Is Employee Engagement Just a Reflection of Personality?

A great deal of research has been devoted to identifying the key determinants of engagement. Why is it that some people are more engaged — excited, moved, energized by their jobs — than others? Traditionally, this research has focused on the contextual or external drivers of engagement, such as the characteristics of the job, the culture of the organization, or the quality of its leaders. And although there is no universal formula to engage employees, it is generally true that people will feel more enthusiastic about their jobs when they are empowered to achieve something meaningful beyond their expectations, feel connected to others, and when they work in an environment — and for someone — that is fair, ethical, and rewarding, as opposed to a constant source of stress.

But despite the importance of these contextual drivers of engagement, how people feel about their job, boss, and workplace may also vary as a function of people’s own character traits. This is why two individuals may have very different levels of engagement even when their job situation is nearly identical (e.g., they work for the same company, team, and boss).

This raises an obvious yet rarely discussed question, namely: how much of engagement is actually just personality? A recent meta-analysis provides some much needed data-driven answers.

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