Relating Worker Traits to Occupations

Relating personality or temperament characteristics to occupations is more difficult than either interests or aptitudes. One reason for this is that less research exists on the topic, and a second reason is that most occupations tolerate considerable variation on this factor.

Nevertheless, many individuals hold stereotypes of personality characteristics representative of various occupations. For example, the brash, aggressive, dominant used-car salesperson, the quiet, restrained, orderly accountant, the cool, confident, autonomous air-traffic controller, the nurturant, friendly, untiring nurse. Holland's typology of people and work environments suggests that particular personality attributes are more compatible to certain work settings than to others. Super also implies that different kinds of people will fit into different kinds of occupations.

The most extensive effort to relate temperament characteristics to occupations is probably the one included in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, third edition. The Worker Traits section of Volume II suggests temperaments required of a worker to achieve average success in an occupation, as well as such other traits as aptitudes, interests, and general and specific educational preparation. One must be aware that the approach used in the DOT is that the specific occupation evaluated requires the worker to have those temperament or personality traits that enable him or her to deal with the situational nature of the work. Usually two or three major temperament situations are suggested for each worker trait group. Both aptitude and temperament requirements are incorporated in the Guide for Occupational Exploration in general terms under the heading of "What skills and abilities do you need for this kind of work?"

The DOT temperament traits are useful in assisting a client to evaluate this aspect of his or her individual characteristics and to see the relationship between personality and occupation.

The twelve temperaments listed in the third edition of the DOT, Volume II, are as follows:

Different types of occupational situations to which workers must adjust.
  1. Situations involving a variety of duties often characterized by frequent change.

  2. Situations involving repetitive or short cycle operations carried out ac-cording to set procedures or sequences.

  3. Situations involving doing things only under specific instructions, allowing little or no room for independent action or judgment in working out job problems.

  4. Situations involving the direction, control, and planning of an entire activity or the activities of others.

  5. Situations involving the necessity of dealing with people in actual job duties beyond giving and receiving instructions.

  6. Situations involving working alone and apart in physical isolation from others, although the activity may be integrated with that of others.

  7. Situations involving influencing people in their opinions, attitudes, or judgments about ideas or things.

  8. Situations involving performing adequately under stress when con-fronted with the critical or unexpected or when taking risks.

  9. Situations involving the evaluation (arriving at generalizations, judgments, or decisions) of information against sensory or judgmental criteria.

  10. Situations involving the evaluation (arriving at generalizations, judgments, or decisions) of information against measurable or verifiable criteria.

  11. Situations involving the interpretation of feelings, ideas, or facts in terms of personal viewpoint.

  12. Situations involving the precise attainment of set limits, tolerances, or standards.
Those client personality characteristics that are strong enough to have occupational significance often are identifiable from self-evaluation as the client describes preferences, feelings, and attitudes. When the client is unable to describe himself or herself with confidence or expresses uncertainty with self-evaluations, then personality inventories may be helpful in clarifying those characteristics that may bear upon occupational success and satisfaction. Although few of the scales of such instruments as the CPI, EPPS, or the GZTS translate directly to the temperament traits listed in the DOT, inferences can be drawn that help the client relate self to work requirements. For example, the Dominance scale of CPI and EPPS and the Ascendance scale of GZTS would appear to involve characteristics relevant to Temperament traits 4 and 7.

Two devices that appear to help in relating personal characteristics to occupations are available to counselors. These are the Occupational View-Deck and Worker Trait Keysort. Both will be discussed below. Because each uses a slightly different ordering of personality traits, one cannot assume that the same number reflects the same characteristic.

Occupational view-deck: The Occupational View-Deck is based on a list of descriptions of commonly encountered occupations. The third edition includes brief profile statements concerning work performed, training standards, qualifications, sources of additional information, and related occupations for each of 610 occupations. These are arranged in alphabetical order and each has been assigned a four-digit number within the system ranging from 0000 to 4046.

The code numbers are arranged sequentially with other numbers in a 32 by 32 square matrix, providing 1024 codes, of which 610 are now being used. It is assumed that the unused numbers, which occur at the end of each letter sequence, are intended for future expansion of the occupational profiles.

The Occupational View-Deck provides information on how each of the included occupations relates to various aspects of each of six different characteristics such as the temperament traits. In addition to temperament, the variables presently included are the following: Interests, Education, Training Programs, Physical Demands, and Working Conditions. A transparent overlay is provided for each of these forty-six variables, revealing on the 32 by 32 matrix the code numbers for all occupations possessing that characteristic. For example, the overlay for "Temperament B-Repetitive" shows ninety-eight code numbers representing such occupations as air hammer operator, automobile service station salesperson, court reporter, groundskeeper, insurance clerk, machine tool operator, operating engineer, proofreader, typist, and welder. The transparent overlay can be used singly to identify additional occupations to consider in the expanding phase. They can also be used in combination to find those occupations that relate to the grouped characteristics. This usage is a common procedure in the narrowing phase.

Each characteristic is defined briefly in the instruction manual. For example, "Temperament B-Repetitive" is defined thus:

You prefer to work at the same task for long periods of time. You prefer to work at a machine or work at a task another worker tells you to do.

Clients may have sufficient self-understanding to identify readily those temperament traits that are characteristic of themselves. If they desire confirmation of their estimates, this can be done in the counseling sessions or by using personality inventories. The View-Deck also includes a brief self-evaluative checklist consisting of ten yes-no items presumably related to each of the eleven temperament traits. The individual is directed to explore the three traits for which the most yes answers have been given. The interest headings approximate those found on the Kuder General Interest Survey, with Outdoor being the only scale not included. Like temperament traits, interest factors may be identified by prior self-evaluation, counseling, or inventorying. The remaining factors-Education-Training, Physical Demands, and Working Conditions-are usually identified easily by most clients.

The occupational profiles include the DOT three-digit occupational designation codes, so that use of the DOT and the GOE is facilitated.

Counselors who frequently use the Occupational View-Deck with clients will find it helpful to complete the DOT code number and to enter the appropriate GOE code number for each of the 610 listed occupations. The addition of this information will simplify the translating process for clients and permit them to work more independently. Each profile also suggests sources for further information, often including industrial, governmental, or professional organizations.

Worker trait Keysort deck The Worker Trait Keysort Deck is part of a comprehensive system entitled Career Information System developed under the direction of David Winefordner at the Appalachia Educational Laboratory. The various components of the system use the interest areas of the GOE as the basic structure for career information. Consequently, every part of the system produces data that translate directly to GOE codes. The twelve GOE interest areas are called Career Areas and the sixty-six GOE work groups are called Worker Trait Groups in this system. Eight factors are related to the various Worker Trait Groups, including the following:

Work Activities (ten types)

Work Situations (ten types)

Worker Functions (Data, six; People, eight; Things, seven)

Physical Demands (six DOT factors)

Working Conditions (seven DOT factors)

Aptitudes (eleven GATB factors)

General Educational Development (six DOT levels)

Preparation and Training (two types, five levels)

Among the eight factors listed above, only the first two relate to the area of personality and will be considered here.

Each of the ten work situations is related to Worker Trait Groups (GOE four-digit Work Groups) that involve that characteristic. These range from as few as five related to Situation 6-Working Under Pressure, to as many as forty-seven related to Situation 4-Dealing with People, and forty-six related to Situation 8-Making Decisions Using Standards That Can Be Measured or Checked.

Work situations are defined briefly. For example, Work Situation 2- Performing Routine Tasks is defined as follows:

Workers do the same tasks over and over. They may not change the tasks or the order in which they do them. Work assignments are of short duration and follow a required method or sequence. Very little judgment is required.

In the Keysort Deck numerical or letter codes for five sorting factors (work activities, work situations, physical demands, GED, and preparation) are printed around the margins of a series of cards in which one card represents each of the four-digit Worker Trait Groups. Each card includes a brief descriptive paragraph for that Worker Trait Group and a brief list of occupational subgroups associated with that group. Between each numerical or letter code and the edge of the card is a hole that can be notched when that item relates to the Worker Trait Group. For example, card 01.01 Literary Arts has the following codes notched:

Work Activities
  • Activities resulting in recognition or appreciation from others

  • Activities involving the communication of ideas and information

  • Activities involving creative thinking
Work Situations
  • Planning and directing an entire activity

  • Dealing with people

  • Influencing people's opinions, attitudes, and judgments

  • Making decisions using personal judgment

  • Interpreting and expressing feelings, ideas, or facts
Physical Demands
  • Sedentary work

  • Talking and/or hearing

  • Seeing GED Level

  • Apply logical thinking and scientific knowledge to define problems, collect data, establish facts, and reach valid conclusions. Understand and follow a wide variety of technical instructions presented in mathematical or diagram form. Deal with such abstract variables as repair techniques. Deal with such concrete variables as testing equipment.

E Entry (open to anyone with the necessary education and training)

A Advancement (open only to those with related work experience)

N No formal training T Technical programs beyond high school C College preparation

The use of a sorting needle facilitates using the sixty-six cards. By first aligning all cards in the deck and then inserting the needle in the hole representing a particular characteristic, it is possible to identify all worker trait groups involving that characteristic. Those cards not involving the factor will remain on the needle; those that do relate to the characteristic will have a notched hole, permitting the card to fall out of the deck. The deck can be sorted singly, considering each group that relates to the characteristic of interest, or by combining characteristics and examining only those cards that relate to the two or three characteristics used for the sort.

The system also includes checklists for Work Activities, Work Situations, and Aptitudes. These are intended to assist the client in self-evaluation in each of the three areas and may be useful when the client is uncertain about his or her characteristics in the specific trait.

Since the Worker Trait Groups compare directly to the four-digit Work Areas in the GOE, the Worker Trait Keysort Deck permits the individual to relate any of the personal characteristics represented in the five sorting factors to information included in the Guide for Occupational Exploration. The six-digit codes included there may be appropriate possibilities for further consideration by the client.

Holland codes Each of Holland's occupational themes reflects a group of personality characteristics and a work environment where that type of individual can be expected to be found. Since Holland usually uses two or three letter codes to represent an individual, one would expect a combination of personality characteristics to be seen in the individual. According to Holland, an individual will seek a work environment that is congruent with his or her personality.

The descriptors used for each occupational theme appear to have reasonable face validity, but they have not been verified by matching them against the widely used personality inventories. It would seem that they are certainly as useful as self-descriptive terms used on checklists or inventories. They can be compared to the "skills and abilities" statements in the GOE where temperament factors are included.

D-P-T codes: Many personality characteristics, either self-identified or inventoried, can be expressed in terms that reveal both amount and complexity of relationships to data, people, or things. Because generalizations are usually applied in such instances, the low-average-high categories used in the cubistic classification system are more likely to be appropriate. Remarks such as "I'm really a people type of person-I enjoy bargaining with people, trying to work out a deal that satisfies both of us," can lead to consideration of those levels of involvement included in the average and high categories of "people" in the Worker Functions classification. Once the general level that matches the individual has been agreed, the client can browse in the Worker Trait section of the third edition of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles for possible occupations to be added to the list. One can also use the Worker Trait descriptions in the third edition to approximate the GOE grouping so that occupational suggestions from that source can also be considered.
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