Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Jason L. Huang

Second Advisor

Alyssa K. McGonagle


Personality is one of the most important topics in psychological research and has been studied extensively to understand human behavior in and out of the work context. Research in the industrial/organizational psychology literature has treated personality traits as static dispositions. Although some research has revealed evidence of personality change across the life course, there is limited understanding to what causes personality to change and what the outcomes are following personality changes.

The purpose of this dissertation is to study personality changes associated with adversity in the workplace (unemployment and workplace discrimination) and their outcomes (job- and well-being-related outcomes). Methodologically, the current study uses robust research designs with a nationally representative sample and three waves of longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study. The current findings uncovered a number of important relations that demonstrate both mean-level changes and individual differences in personality changes. Specifically, findings give support to the la dolce vita effect and the life span development theory, such that older adults tend to become less conscientious, neurotic, extraverted, and open, as well as more agreeable as they age. In addition, workplace adversity is likely to have an immediate, substantial effect on subjective well-being as well as an influence on increases in Neuroticism. Pertaining to the outcomes of personality changes, findings suggest that positive changes in personality (e.g., increases in Conscientiousness and Extraversion) predict improvements associated with job- and well-being-related outcomes (i.e., increases in job satisfaction and subjective well-being, as well as higher levels of work ability), whereas negative changes in personality (e.g., increases in Neuroticism) tend to be detrimental to job and well-being outcomes (i.e., declines in job satisfaction and subjective well-being, as well as lower levels of work ability).

Taken together, the current findings shed light on the phenomena of personality change following unexpected, traumatic work-related adversity (unemployment and workplace discrimination), as well as how these personality changes relate to important job- and well-being-related outcomes. This study makes several important theoretical and practical contributions to personality research, the field of industrial/organizational psychology, and the aging literature. Implications and future directions are discussed.

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