five
Over the decades, there have been systematic efforts to organise the taxonomy of personality traits. Convergence of the literature resulted when McCrae and Costa (1987) succeeded in validating the big five model. This standard consists of five dimensions:
agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience (Barrick et al., 2001). Ever since, the model became widely known as the big five and has been used extensively in the field of sociology and (organisational) psychology.
In this research, two out of the five personality traits will be examined, i.e., conscientiousness and neuroticism. Conscientiousness is defined as the propensity to be self- controlled, responsible, hardworking, orderly, rule abiding, and self-disciplined (Roberts et al., 2009; Costa & McCrae, 1992). Individuals scoring low on conscientiousness tend to be lazy, aimless and negligent (Azeem, 2013). In its relation to the workplace, conscientiousness predicts job performance across a plethora of professions and domains (Robertson et al., 2000).
One example of the many is that conscientiousness was found to moderate the link between job performance and job engagement (Bakker et al., 2012). For neuroticism, the contrary is not necessarily true. Generally speaking, neurotic individuals tend to be prone to psychological distress, and refers to the tendency to experience negative emotional states (Costa & McCrae, 1992). Neurotic individuals experience minor setbacks as hopelessly overwhelming and have difficulty handling impulses in case of sadness and grief (Widiger, 2009). These people tend to
be more anxious, insecure and self-conscious (Barrick et al., 2001). It would be expected that this relates solely negatively to job performance, but positive as well as absent associations have been found (Uppal, 2015). The author states that contrary to belief, a certain level of neuroticism can be beneficial for performance.
The other three personality traits (i.e., agreeableness, extraversion and openness to experience) are not taken into discussion as the meta-analysis by Giluk (2000) found that those three had weak correlations with mindfulness, and therefore are of lesser importance for the scope of this research.
Resilience at Work
Over the previous decades, the conceptualisation of resilience has been unsystematic.
Definitions, operationalisations and key constructs’ measurements varied substantially per discipline (Luthar et al., 2000; Hermann et al., 2011). Furthermore, conflict about the nature of resilience has also complicated the term. In the first wave, coming from the influential literature of Block and Block (1980) on ego-resiliency, it was long believed to be a personal characteristic, encompassing a set of traits. It has only been the last decade that a second wave arose in which a convergence of the literature stated that resilience is a dynamic capability rather than a genetic trait (Rutter, 2012).
Broadly speaking, resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back from adverse events (Torres & Fyke, 2013; Moenkemeyer et al., 2012). It indicates emotional endurance and adaptability in the wake of crisis, trauma and tragedy (Wagnild & Young, 1990; Southwick &
Charney, 2012). In support of this notion, it reflects a developable capability from not only negative events, but positive events too, such as increased responsibility and progress (Luthans, 2002). Translating that to the workplace, resilient individuals are adaptable to change and thus flexible and have the tendency to improve things (Coutu, 2002). The validated ‘resilience at work’ scale developed by Winwood et al. (2013) seems to be highly appropriate for a number
of reasons. It focusses specifically on everyday employee attitudes rather than a personality trait, regards resilience as a malleable capability, it offers a concrete, practical assessment tool that allows for the translation into specific interventions per scale dimension and can be applied across organisations, job types and employees (Malik & Garg, 2018). Before the development of this scale, no alternative existed that considered the components to be malleable rather than a fixed genetic. Consequently, it was the first scale that focused on building capabilities instead of coping strategies (Malik & Garg, 2018).
As the shift to resilience as a dynamic capability is quite unfamiliar to the research field, much literature up to this point provided useful insights into resilience as a trait, but literature on dynamic resilience is still lacking. The same goes for how resilience deciphers into benefits to the workplace, thereby presenting a very interesting research gap (Moenkemeyer et al., 2012). Empirical findings on the topic that regards resilience as a trait have shown that highly resilient employees have buffers against stress-related outcomes, such as attrition and burn-outs (Dunn et al., 2008). It is largely unknown, however, how that can be proactively developed among employees, as credible evidence is lacking (Robertson et al., 2015; Walpita &
The Big Five and Resilience at Work
The big five is the dominant model in the research of trait psychology and has been studied extensively over its life span (Laverdière et al., 2020). The same goes for trait-like resilience, for which several scales have been developed, e.g., Connor and Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC; Connor & Davidson, 2003) and the Resilience Scale for Children and Adolescents (RSCA; Prince-Embury, 2008). The correlations between the two models, however, remained largely unclear until the meta-analysis conducted by Oshio et al. (2018). To the best knowledge of Oshio and colleagues, this meta-analysis was the first in its magnitude that compared resilience to the big five personality dimensions. It focussed specifically on ego-
resiliency and trait-resilience, which deviates from resilience as a dynamic construct. The results indicate that neuroticism and conscientiousness are found at both ends of the correlation scale, both having a moderate effect size in absolute terms on these types of resilience. This results from the divergent scores on self-control and goal-orientation, levels of positive emotions, social activity engagement and emotional stability. Conscientious individuals score high on all of these, where neurotic individuals score consistently low. Other studies found the same direction of effects, but in different contexts, such as Campbell-Sills et al. (2006) in clinical practice as a measure for stress-coping.
Hard evidence on dynamic, trainable resilience in relation to the big five personality dimensions is exceptionally scarce. A recent study investigating the ability of surgical interns to improve resilience has found support for the idea that resilience is developable capability, but how that links to the big five personality characteristics remains unknown (Song et al., 2020). Because of this scarcity, the basic expectation is that resilience at work as described in the Winwood et al. (2013) scale will show similar correlations to the big five personality dimensions as the resilience as a trait scales have but through a different viewpoint. This leads to the following first hypotheses (path c):
H1a: Conscientiousness is positively related to resilience at work.
H1b: Neuroticism is negatively related to resilience at work.
Mindfulness entails purposefully paying non-judgemental attention to the present moment, without fixation on thoughts about the past and future (Kabatt-Zin, 1994, p. 4). Its translation comes from the Buddhist words sati, indicating “intentness of mind”, “wakefulness of mind” and “lucidity of mind” but also relates to the memory, consciousness and recognition depending per context (Davids & Stede, 1959, p. 672; Santacitto Senot, 2017). Although it is
rooted in 2,500 years old Buddhist psychology, it has only been the last 30 years that this concept has been studied empirically (Black, 2011), and solely 20 years ago that the measurement of the mindfulness construct begun (Giluk, 2009). Whereas in 1990 only 80 research reports were published, 2007 counted at least 600 papers on the topic (Brown et al., 2007). A surge of academic interest arose when researchers discovered considerable psychological benefits (Coffey et al., 2010), inter alia reduced parasuicidal behaviour and generalised anxiety disorder (Linehan et al., 1991; Kabatt-Zin et al., 1992). Baer (2003) states that clinical sites offering mindfulness-based interventions have increased dramatically in the western world, perhaps because of the emergence of the internet (Thomas et al., 2017).
As described in the meta-analysis of Glomb et al. (2011), mindfulness offers benefits for employee well-being and performance on three facets. First, mindfulness influences social relationships positively through the development of empathy and response flexibility. It promotes communicating more openly and being more accepting, which consequently promotes interpersonal connections (Hutcherson et al., 2008). Second, mindfulness fosters resilience through affective regulation and persistence of well-being in face of adversity.
Resilient individuals are protected from others’ negative states, which is critical in any work setting. Third, Dane (2010) suggests that a wide attentional breadth resulting from mindfulness promotes task performance and leads to fewer cognitive failures. Besides, it positively affects job performance through improved decision making.
Two distinctions exist on the topic: mindfulness as a trait and as a state. Mindfulness as a trait refers to the predisposition to be mindful in daily life (Baer et al., 2006). Mindfulness as a state indicates the ability to become more mindful through training (Lau et al., 2006). In this model, mindfulness will be regarded as a trait. To measure this trait mindfulness, several scales have been developed over the years. Examples include Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS; Brown & Ryan, 2003), the Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS; Baer et
al., 2004) and the Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale (CAMS; Feldman et al., 2007).
However, a lack of consensus existed on its nature. Baer et al. (2006) conducted an exploratory factor analysis, which allowed for an empirical integration, in an attempt to operationalise the concept. What resulted is known as the 39-item five facet mindfulness questionnaire (FFMQ), consisting of the dimensions observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience and non-reactivity to inner experience. Compared with the other scales, the FFMQ reflects greater personality complexity (Hanley & Garland, 2017).
Mindfulness and Big Five
The novelty and scarcity of the research output on personality factors and its effect on mindfulness make this an interesting topic. Besides, prior research on the influence of big five personality traits on mindfulness were heavily influenced by methodological issues (Hanley &
Garland, 2017). This goes for Giluk’s meta-analysis (2009) too. But being the first in its nature, it did provide usable insights. Giluk found a remarkably strong, positive relationship between conscientiousness and mindfulness. The strength of this relationships warrants further exploration, as researchers do not see a natural relationship for this particular dimension (Giluk, 2009). Hanley and Garland’s (2017) more recent meta-analysis found similar correlations. For the neuroticism dimension, both Giluk’s (2009) and Hanley and Garland’s (2017) meta-analysis found neuroticism to correlate the strongest with mindfulness. In an even more recent meta- analysis, Haliwa and colleagues (2021) found that different conceptualisations of mindfulness were used and neither other big five traits nor demographics were controlled for. Therefore, the second hypotheses are the following (path a):
H2a: Conscientiousness is positively related to trait mindfulness.
H2b: Neuroticism is negatively related to trait mindfulness.
Mindfulness and Resilience at Work
In order to foster resilience levels, individuals have to actively engage with challenges.
Doing so, will result in strengthening neural pathways in the brain, which will help an individual cope with future challenges better (Tabibnia & Radecki, 2018). This occurs particularly for mindful individuals, as mindfulness fosters resilience through the capacity to be non-reactive to emotions and just accept them (Davis, 2009). This comes from biological evidence which describes that the areas in the brain responsible for emotional regulation are different in mindful individuals (Guendelman et al., 2017). Building upon this evidence, I expect to find similar results. Besides, conscientiousness is a strong predictor of work-related outcomes such as job performance and engagement (Bakker et al., 2012). As I expect to find high levels of mindfulness in conscientious individuals, I expect to find high levels of resilience in these individuals as well. This results from some overlapping in these concepts, as non-reactivity and non-judging are present in both, as described above in the benefits of mindfulness at work section. This leads to the third hypothesis (path b):
H3: Trait mindfulness is positively related to resilience at work.
Another possible relationship is that of mediation. The observed relationship between the personality traits and resilience at work might be influenced through trait mindfulness. As indicated previously, conscientiousness correlates strongly with trait mindfulness (Giluk, 2009;
Hanley & Garland, 2017). Previous meta-analyses have indicated that conscientiousness consistently predicted overall workplace performance measures across all occupations (Barrick et al., 2001). Conscientious individuals show similarities with mindful individuals, because they both regulate impulses (act aware dimension) and have accepting attitudes to towards feelings and thoughts (non-judge dimension; Boyce & Sawang, 2014). This could possibly
indicate that the relationship between personality trait conscientiousness and resilience at work is mediated by trait mindfulness. In this case, it is not conscientiousness that predicts resilience at work, but their (indirect) mindful nature. These people are then better to ‘bounce back’ from setbacks. This leads to the fourth hypothesis (path c’):
H4a: The relationship between conscientiousness and resilience at work is mediated by trait mindfulness.
The inverse is true for neuroticism. Neurotic individuals will not enjoy the benefits of mindfulness to the extent conscientious individuals will. Subsequently, this could mean that neurotic individuals’ chances of being resilient at work are diminished through their inability to be mindful. This also means that neurotic individuals do not necessarily have reduced ability to be resilient in itself, but that an indirect path is involved here. This leads to the following hypothesis:
H4b: The relationship between neuroticism and resilience at work is mediated by trait mindfulness.
Figure 1: Conceptual Model 1
Meditation Practice (Model 2)
Scientific research on meditation is still very novel, and efforts to operationalise the concept are scarce yet diverse. The term ‘meditation’ is an umbrella term, composed of several different techniques. One example of such effort is the classification of meditation practice into attentional, constructive and deconstructive mechanisms, referring to attention regulation, perspective taking and self-inquiry respectively (Dahl et al., 2015). Another example is the classification into the dimensions of activation and amount of body orientation, emphasising cognition (Matko & Sedlmeier, 2019). Because of the lack of consensus on the topic, this study will be an exploratory research and the term ‘meditation’ will be referred to as a technique to become more mindful altogether.
Traditionally Eastern, Buddhist theory states that reaching a state of mindfulness is achieved through the regular practice of meditation (Kabat-Zin, 1982; Hanh, 1976; Walsh &
Shapiro, 2006). Examples of such practices are mindful yoga, sitting meditation, mantra and body scans to become more aware and non-judging (Baer et al., 2004). Essentially, these practices increase the individual’s levels on the facets described by the five facet mindfulness questionnaire (FFMQ), except describing (Carmody & Baer, 2008). An individual’s level of mindfulness on these facets is considered to be stable over time, which can be increased through meditation, thereby making an individual more mindful (Vago & Silbersweig, 2012; Garland et al., 2010; Brown & Ryan, 2003). As shown by neuroscience, these practices change brain structure and potentially have considerable benefits, which makes it worthwhile to investigate (Tang et al., 2015).
Meditation Practice and Big Five
Considerable research has been conducted on the influence of personality traits on trait mindfulness (path a). However, the research output on the interplay between personality traits and meditation practice is very scarce, so further research is warranted (Matko & Sedlmeier,
2019). This is important though, as meditation practice aims at fundamentally changing an individual’s way of thinking, thereby possibly leading to a change in personality (Van den Hurk et al., 2011). These authors found that meditation practice related negatively to conscientiousness. This seems particularly interesting, as one characteristic of conscientious individuals is self-discipline, a trait necessary for continuing meditation practice. This warrants further research, as that paper is currently the only one in its kind, seems a bit counterintuitive and leaves considerable ambiguity. Hypothesis 5a (path A) will be based on this evidence.
Other authors suggest that low-level conscientious, non-achievement oriented people might be attracted to meditation practice because it does not focus on the goals, but on the process instead (Barrick et al., 2011). Then, the reverse could hold for high-level conscientious people. Besides, the people benefitting most from meditation training are the ones that struggle most in continuing it, thereby hinting to neurotic individuals and not so much to conscientious ones (Whitford & Warren, 2019). However, Van den Hurk et al. (2011) did in fact find a negative relation between meditation practice and neuroticism. In summary, this leads to the fifth hypotheses:
H5a: Conscientiousness is negatively related to meditation practice.
H5b: Neuroticism is negatively related to meditation practice.
The last hypotheses have a more pragmatic nature, as it investigates the origin of being mindful. It could be that meditation practice strengthens or weakens the correlation between personality and trait mindfulness, in which the latter might be particularly interesting for neuroticism, as this indicates that neurotic people might become more mindful (or less non- mindful). It thus then means that personality does not matter that much anymore for its effectiveness. Such relationships have been found for college students (Pidgeon & Keye, 2014) and for younger children (Meiklejohn et al., 2012). Evidence for its effect on a working adult
population remains scarce and therefore further, exploratory research is justified (Kiken et al., 2015). This leads to the sixth hypotheses:
H6a: The positive relationship between conscientiousness and trait mindfulness is stronger for meditating individuals.
H6b: The negative relationship between neuroticism and trait mindfulness is weaker for meditating individuals.
Figure 2: Conceptual Model 2
III. Methodology Design
The data gathering for this research was be done through a cross-sectional survey design with convenience sampling, in which seven Business Administration students have reached out to their network. Quantitative data by means of self-report questionnaires was collected through 208 participants who work 16 hours per week at minimum. Data collection took place over a period of 15 days.
Sample & Procedure
In total, 371 responses were recorded. 208 of those marked the eligibility criteria of a workweek of minimum 16 hours, which led to the removal of 163 responses.
The gendered composition of the sample is 35.6% male, 63% female and 1.4% non- binary/third gender (SD = 0.505), and 50% of the sample falls in the 18-24 years range (SD = 1.517). 84.1% of respondents is Dutch, followed by 2.4% Russian and 1.9% South Korean (SD
= 22.99). Respectively 33.7% and 20.7% of respondents achieved an HBO-diploma (university of applied sciences) and MBO-diploma (secondary vocational education; SD = 1.3), and 40.4%
works full-time (SD = 2.15).
The following three models will be used in this study: the big five personality traits, the resilience at work scale and the 15-item five facet mindfulness questionnaire (FFMQ).
Conscientiousness and neuroticism. These personality traits come from the validated and reliable big five personality trait questionnaire developed McCrae and Costa (1987).
However, for the sake of time, a shorter, 20-item version was used. The 20-item Mini IPIP showed convergent, discriminant and criterion-related validity and is therefore a good replacement (Donnellan et al., 2006). Each personality trait has four items on the scale, which were measured on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’.
Examples of statements are ‘I seldom feel blue’ (reflecting neuroticism) and ‘I have a vivid imagination’ (reflecting openness; see Appendix A). It showed unimprovable, sufficient reliability by a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.656 for conscientiousness and 0.692 for neuroticism.
Resilience at work. The resilience at work scale developed by Winwood et al. (2013) was used to measure the outcome variable of model 1. It is a 20-item scale, consisting of six components: living authentically, finding your calling, maintaining perspective, managing stress, building social connections and staying healthy. These components were measured on a
5-point Likert scale, ranging from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’. Example items are
‘nothing at work ever really ‘fazes’ me for long’ (maintaining perspective) and ‘I am able to change my mood at work when I need to’ (living authentically; see Appendix B). It showed good reliability by a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.772. Further improvement to 0.807 is abstained from as deleting that particular item would make the dimension ‘maintaining perspective’ less comprehensive.
Trait mindfulness. Originally from the five facet mindfulness questionnaire (FFMQ) developed by Baer et al. (2006). For the sake of time, a shorter, 15-item version was used, developed by the same authors (Baer et al., 2008). Three items were included per facet of observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-judging and non-reactivity. Gu et al. (2016) confirmed its convergent validity. These constructs were measured on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from ‘never or rarely true’ to ‘very often or always true’. Examples are ‘I find myself doing things without paying attention’ (acting with awareness) and ‘I notice how foods and drinks affect my thoughts, bodily sensations, and emotions’ (observing; see Appendix C). It showed unimprovable, sufficient reliability by a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.68. For elaboration on reliability, see Appendix D.
In an attempt to rule out alternative effects on the hypothesis, control variables were used. These included age, gender, nationality, education level and years employed. Lyons et al.
(2015) found a small but significant correlation between openness and resilience, so openness was controlled for as well. Furthermore, perceived stress was accounted for as Wilks and Croom (2008) reported a significant, negative correlation with resilience.
In the presence of control variables, hypotheses 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 were tested by linear regression in SPSS, in which predictor variables conscientiousness and neuroticism were tested against the outcome variables resilience at work and trait mindfulness. Significance confirmed
or denied support for the stated hypotheses. For the testing of the mediation hypothesis 4 and moderation hypothesis 6, Process Macro model 4 and model 1 resp. (Hayes, 2018) were used, in which the mediating effect of trait mindfulness and moderating effect of meditation practice was assessed, which included non-parametric bootstrapping for testing the indirect effect in the former. Its significance then again either confirmed or denied the stated indirect effect of the hypotheses. Prior to analysis, preliminary analysis was conducted to test assumptions, which will be elaborated on in the next section.
IV. Results Descriptive Statistics and Correlations
Table 1 reports the means, standard deviations and correlations among the variables in this sample. A more thorough version is found in Appendix F. The relevant relationships were found to be significant and in the right direction as hypothesised for both models (see column 5 and 6 below). Both conscientiousness and neuroticism showed a weak but significant correlation with resilience at work (r = .251 and r = -.263 resp., p < .001), expressing higher- level conscientious individuals to be more resilient at work. For neurotic individuals, on the other hand, levels of resilience decrease as one becomes more neurotic. Moreover, a moderately positive, significant correlation was found with trait mindfulness and resilience, reflecting their similar nature (r = .519, p < .001). To determine which control variables were included in hypothesis testing, only significant correlations with the dependent variable are taken into account (Becker, 2005). For resilience at work, these include age, openness to experience and perceived stress, indicated in blue. For both models, the latter is particularly interesting as it shows a stronger correlation with the DV than the personality traits.
For trait mindfulness, a moderately negative and significant correlation was found with neuroticism (r = -.441, p < .001), indicating that neurotic individuals were less likely to be mindful. A weaker, positive nevertheless significant correlation was found with conscientiousness (r = .249, p < .001), indicating this personality trait was more likely to be mindful. For meditation practice specifically, conscientiousness showed a significantly negative correlation with both meditation practice and regularity (r = -.207, r = -.320 resp., p < .001), meaning conscientious individuals in this sample typically did not meditate. For neuroticism, only meditation showed a significant, weak correlation, which was, to surprise, positive (r = .138, p < .05). This indicates that neurotic individuals were more likely to meditate as compared to conscientious individuals, but no inferences can be made about the regularity.
The control variables taken into account are age, education obtained and perceived stress as they showed a significant correlation, indicated in orange.
To justify linear regression, several assumptions must be met. Appendix G graphically shows the fulfilment of all assumptions. First, the sample showed sufficient linearity for both model 1 and 2, visually depicted by scatter plots. Second, residuals were assumed independent.
The third assumption concerns the normality of residuals, which showed an excellent normal distribution. The fourth assumption on homoscedasticity has been satisfied, as outliers did not have a significant effect on the variance. A total of 14 outliers with a Z-score greater than 2 were present in the sample but were not deleted to maintain an informative sample. The last assumption on multicollinearity has been met too, as all VIF statistics were below 5.
Regression Analysis Model 1.
Hypothesis 1a states that conscientiousness is positively related to resilience at work.
Linear regression was used to test this, controlling for age, openness and perceived stress.
Model 2 includes conscientiousness additionally. The latter model showed an R-square of .273 (27.3%), which shows the percental change in resilience at work explained by the model. R- square change equals .035 (p < .05), which depicts the percentage of additional variance explained by conscientiousness solely. Conscientiousness increasing one unit (on its scale) results in a significant increase of .120 (SE = .038, t = 3.138, p > .05) in resilience (on its scale), when holding control variables constant. Therefore, the positive (unstandardised) beta of .120 and corresponding significant p-value lend support for H1a.
Hypothesis 1b states that neuroticism is negatively related to resilience at work. The same procedure as in the testing of hypothesis 1 was used, including the same control variables.
Model 1 showed an R-square of .237 (23.7%), and the second model did not have any more explanatory power. The F-change was only a mere .038 (p > .05) and therefore cannot reject H0 nor support H1b.
Hypothesis 2a states that conscientiousness is positively related to trait mindfulness.
Again, linear regression was used to test this, controlling for age, education obtained and perceived stress. Model 2 showed an R-square of .224 (22.4%), which shows the percental change in trait mindfulness explained by the model. R-square change equals .022 (p < .05), which depicts the percentage of additional variance explained by conscientiousness solely. A one unit increase in conscientiousness (on its scale) results in an increase of .022 (SE = .040, t
= 2.324, p < .05) in trait mindfulness (on its scale), holding other independent variables constant. Therefore, the positive (unstandardised) beta of .094 and corresponding significant p- value lend support for H2a.
Hypothesis 2b states that neuroticism is negatively related to trait mindfulness. The same procedure as for hypothesis 2a was used. Model 2 showed an R-square of .223 (22.3%), which shows the percental change in trait mindfulness explained by the model. R-square change equals .031 (p <.05), which depicts the percentage of additional variance explained by neuroticism solely. A one unit increase of neuroticism (on its scale) results in a decrease of - .124 (SE = .045, t = -2.774, p < .05) of trait mindfulness (on its scale), holding other independent variables constant. Therefore, the negative (unstandardised) beta of .-.124 and the corresponding significant p-value lend support for H2b.
Hypothesis 3 states that trait mindfulness is positively related to resilience at work. The procedure as done for hypothesis 1a was replicated. Model 2 showed an R-square of .314 (31.4%), which shows the percental change in resilience at work explained by the model. R- square change equals .104 (p < .001), which depicts the percentage of additional variance explained by trait mindfulness solely. A one unit increase in trait mindfulness (on its scale) results in an increase of .392 (SE = .073, t = 5.346, p < .001) of resilience (on its scale), holding other independent variables constant. The positive (unstandardised) beta of .392 and the corresponding significant p-value lend support for H3.
Hypothesis 5a states that conscientiousness is negatively related to meditation practice.
Binary logistic regression was used, considering the nature of the dependent variable. Age and openness showed significant correlations (see Table 1 in Appendix F) with meditation practice and will therefore be used in the analysis. Model 2 showed a significant Chi-square test (p <
.05) and higher pseudo R-square tests (.101 and .135) as compared to model 1 (.077 and .103), thereby establishing a better model fit. The coefficients table shows that conscientiousness is a negative and significant predictor (ß = -.492, SE = .215, p < .05) of the probability that an individual meditates. The odds ratio indicates that for every one unit increase on conscientiousness, the odds of meditation increase by a factor of .611 (therefore decreases).
This lends support for H5a.
Hypothesis 5b states that neuroticism is negatively related to meditation practice. The previous process was replicated. Model 2 showed a significant Chi-square test (p < .05) and higher pseudo R-square tests (.087 and .116) as compared to model 1 (as opposed to .077 and .103), thereby establishing a better model fit. The coefficients table shows that neuroticism is a positive but insignificant predictor (ß = .285, SE = .195, p > .05) of the probability that an individual meditates. H0 cannot be rejected and H5b cannot be supported.
Mediation and Moderation Analysis Model 1: Mediation
To test hypothesis 4a, which states that the relationship between conscientiousness and resilience at work is mediated by trait mindfulness, model 4 of the PROCESS macro by Hayes (2018) was used. Similar to linear regression, age, openness and perceived stress were used as control variables. Partial mediation was found, as both the direct as well as indirect path were significant. The effect of conscientiousness on resilience at work (c = ß = .1197, CI 95% =
[.0445;.1949], p < .05) was mediated by trait mindfulness (a*b = ß = .0337, SE = .0143,
CI 95% = [.0089;.0649]). Two cases that differ one point in their score on conscientiousness are estimated to, on average, differ .0337 points in their score on resilience at work as a result of the effect of conscientiousness on trait mindfulness (indirectly), and .0860 points directly, independent of trait mindfulness. Hypothesis 4a is supported.
To test hypothesis 4b, which states that the relationship between neuroticism and resilience at work is mediated by trait mindfulness, the same procedure and control variables
were used. The analysis showed a significant indirect effect (a*b = ß = -.0582, CI 95% = [-.1001;-.0245], p < .001), but an insignificant total effect (c = ß = -.0084, CI 95% = [-.0930;.0762], p > .05) as well as an insignificant direct effect. This does not lend support for
mediation and therefore hypothesis 4b, as the direct effect was insignificant from the start.
However, the finding of an indirect effect lends support for hypothesis 4b when a newer type of mediation is considered, namely the indirect-only as presented by Zhao, Lynch and Chen (2010).
Model 2: Moderation
To test hypothesis 6a, which hypothesises that the positive relationship between conscientiousness and trait mindfulness is stronger for meditating individuals, Hayes’ (2018) PROCESS macro model 1 was used. Age, education obtained, and perceived stress were used as control variables. An insignificant interaction effect was found (ß = .0691, SE = .0555, t = 1.2454, p = .2157, 95% CI = [-.0409;.1792]). This results from an insignificant R-square change of .0094 (p > .05). Analysis failed to reject H0 and failed to find support for H6a.
To test hypothesis 6b, which hypothesises that the negative relationship between neuroticism and trait mindfulness is weaker for meditating individuals, a similar procedure and control variables were used. The analysis showed an insignificant interaction effect (ß = -.0377, SE = .0462, t = -.8164, p = .4161,95% CI = [-.1294;-.0539]), as an insignificant R-square
change of .0038 (p > .05) was found. Analysis failed to reject H0 and failed to find support for H6b.
Appendix I graphically sums the several paths found in the mediation analysis.
Appendix J contains the interaction tables for preceding two hypotheses.
This study intended to investigate whether the relationship between the personality traits conscientiousness and neuroticism and resilience at work is mediated by trait mindfulness.
Additionally, this study aimed to investigate whether the relationship between the aforementioned personality traits and trait mindfulness is moderated by meditation practice, such that it has a more pragmatic nature to business.
In summary, six out of the eleven tested hypotheses were supported. Conscientiousness showed a consistently significant and positive relationship to both resilience at work and trait mindfulness. This implies that the higher an individual’s level of conscientiousness, the higher that individual’s level of trait mindfulness and resilience at work is. In relation to the meditation practice, it showed a significant, negative relationship. This implies that the higher an individual’s level of conscientiousness, the less likely an individual meditates. For the other variable, neuroticism, the only significant, negative relationship was found with trait mindfulness. This means that the higher the neuroticism, the lower an individual’s likelihood of being mindful as a trait. Another significant relationship found in model 1 is between trait mindfulness and resilience at work, in which the display of high trait mindfulness leads to a higher likelihood of being resilience at work. Trait mindfulness partially mediate the relationship between conscientiousness and resilience at work.
For model 2, the only supported hypothesis is on the relationship between conscientiousness and meditation practice, in which a significant, negative relationship was found. This means that the more conscientious individuals are less likely practicing meditation, as compared to the less conscientious individuals. Such effect could not be confirmed for neuroticism, nor through a moderation analysis of the effect of meditation practice.
Interpretation and Contributions
This research offers insights into the interplay of mindfulness and newly conceptualised dynamic resilience. First, similar to previous findings (Oshio et al., 2018), this study has confirmed that conscientious individuals are likely to have higher levels of resilience as compared to less conscientious individuals. It is likely their tendency to always be prepared, responsible and self-disciplined that drives their ability to cope with stress (Fayombo, 2010).
However, effect sizes were smaller than expected, and confirmation of the negative relationship between neuroticism and resilience was absent. Theory might be incomplete here, as it might be the case that perceived stress takes the overhand, so that the neurotic personality trait does not add any additional variance. Generally, neurotic individuals are characterised by negative affect and are quickly affected by minor frustrations of daily life, such that perceived stress is higher for neurotic individuals than for other personality traits (Sahi & Raghavi, 2016).
Therefore, another variable could explain this relationship. To continue, this study shows similarities with previous findings on the relationship between trait mindfulness and resilience.
Results from this study confirm Davis’ (2009) work on the positive relationship between mindfulness and resilience, as these concepts share the propensity of non-reactivity to emotions.
Logically flows from this is that those mindful individuals are naturally more resilient, as they have the capability to decentre themselves from the situation more easily, thereby contributing positively to their resilience (Thompson et al., 2011). Nevertheless, this research does add to the existing knowledge, as prior research on resilience at work has essentially focussed
exclusively on resilience as a trait, rather than a dynamic capability as was the case for this study.
Second, this study replicates the results found in Giluk’s (2009) meta-analysis on personality traits and trait mindfulness. Whereas conscientious individuals were found to be more mindful, neurotic individuals showed the opposite relation to trait mindfulness, which is in line with both Giluk’s (2009) and Hanley and Garland’s (2017) more recent meta-analysis.
Nonetheless, effect sizes were remarkably weaker for both. This is somewhat surprising, but could possibly be a methodological issue, as scale reliabilities for both the personality traits and mindfulness were lower than expected. However, the positive and negative direction of effects found for conscientiousness and neuroticism respectively was confirmed, thereby building onto existing research.
Third, hypothesis 6a confirms the finding of Van den Hurk et al. (2011) that conscientious individuals are less likely to meditate (regularly). This builds onto Barrick et al.’s (2011) work which describes the tendency of conscientious individuals to be goal oriented, whilst mediation practice emphases the process rather than the outcome. Analysis was unable to confirm this relation for neuroticism as stated in hypothesis 6b. This could again be due to methodological issues in scale reliabilities, or due to an incompletion of the literature. A third variable could be in play here, which Van den Hurk et al. (2011) identified as the accept- without-judgement facet of mindfulness. This seems to be a crucial for meditation practice, as meditation requires individuals to see reality the way it is, without judgement, abstaining from trying to change it or labelling it (Baer et al., 2004). In the absence of this facet, the neuroticism meditation practice relation simply cannot occur. Yet, the research on personality traits and meditation practice is still in its infancy and thus warrants further investigation (Crescentini &
Fourth, the mediation hypothesis on conscientiousness found support. In line with Goleman’s (1997) work on emotional intelligence, this study found that the relationship between conscientiousness and resilience is mediated by trait mindfulness. Mindfulness knows similarities to emotional intelligence, as brain areas responsible for emotional regulation are different in mindful individuals as compared to non-mindful individuals (Guendelman et al., 2017). It might therefore be the mindful personality of these conscientious individuals that drives their resilience to some extent, thereby uncovering the underlying mechanism. An indirect-only mediation effect could be confirmed for neuroticism and poses a remarkable situation, as it deviates from the traditional partial/full mediation. Not finding the traditional mediation patterns could be due to the small sample size or the inability to meet assumptions properly (Preacher & Hayes, 2008). This might also be partly the reason why no interaction effect was found in model 2. In sum, the indirect-only mediation effect of trait mindfulness of the neuroticism – resilience at work relationship poses a remarkable situation and necessitates further investigation.
This study was subject to several limitations that threaten its reliability. From a methodological viewpoint, the sample size was rather small, especially for model 2 (N = 114).
The latter could possibly be an explanation for the largely insignificant results. Besides, the chosen sampling method of convenience sampling lowers the sample’s external validity, especially since the large majority was of Dutch nationality and in the age category 18-24, leading to a relatively homogeneous sample. Besides, these participants were of non-English fluency, thereby possibly limiting the understanding of the questions. Another methodological issue that has perhaps arisen is the fatigue at the end of the exceptionally large survey (Backor et al., 2007), which has led participants to incompletely close the survey, thereby decreasing the eligible sample size. Another issue that could have arisen from the self-reporting nature of
the questionnaires is the social desirability bias in which individuals portray a favourable image of themselves through the answers on the questionnaire (Van de Mortel, 2008). This could be one of the reasons for the presence of outliers in the sample, but which were left in the sample, though, to maintain a raw view of the collected data.
However, in sum, given the use of validated scales and a relatively large sample size (N
= 207) for model 1, it can be said that the study has sufficient reliability for the obtained (significant) results.
Future research should focus on the variables present in this study and expand on current knowledge. Unlike the current study, only the variables of interest should be measured in the survey to ensure succinctness. This will lead to a reduction in survey length and therefore response time, which will consequently reduce response fatigue and probably increase sample size. This increased sample size will then also allow for more proper assessment of the meditation hypothesis 4, for which currently only an indirect effect was found. Ideally, the comprehensive big five and FFMQ questionnaires should be included to increase scale reliability, as the shortened version are included in the present study. In such research, it would be interesting to look at individual facets of mindfulness to get a profound understanding of relationships. Moreover, a longitudinal design would be better for both models, as it allows for more careful insights into the underlying relationships between meditation practice and trait mindfulness. Furthermore, in combination with model 1, a longitudinal design allows for a better understanding of meditation practice and its influence on trait mindfulness and resilience at work.
From the current study, it remains unknown whether meditation practice has an influence on trait mindfulness. Literature has confirmed this before, but further research is warranted for it to be applicable to practice. If this is indeed the case, possibly, neurotic
individuals could benefit the most from employee initiated meditation to increase trait mindfulness and therefore resilience. The current study, however, is unable to make such inferences.
Nevertheless, the result of the current study does have practical implications for managers. It confirmed that neurotic employees (as opposed to conscientious employees) need more supervisory support, as they are generally more anxious and insecure, which can have detrimental effects on performance in the workplace. Besides, they tend to be less mindful, which again could deteriorate their performance. As trait mindfulness correlates positively with resilience at work, it might be an efficient double-edged sword to invest specifically in decreasing neurotic tendencies through an increase in mindfulness. This will also put conscientious and neurotic employees on a more equal footing, in an efficient manner. No implications can be made on the effect of meditation, however, so other forms of increasing trait mindfulness should be considered as well.
To conclude, previous research on mindfulness has focussed on mental health benefits and how those translate to better workplace performance. Among the latter is resilience, which has undergone a different conceptualisation recently, in which it is regarded as a malleable, dynamic capability rather than a trait. Research efforts on the interplay between personality traits and dynamic resilience is still in its infancy and attempts to uncover the underlying mechanisms can have important practical implications. Besides, previous research investigated the influence of meditation practice on trait mindfulness but left unclear how and whether personality traits influence this relationship. Thus, this study examined the mediating influence
of mindfulness on personality traits and the newly conceptualised resilience (at work). Results show a partial mediating effect for conscientiousness, meaning conscientiousness has an indirect effect on resilience through trait mindfulness. This could not be confirmed for neuroticism. The moderating effect of meditation practice on the personality trait mindfulness relationship could neither be confirmed. In short, mindfulness does lead to resilience for conscientiousness individuals, but to a very small extent. For this sample, a moderation effect of meditation practice on personality and trait mindfulness could not be established.
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