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Importance of personality and career stress for flight attendants' career satisfaction.

Literature Review and Hypotheses

Rather than focusing on commonly used objective indicators of success, such as salary change and promotions, we addressed a subjective aspect of flight attendants' career success: career satisfaction. According to Greenhaus, Parasuraman, and Wormley (1990), career satisfaction refers to a person's internally defined career outcome. Because there is little opportunity for advancement in the flight attendant role (Lessor, 1984; Liang & Hsieh, 2005), examining career satisfaction is particularly crucial for understanding flight attendants' careers.

Flight attendants who remain in a constant state of stress are vulnerable to depressive mood reactions (Sonnentag & Natter, 2004). Low career satisfaction is caused, at least partially, by lack of relief from continual stress responses caused by performing daily work tasks (Liang & Hsieh, 2005). However, unlike daily work stress, long-term career stress in flight attendants remains poorly documented. Studying career stress would aid understanding of why some flight attendants' career satisfaction remains low. Emphasizing stress reduction to improve career satisfaction would strengthen the development of contemporary high-performance work practices (HPWP) in the airline industry (Karatepe & Eslamlou, 2017; Karatepe & Vatankhah, 2015). Karatepe and Eslamlou (2017) discussed seven indicators of HPWP that are recommended for the airline industry, including selective staffing, job security, training, empowerment, rewards, teamwork, and career opportunities. These organizational practices are closely related to the career development of flight attendants.

Burke (1988) was one of the first scholars who discussed career stress and linked long-term stress with the pursuit of a professional career by examining varying combinations of stress experienced by professionals at four career phases (i.e., when beginning, developing, maintaining, and ending a career). Scholars have conducted a series of investigations (see, e.g., Yang, 2017) and demonstrated that a career stress model can be used to explain the psychological distress that is continually experienced during a long-term career. A conceptualization of four dimensions of career stress has been established using nurse samples (i.e., workload and career conflict, interpersonal relationships and emotions, career orientation, and career prospects; Yang, 2017). Extending the traditional work stress perspective, this conceptualization of career stress has helped clarify the mechanisms whereby stress experiences affect careers.

Accounting for dispositional effects is critical when investigating flight attendants' careers. There is evidence that linking personality with work-related consequences provides an empirical basis, as well as technical support, for selecting qualified flight attendants (Karatepe & Eslamlou, 2017; Karatepe & Vatankhah, 2015). Because the implications of work outcomes are limited to career practices, researchers must directly examine dispositional effects on career outcomes (e.g., career satisfaction) to provide the empirical and technical evidence required for organizational career management (e.g., selection, training, succession, and career counseling).

The personality theory of Eysenck and Eysenck (1975) has been discussed in the organizational literature for many decades and continues to be used worldwide because of its simplicity and practical relevance to human resource management (Furnham, 2016). Extraversion and neuroticism (emotionality) are the main dimensions of personality that have been used widely to explain work behavior (Furnham & Zacherl, 1986; Lu & Shih, 1997). Although Eysenck and Eysenck's theory has not been widely applied to exploring the relationship between personality and job satisfaction in the aviation industry, we believed this theoretical approach would be appropriate for the practical purpose of this study; namely, examining career management and counseling practices for flight attendants. Our aim was to enhance understanding of the dispositional influences on flight attendants' career stress and career satisfaction by focusing on the personality variables of extraversion and neuroticism. The hypothesized model is displayed in Figure 1.

Career Satisfaction and Career Stress

We first posited that reducing career stress would lead to higher career satisfaction. Although a similar argument has been suggested by previous researchers (Liang & Hsieh, 2005; MacDonald, Deddens, Grajewski, Whelan, & Hurrell, 2003), it has been examined in a work rather than career context. Thus, we formed the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 1: Flight attendants' career satisfaction will be negatively related to their career stress.

Career Satisfaction and Extraversion

Extraversion, which is characterized as a person's degree of sociability, represents one's tendency to be socially proactive during daily work life (Judge, Van Vianen, & De Pater, 2004). This personality facet is required for flight attendants to maintain a high level of emotional labor directed toward customers. Morris and Feldman (1996) observed that emotional dissonance is negatively related to work satisfaction; however, they did not examine the dispositional effect of extraversion on career satisfaction. Therefore, we formed the following hypothesis to examine the importance of social orientation and people skills in relation to flight attendants' career development:

Hypothesis 2: Flight attendants' career satisfaction will be positively related to their degree of extraversion.

Career Satisfaction and Neuroticism

Neuroticism that represents the individual's general emotional instability, has been consistently found to be correlated with employees' career satisfaction. Thus, we expected that this personality variable would be linked with not only work satisfaction (Judge et al., 2004) but also career satisfaction. Emotionally stable flight attendants are engaged in their work, creating positive work outcomes, such as favorable job performance and work satisfaction (Inceoglu & Warr, 2011; Judge et al., 2004). However, the relationship between neuroticism and career satisfaction has not been clearly examined with flight attendant participants, particularly in Chinese contexts. Thus, we formed the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 3: Flight attendants' career satisfaction will be negatively related to their degree of neuroticism.

Career Stress, Extraversion, and Neuroticism

People who exhibit a high level of extraversion have been found to be active and engaged in their jobs (Inceoglu & Warr, 2011); accordingly, more extraverted flight attendants perform a higher level of social skills and receive more social support in the workplace (Hochwarter, Witt, Treadway, & Ferris, 2006) than do other flight attendants, and consequently experience less work stress compared with their less extraverted coworkers. We extended this work stress argument to our career study and examined the dispositional effects of extraversion on flight attendants' career stress.

Conversely, neuroticism has been found to contribute to the degree to which employees become stressed and dissatisfied with daily work life (Judge et al., 2004). We extended Judge and colleagues' (2004) argument and hypothesized that flight attendants who exhibit a high level of neuroticism would not be satisfied with their career, because they would be more nervous and less adaptive within work settings than their less neurotic colleagues. Therefore, we formed the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 4: Flight attendants' career stress will be negatively related to their degree of extraversion.

Hypothesis 5: Flight attendants' career stress will be positively related to their degree of neuroticism.

Extending the first five hypotheses, we then examined the mediating role of career stress on the relationships between personality (extraversion and neuroticism) and career satisfaction:

Hypothesis 6a: Career stress will mediate the relationship between flight attendants' extraversion and career satisfaction.

Hypothesis 6b: Career stress will mediate the relationship between flight attendants' neuroticism and career satisfaction.


Focus Group

To clarify the definitions of career stress in the aviation industry, we conducted a focus group interview with six flight attendants, three of whom were studying in an Executive Master of Science in Business Administration program. The participants' length of time working as a flight attendant ranged from 3-15 years (M = 7.33, SD = 4.46); one was a man and five were women; they were aged from 25-38 years ([M.sub.age] = 31.33, SD = 4.59); four were married and two had another marital status; and half of the participants had at least one child. The focus group interview was initiated by asking an opening question adapted from Kidd (2008): "Can you identify a time, preferably within the last 3 years, when you felt particularly stressed about your career? If so, please describe what happened." Next, participants exchanged their observations and views on flight attendants' work life, nonwork activities, and career as a whole. The stress experience that occurs over a long-term career was expressed and discussed through the use of targeted questions related to career stress: "What specific stressors have you experienced throughout your career?" and "Overall, what have been the main sources of job stress over the course of your working lifetime?" These targeted questions were established with special reference to the skills used in counseling practice that facilitate exploration and insight (e.g., Hill, 2014).

Expert Review

Original items drawn from the focus group interview were reviewed by an additional three senior flight attendants, and several items were revised slightly to avoid any confusion. A conceptualization of two dimensions of career stress featuring six themes (i.e., measurement indicators) was established after this expert review. The first dimension, labeled career orientation, describes the stress experience caused by a poor fit between personal characteristics and the current job, whereas the second dimension, labeled career balance, addresses concerns related both to workload and mental demands that leave insufficient time for performing nonwork activities with significant others, and to role conflict and imbalance. The concept of interpersonal difficulties that emerged from the focus group was excluded because the three senior flight attendants who reviewed the item pool suggested that this dimension represented work stress rather than career stress. Flight attendants are required to smile while talking to passengers, and they perform a high level of emotional labor in their routine work (Morris & Feldman, 1996; Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987). Emotion regulation is necessary for a flight attendant to be competent in their job; thus, the theme of interpersonal difficulties can be considered to be included in the career orientation dimension.


To establish a reliable and valid scale for measuring and clarifying the structure underlying the career stress that is specific to flight attendants, we conducted a pretest after the expert review with 122 employees of a large airline corporation in Taiwan. Pretest participants (age = 25-55 years, M = 37.69, SD = 7.05) had an average of 9.84 years (range = 1-34 years, SD = 6.12) of work experience, and 81% were women and 19% were men.

Means, standard deviations, and correlations for the Career Stress Scale items are shown in Table 1. The internal consistency of the items and item--total correlations were confirmed (Cronbach's alpha = .81). The convergent and discriminant validities of the scale were examined in terms of the relationship of the scale items with the factors of the Organizational Career Support Scale (i.e., career support from the supervisor, career support from peers; Yang, 2009), and Spector's (1988) Work Locus of Control Scale. In general, the scale items were related to the criteria, and the significant correlations between the same-scale factors were higher than the cross-scale correlations (see Table 1). Thus, convergent and discriminant validities were confirmed.

Confirmatory factor analysis was employed to assess theoretical validity, and the quantitative results suggested that a one-factor structure provided a considerably superior fit to the data than did the two-factor model. After a slight modification to link two mismatches between interest and competencies, the goodness-of-fit indices fell within acceptable ranges: chi square ([chi square]) = 15.70, degrees of freedom (df) = 8, p = .05, [chi square]/df = 1.96; root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = .08, comparative fit index (CFI) = .97, Tucker-Lewis index (TLI) = .94, standardized root mean square residual (SRMR) = .04. Thus, we used the one-factor measurement model to examine the relationships between personality, career stress, and career satisfaction.

Participants and Procedure

The participants were 152 flight attendants working at an airline corporation in Taiwan. Their ages ranged from 23 to 55 years (M = 35.86, SD = 7.14), 134 were women and 18 were men, 81% had more than 3 years of professional work experience, and 65% had more than 3 years of organizational tenure.

A letter of invitation was delivered to the prospective respondents with the help of the students in an EMBA program. The information sheet and survey were then given to willing respondents. To ensure anonymity and confidentiality, participants were given an envelope for their completed questionnaire, which they returned via a pigeon-hole message box in the department.


In addition to the Career Stress Scale established in the pretest, two existing instruments were used for structural equation modeling. A Chinese version of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, developed by Lu and Shih (1997) has been used widely in the Chinese literature, and shows a high level of measurement quality. Included in this scale are 14 items to measure extraversion (e.g., "Are you a talkative person?") and 11 items to measure neuroticism (e.g., "Does your mood often go up and down?"). Items are scored on a 4-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 4 = strongly agree. Cronbach's alphas for the two subscales have been reported as .83 and .80 (Lu, Shih, Lin, & Ju, 1997).

The other instrument, the Career Satisfaction Scale (Greenhaus et al., 1990), was used to measure participants' satisfaction with their career. Assessment of the measurement properties of a four-item scale (1 = strongly disagree, 4 = strongly agree) has been performed in Taiwan, and the results showed acceptable overall reliability and construct validity. The Chinese version of the Career Satisfaction Scale (Yang, 2016) was used in this study to assess satisfaction with life, work performance, life goal achievement, and work goal achievement (e.g., "I am satisfied with the work goals I have achieved in my career"). Items are scored on a 4-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 4 = strongly agree. The Cronbach's alpha of this single-dimensional scale was .85.

Data Analysis

We performed structural equation modeling using maximum likelihood estimation in Mplus Version 6 (Muthen & Muthen, 2007). Post hoc model modifications were made to develop a better fitting model, according to the model fit indices and modification indices. The bootstrapping analysis method proposed by Preacher and Hayes (2008) for resampling and calculating 95% confidence intervals for the size of the indirect effect was used to examine the mediating role of career stress.


Preliminary results are reported in Table 2, which shows the means, standard deviations, and correlations for the observable variables. The structural equation modeling results show that Hypotheses 3 and 4 were not supported statistically. The standardized regression coefficients were -.10 between neuroticism and career satisfaction (p = .31), and -.001 between extraversion and career stress (p = .99). However, the goodness-of-fit indices were within acceptable levels: [chi square] = 66.95, df =49, p = .05, [chi square]/df = 1.37; RMSEA = .05, CFI = .97, TLI = .95, SRMR = .05, [R.sup.2] for career stress = .14, [R.sup.2] for career satisfaction = .15. The corresponding standardized regression coefficients were .20 between extraversion and career satisfaction (p < .05), .37 between neuroticism and career stress (p < .01), and -.25 between career stress and career satisfaction (p < .05).

The model was modified by deleting the two nonsignificant relationships. Figure 2 shows that this modification did not change the results markedly: [chi square] = 68.04, df= 51, p = .05, [chi square]/df= 1.33; RMSEA = .05, CFI = .97, TLI = .96, SRMR = .05, [R.sup.2] for career stress = .14, [R.sup.2] for career satisfaction = .15. We then examined the mediating role of career stress on the relationship between personality and career satisfaction, using Mplus (Muthen & Muthen, 2007). Bootstrapping analysis with 5,000 resamples revealed that the indirect effect of neuroticism on career satisfaction through career stress was statistically significant: 95% confidence interval [-.20, -.02]. These results show that, statistically, Hypothesis 6a was not supported, but Hypothesis 6b was supported (i.e., career stress mediated the relationship between flight attendants' neuroticism and career satisfaction).


Theoretical Implications

Extraversion and career satisfaction. Competent flight attendants must be socially proactive to complete daily work tasks and maintain a positive outlook on their long-term career. We demonstrated in this study the importance of extraversion for the career satisfaction of flight attendants, who perform a high level of emotional labor. As suggested by Humphrey, Ashforth, and Diefendorff (2015), a better person--job fit predicts the deep acting through which flight attendants express appropriate feelings toward customers. In contrast to surface acting (i.e., faking emotions), deep acting is facilitated by extraversion and does not harm employees' well-being; further, it is positively related to job satisfaction (Humphrey et al., 2015). Thus, in line with the findings of Humphrey et al. (2015), the importance of extraversion for the career of flight attendants was supported in this study.

Regarding the rationale underpinning the dispositional effect of extraversion on career satisfaction, Judge et al. (2004) suggested that extraverts experience a higher frequency of positive affective reactions than do introverts. An intention to experience positive emotions in social settings increases service workers' career satisfaction, because potential interpersonal conflicts involved in the relational process between service providers and customers can be handled positively (Brown, Mowen, Donavan, & Licata, 2002). Barrick and Mount (1991) reviewed the literature on occupation-specific skills and reported that success among human service professionals (such as flight attendants) is largely determined by extraversion and interpersonal skills. Because extraverts are easygoing and optimistic and consider themselves to be competent in managing interpersonal relationships, they are satisfied with a career where high productivity relies heavily on building contacts. That is, extraverts' career satisfaction is derived from their high level of dependability and their reputation in the workplace, which are enhanced by the social capital accumulated from constant interaction with diverse people (Wolff & Kim, 2012).

Neuroticism, career stress, and career satisfaction. We have also elucidated the role that career stress plays in linking neuroticism and career satisfaction. Judge and Bono (2001) noted that emotional stability (low neuroticism) is indicative of core self-evaluation traits and reflects a person's tendency to feel secure and steady. However, the effects of emotional stability on career outcomes have not been addressed clearly in previous studies.

Our results show that, in contrast to extraversion, additional dispositional effects were not supported in terms of having a direct effect of neuroticism on career satisfaction; rather, the results highlight a mediating effect of career stress by showing that the negative effect of neuroticism on career satisfaction could be reduced by means of interventions focused on career stress. Thus, reduced career satisfaction was closely associated with the continual, unrelieved stress experienced by flight attendants during their long-term career, but a change in career stress aided in reducing the negative effect of neuroticism on career satisfaction. For flight attendants who continue to experience a high level of stress when dealing with passengers, effective career counseling that focuses on these flight attendants' career stress experience would promote job crafting and meaningful work (Karatepe & Eslamlou, 2017; Tims, Derks, & Bakker, 2016). This empowerment approach that takes career perspectives into account could be incorporated into contemporary HPWP.

Practical Implications for Career Management and Counseling

The first implication of our findings relates to the selection criteria used in organizational career management. In agreement with the person-environment fit paradigm, we have confirmed that considerable emphasis should be placed on the process of recruiting and selecting appropriate flight attendant candidates with high extraversion, because these candidates are highly likely to feel satisfied with their career in the airline industry. Thus, extraversion should be emphasized in the personnel selection practice for jobs with high emotional labor, such as flight attendants.

The second practical implication relates to employee assistance programs. Our findings support the argument that flight attendants' career stress must be regularly checked using a scale such as the one developed in this study. Further, career counseling, which is recognized as one approach to enabling employee involvement and empowerment, would strengthen contemporary human resource practices and enhance career satisfaction in response to the increasing stress caused by the recently growing expectation that flight attendants be able to engage in natural and genuine emotional labor or express positive emotions at work (Humphrey et al., 2015). Using a career perspective to establish a comprehensive range of HPWP would not only benefit flight attendants' career management but also offer a sustainable competitive advantage in the airline industry.

Study Limitations and Directions for Further Research

The limitations in this study are as follows: First, because a longitudinal study design was not used, findings regarding the causal relationship between career stress and career satisfaction remain unclear. The proposed processes can be clarified only if causality is examined in measurements obtained at three or more time points (Kelloway & Francis, 2013; Liu, Mo, Song, & Wang, 2016).

Second, we examined just two key personality dimensions. Judge, Higgins, Thoresen, and Barrick (1999) reminded career researchers that studying the dispositional influence of the Big Five personality traits on several dimensions of career success is important for both theory development and research in this area. Thus, future researchers could clarify the relationships of these personality dimensions with career stress and satisfaction. Methodologically, cross-validation must be conducted using additional samples to obtain compelling evidence for the theory and concept development of this study.

Third, work-related variables were not considered in this study, which restricts the implications of the findings to career management and counseling. A more comprehensive range of HPWP established to achieve management and organizational purposes (Karatepe & Vatankhah, 2015) would rely on work variables rather than career variables. Future researchers could, therefore, examine work variables, such as job stress and work performance, and conduct follow-up investigations into whether workplace counseling produces work- or career-related benefits for both flight attendants and airline corporations.


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Peter Yang (1), Chih-Chien Yang (2)

(1) Department of Counseling, National Chiayi University and Graduate Institute of Educational Information and Measurement, National Taichung University of Education

(2) Cognitive NeuroMetrics Laboratory, National Taichung University of Education

How to cite: Yang, P., & Yang, C. (2019). Importance of personality and career stress for flight attendants' career satisfaction. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 47(1), e7480

CORRESPONDENCE Peter Yang, Department of Counseling, National Chiayi University, No. 85, Wenlong Village, Minxiong Township, Chiayi County 621, Taiwan, ROC. Email:
Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations for Career Stress
Scale Items and Criterion Variables

         1           2           3           4          5

1. MC    -
2. MI    .70 (***)   -
3. MV    .37 (***)   .45 (***)   -
4. LS    .33 (***)   .37 (***)   .52 (***)   -
5. WF    .34 (***)   .36 (***)   .43 (***)   .30 (**)  -
6. HW    .51 (***)   .53 (***)   .42 (***)   .27 (**)  37 (***)
7. CSS  -.15        -.20 (*)    -.26 (**)   -.27 (**)  -.18
8. CSP  -.15        -.04        -.03        -.19 (*)    .06
9. ELC   .33 (***)   .20 (*)     .19 (*)     .19 (*)    .12
M       1.84        1.77        2.12        2.22       1.88
SD      0.68        0.78        0.93        0.85       0.89

         6          7     8          9

1. MC
2. MI
3. MV
4. LS
5. WF
6. HW   -
7. CSS  -.33 (**)  -
8. CSP   .05        .05  -
9. ELC   .16       -.09  -.30 (**)  -
M       2.38       2.66  2.91       2.05
SD      0.93       0.58  1.08       0.48

Note. The n for each variable ranged between 121 and 122 because a
pairwise deletion method was used. MC = mismatch between competencies
and current job, MI = mismatch between interests and current job, MV =
mismatch between values and current job, LS = narrow range of life
space, WF = inability to balance work and family commitments, HW =
heavy workload and demanding work schedules, CSS = career support from
supervisor, CSP = career support from peers, ELC = external locus of
control. CSS, CSP, and ELC were used to assess criterion validity.
(*) p < .05, (**) p < .01, (***) p < .001.

Table 2. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations for Observable

                   1          2           3           4

 1. Extraversion  -
 2. Neuroticism   -.21 (*)    -
 3. MC            -.03        .21 (*)     -
 4. MI            -.06        .20 (*)     .57 (***)  -
 5. MV            -.11        .26 (**)    .29 (***)   .33 (***)
 6. LS            -.05        .23 (**)    .40 (***)   .44 (***)
 7. WF             .03        .31 (***)   .26 (**)    .18 (*)
 8. HW            -.04        .15         .25 (**)    .32 (**)
 9. SL             .27 (**)  -.16 (*)    -.17 (*)    -.20 (*)
10. SWC            .15       -.18 (*)    -.19 (*)    -.26 (**)
11. SLG            .23 (**)  -.21 (*)    -.22 (**)   -.20 (*)
12. SWG            .10       -.17 (*)    -.28 (**)   -.20 (*)
M                 8.69       4.00        2.05        2.10
SD                3.85       2.84        0.71        0.71

                  5           6           7          8

 1. Extraversion
 2. Neuroticism
 3. MC
 4. MI
 5. MV            -
 6. LS             .53 (***)  -
 7. WF             .55 (***)   .50 (***)  -
 8. HW             .34 (***)   .35 (***)   .28 (**)  -
 9. SL            -.26 (**)   -.19 (*)    -.17 (*)   -.19 (*)
10. SWC           -.21 (*)    -.16 (*)    -.12       -.03
11. SLG           -.12        -.18 (*)    -.12       -.02
12. SWG           -.16        -.12        -.12       -.08
M                 2.71        2.56        2.85       2.73
SD                0.92        0.94        0.90       0.84

                  9           10          11         12

 1. Extraversion
 2. Neuroticism
 3. MC
 4. MI
 5. MV
 6. LS
 7. WF
 8. HW
 9. SL            -
10. SWC            .60 (***)  -
11. SLG            .57 (***)   .57 (***)  -
12. SWG            .51 (***)   .58 (***)   .68 (**)  -
M                 3.07        2.83        2.87       2.81
SD                0.49        0.55        0.57       0.59

Note. The n for each variable ranged between 146 and 152 because a
pairwise deletion method was used. MC = mismatch between competencies
and current job, MI = mismatch between interests and current job, MV =
mismatch between values and current job, LS = narrow range of life
space, WF = inability to balance work and family commitments, HW =
heavy workload and demanding work schedules, SL = satisfaction with
life, SWC = satisfaction with work performance, SLG = satisfaction with
life goal achievement, SWG = satisfaction with work goal achievement.
(*) p < .05, (**) p < .01, (***) p < .001.
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Author:Yang, Peter; Yang, Chih-Chien
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9TAIW
Date:Jan 1, 2019
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