The personality trait of openness is generally believed to influence an individual's cultural intelligence, which is an ability to deal effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds. This study examines whether a relationship between the two depends on the individual's degree of agreeableness, a personality trait important for building interpersonal relationships. Data collected from 244 international professionals shows that openness is positively related to three facets of cultural intelligence when agreeableness is high, but not when agreeableness is low. The findings suggest that research on personality and cultural intelligence would benefit from an interactive approach, and that assessment, selection and development of international talents should consider personality traits not in isolation, but in concert.
In today's globalized world, individuals need to develop cultural intelligence (CQ) to adapt more effectively to a new cultural setting where people think and behave differently (Kim, Yamaguchi, Kim, & Miyahara, 2015; Ward, Wilson, & Fischer, 2011). CQ is conceptualized as a type of intelligence which reflects an individual's ability to deal effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds (Earley & Ang, 2003). Construct validity and discriminative validity of CQ have been established in various cultural contexts (Ang et al., 2007; Şahin, Gürbüz, Köksal, & Ercan, 2013) and its antecedents and nomological network have been widely studied (e.g., Ang, Van Dyne, & Koh, 2006, Ang et al., 2007, Li, Mobley, & Kelly, 2013). Five factor personality traits are established as determinants of CQ (Ang et al., 2006). However, no attention has been paid to how personality traits interact to influence CQ. Without this knowledge, we do not fully understand the vital role of personality traits in culturally competent individuals to guide the assessment, selection and development of international talents. Therefore, departing from the dominant emphasis of previous studies on independent five factor personality traits and individual's competencies to be effective in an international context, this study examined an interactive effect of openness and agreeableness personality traits on CQ.
We conclude that the interaction between openness and agreeableness can explain CQ better than the two personality traits in isolation. The most salient role of personality in an individual's ability to deal effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds can only be more fully explained when the unique combination of personality traits is taken into account. The results of this study, in conjunction with other studies (Judge & Erez, 2007; King et al., 2005; Witt, 2002; Witt et al., 2002), suggest that continued attention needs to be given to the interactive effect of personality traits in future research.