Linking personality traits and individuals’ knowledge management behavior

Date21 May 2018
Published date21 May 2018
AuthorOsveh Esmaeelinezhad,Abbas Afrazeh
Linking personality traits and
management behavior
Osveh Esmaeelinezhad and Abbas Afrazeh
Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems,
Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran
Purpose Inspired by the theory of planned behavior, the purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of
the big five personality (BFP) traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and
neuroticism) on four aspects of individualsknowledge management (KM) behaviors: knowledge acquisition,
knowledge storage, knowledge sharing, and knowledge application.
Design/methodology/approach A survey-based approach was used to collect data from 221 employees
from five knowledge-intensive firms.
Findings The partial least square analyses confirmed a positive effectof two personality traits, openness
and conscientiousne ss, on knowledge acquisition as well as kno wledge application behavior. In additi on,
the positive effects of e xtraversion and consc ientiousness traits on k nowledge storage behav ior were
confirmed. The findin gs also revealed that agre eableness and openness t raits positively rela te to
knowledge sharing beh avior. Finally, neurot icism had a negative effec t on knowledge acquisitio n and
application behavio r.
Practical implications This study suggests that organizations need to incorporate employees
personality into the design and implementation of their KM systems. The findings provide managers with
insight into the course of personnel selection and retention to facilitate KM behaviors in organizations.
Originality/value Little is known about the relationship between the BFP traits and four aspects of KM
behaviors at the individual level. The present study has contributed to the existingbody of literature through
clarifying how personality traits relate to four dimensions of individualsKM behaviors.
Keywords Knowledge sharing, Knowledge acquisition, Knowledge application, Knowledge storage,
Big five personality traits, Knowledge management behaviour
Paper type Research paper
Knowledge isone of the most important resourcesof competitive advantagesin organizations
(Lee, 2016). In addition, improving organizational performance through the effective
knowledge utilization is a critical issue in organizations (Cui, 2017). Given the growing
importance of individual knowledge management (KM) in organizational effectiveness
(Hwang, 2016), it is necessary to understand the role of individual differences in KM
behaviors. Employees with different characteristics bring a variety of skills and capabilities,
which can result in creating and modifying of the knowledge in organizations. While
individualsKM behaviors are gaining importance, very few studies have examined how
individual differences (e.g. personality) influence individualsKM behaviors in organizations
(Wang et al., 2014).
KM is defined as a process of knowledge acquisition or creation, storage, sharing or
transfer, and usage or application (Alavi and Leidner, 2001). This study refers to four
aspects of individualsKM behaviors including knowledge acquisition, storage, sharing, and
application behaviors.
In this study, knowledge acquisition behavior refers to an individuals knowledge
acquisition from internal and external sources (e.g. documents, training programs,
experimentation, self-directed learning, group meetings, colleagues, survey and
investigation of external resources) (Liu and Liu, 2008; Liu, 2012). The next process of KM
Aslib Journal of Information
Vol. 70 No. 3, 2018
pp. 234-251
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/AJIM-01-2018-0019
Received 29 January 2018
Revised 6 April 2018
Accepted 16 April 2018
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
after the acquisition is knowledge storage, which is concerned with documenting,
categorizing, structuring, and storing knowledge to make it accessible (Kaufmann, 2014).
Knowledge sharing behavior (KSB) is defined as the activity of sharing individuals
experience and professional knowledge with others within teams/organizations to help them
learn new ideas (Ortiz et al., 2017). Finally, k nowledge applic ation behavior add resses
the ways and behaviors in which individuals apply knowledge to expedite the goals of the
organization (Holsapple, 2013).
Individual behavior is typically determined by personality traits (Jadin et al., 2013).
Therefore, regarding the importance of individual-related factors (e.g. personality) as a
predictor of employeesknowledge behavior at work (Mount et al., 2006; Hsieh et al., 2011),
this study used the theory of planned behavior (TPB) to explain the relationship between
personality and individual behavior. This theory explains some background factors as
personality influences intentions and behaviors (e.g. individualsKM behavior) at work
(Ajzen, 1991). One of the personality models that is widely used is the big five personality
(BFP) traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism)
(McCrae and Costa, 1987), which strongly predicts work behavior (Mount et al., 2006).
In addition, social exchange theory (SET) is widely used to demonstrate the relationship
between BFP and KSB as a social exchange behavior (Moghavvemi et al., 2017).
There have been few studies that have empirically examined the relationship between
individual differences like personality traits and individualsKM behaviors in
organizational contexts (Wang and Noe, 2010; Connelly et al., 2014). Most of the studies
have only investigated the influence of some dimensions of BFP traits on some dimensions
of KM behaviors, such as knowledge sharing or knowledge acquisition behaviors (Kim and
Lee, 2010; Matzler et al., 2008, 2011; Cui, 2017).
In addition, there is a lack of consistency and consensus among the results of these
studies. Consequently, it seems that very few studies comprehensively examined the
relationship between all dimensions of BFP traits and four main KM behavior at
the individual level. Organizations should motivate their employees to involve KM practices
(Donate and de Pablo, 2015). The literature stresses that human factors are crucial for KM
success (Cabrera et al., 2006). Therefore, the purpose of this study is to highlight personality
traits as essential factors for boosting KM behaviors among individuals in organizations.
This study aims to identify which BFP traits are significant in determining individualsKM
behaviors including knowledge acquisition, storage, sharing, and application.
Literature review
Knowledge management
KM refers to certain organizational approaches to achieve organizational goals through
theeffectiveuseofknowledge(Zhanget al., 2015). Most researchers have emphasized that
KM is a multidimensional construct (García-Sánchez et al., 2017). The four main processes
of KM at both individual and organizational levels that are commonly addressed
in the literature are acquisition or creation, storage/retrieval, sharing/transfer, and
usage/application (Alavi and Leidner, 2001; García-Sánchez et al., 2017). This research
uses the term of KM behavior as knowledge acquisition, sharing, storage, and application
activities at the i ndividual level .
Knowledge can be tacit or explicit. Tacit knowledge is personal and resides in the
individuals mind. Therefore, this kind of knowledge is rarely formalized and transferred
because of its unstructured format. On the other hand, explicit knowledge can be readily
stored, codified,accessed, and verbalized in various formatssuch as the electronic databases
and written information (Kaufmann, 2014).
Knowledge acquisition behavior refers to seeking, gathering, and acquiring new
knowledge within or outside of the organization ( Jantunen, 2005; Kim and Lee, 2010).

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