Prediction of performance in non-Western cultures

2.8.5 Prediction of performance in non-Western cultures

Whilst the FFM may have been shown to have acceptable construct validity in non-Western cultures (Digman and Inouye, 1986), there is less research investigating the ability of the five-factors to predict criterion variables in these cultures. Furthermore, the development of indigenous psychology in China has focussed on the construct validity of indigenous measures such as the CPAI and comparison/convergence of CPAI and FFM scales, but the research has not developed sufficiently to allow the investigation of the predictive utility of indigenous scales. Exhaustive literature searches (Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, Social Sciences Collection, Management & Organization Studies: SAGE Full-Text Collection, PsycARTICLES, PsycINFO (1840-Current) & Psychology: SAGE Full-Text Collection) reveal that there is just one published study (Kwong & Cheung, 2003) investigating the relationship between indigenous personality and performance at work in a Chinese context. This was supported by Hui, Cheng and Gan (2000) who stated that “Although organizational researchers’ interest in the relationship between personality and work performance is now fully revived in the West, not much has been done on the topic in the non-Western world.” (p.1).

In a study of 187 hotel supervisors in Hong Kong, Kwong and Cheung (2003) found, through correlational analyses, that there was a relationship between four of the scales from the CPAI (of which three were indigenous scales) and contextual dimensions of performance. Harmony, Face, and Leadership (one of the 16 non-indigenous normal personality scales) showed significant and positive correlations with the performance indicator, Interpersonal Contextual Behaviours, whilst just one (indigenous) scale, Veraciousness, had a significant positive correlation with Personal Contextual Behaviours. This implicitly lends some support to Borman and Motowidlo (1997) where the contextual dimensions of an individual’s performance at work were seen to be better predicted from personality questionnaires than were the task dimensions; and to Van Scotter and Motowidlo (1996) who found that contextual performance divided into two narrower constructs (interpersonal facilitation and job dedication) and that the relationship between various personality traits and each construct were distinct.

However, the different style of performance appraisal between Western and Chinese management may confound these comparisons Hempel (2001) reported that performance scores given by Chinese management were found to be highly dependent on personal attributions made by managers. The rating was often considered in light of personal characteristics such as loyalty and obedience, and less attention was placed upon real measurable outcomes. This stands in contrast to the West where the use of personal attribution in appraisal has frequently been cited as a primary source of error in the appraisal process (Murphy & Cleveland, 1995). This may be explained by the fact that in China, more so than in the West, it is a common cultural understanding that the relationship between staff, management, client and supplier is an extremely important aspect contributing to organisational success (e.g., Dunfee & Warren, 2001).

Based on Hempel’s (2001) work, it is possible that Kwong and Cheung (2003) found significant correlations between personality and performance because their Chinese managers were rating each performance dimension based on personal attribution and thus, for example, the appraisee’s scores on Harmony (inner peace of mind and avoidance of interpersonal conflict), Face (social behaviours to enhance or avoid losing ‘face’) or Veraciousness (loyal, honest, hard-working) were directly related to contextual dimensions of performance. This would have provided evidence of construct validity of the CPAI (corroboration of appraisee’s self-report with appraiser’s endorsement of various personality-related dimensions of the appraisee) rather than criterion-related validity. Further, it should be restated that Kwong and Cheung used correlational analyses in their study. Despite the absence of predictive analyses such as multiple regressions, the authors state that “…personality traits that relate to interpersonal orientation better predict interpersonal versus personal contextual behaviours, whereas a trait associated with personal virtues such as moral obligation and loyalty to group predicts the personal but not the interpersonal domain.” (Kwong & Cheung, 2003, p.99). The evidence to hand is not strong enough to suggest prediction (although the significant correlations, whilst not very strong in magnitude, should not be ignored) and thus further research is required to ascertain whether predictive models of work performance can be formulated based on indigenous personality scales.

It is important to continue to investigate the predictive utility of both the FFM and the indigenous CPAI in Chinese organisations. It needs to be ascertained whether performance can be predicted similarly to the West and whether or not an indigenous test has incremental validity over and above an imported measure. Bond (1991) comments that there are a number of differences in organisational life between East and West. In the management situation for example, Hong Kong managers tend to show initiating structure by responding to requests for improvement, meeting frequently with direct-reports and encouraging employees to help one another and assisting in employee career-planning. Bond contrasted this with American managers who tend to show initiating structure by dressing similarly to their direct-reports, showing disapproval to latecomers and discussing work progress. Given the interaction between personality, performance and management, and the fact that management styles differ between China and the West, there is reason to assume that there may be some differences in exactly how personality is related to performance in China, thus providing further impetus for research in this area.