Conscientiousness: More Important Than You Think
March 3, 2015
If you are ambitious in the workplace, new research suggests that you will more likely achieve your goals if you have a spouse who is also conscientious.

Several previous studies have examined how personality predicts workplace success. One such project, by Paul Sackett and Philip Walmsley and published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, used the Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality traits— neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness—to examine which of these traits companies value most when hiring. Conscientiousness is at the top of most companies’ lists, but Sackett and Walmsley wanted to see whether this was really the best indicator of employees’ future success.

It turns out that it is. After examining the relationship between personality traits and three work performance criteria— whether an employee is able to complete their work to satisfaction, how often an employee goes above and beyond at work, and how often they engage in negative behaviors—conscientiousness topped the list of traits needed to accomplish these goals, with agreeableness being a close second.

Now a study out of Washington University in St. Louis reveals even more about how important conscientiousness may be to workplace success: you have an increased chance of achieving greater goals in your career if your spouse is also conscientious.

Brittany Solomon and Joshua Jackson examined more than 4,500 heterosexual married participants to measure the effect their spouse’s personality has on their own job satisfaction, income, and likelihood of being promoted. The researchers used the FFM personality traits as their guide.

Their work revealed that job satisfaction, pay increases, and promotions were all more likely for those people who had a spouse (male or female) with high scores on one particular personality trait: conscientiousness.

“Our findings indicate that highly conscientious partners help improve their spouses’ occupational success, as measured by job satisfaction, income, and promotion. This benefit does not arise from partners doing their spouses’ work; rather, it is due to partners creating conditions that allow their spouses to work effectively,” Solomon and Jackson reported.

A short video by TouchVision gives an entertaining explanation of their findings.

What personality traits do you think are most important in an employee?