What makes some people succeed and what makes others fail?
We often attribute the success (or future success) of people based on their intelligence. We look at a child who has had continuous honors from preschool to college and say, “That kid will succeed!” We even convince ourselves (or at least parents do their hardest to convince us) that the road to success and happiness is paved with good grades and high test scores. And while cognitive skills do matter and should never be undermined, is there anything else that play a bigger role in a person’s success?
Apparently, there is. In his book, “How Children Succeed,” Paul Tough aims to change the basic belief that cognitive formation is the foundation of all future success by stressing the fact that character formation is more important. Backed by his own observations and the many studies conducted by others, Tough highlights one important personality trait that is said to consistently lead to both personal and professional success – conscientiousness.
What is conscientiousness?
Defined as “being thorough, careful, or vigilant”, conscientiousness is part of the “Five-Factor Model” – the 5 broad dimensions used to describe human personality. The “Five-Factor Model” includes openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (OCEAN) – each of which is further composed of a range of more specific traits.
Orderliness, self-control, industriousness, responsibility and traditionality are just some of the more specific traits that fall under conscientiousness. Dependability, punctuality and decisiveness fall under this personality trait as well.
As opposed to the easy-going, disorderly and spontaneous types, conscientious people are constantly careful, efficient and organized in what they do. They have a strong “moral” compass which allows them to process everything systematically before acting or doing something. Conscientious workers are not driven by their impulse. Their decisions often go through a rather natural process of deliberation which is why they always appear logical and thorough with every move or decision they make.
Defining conscientiousness may sound more like describing that one ultra boring and rigid officemate that you have. But if you are going to see the link of this personality trait to every single thing that you want in work and in life, then you’ll stop wondering why that officemate of yours seems to be always ahead of you.
Here are the reasons why conscientious people are more likely to be successful in their career.
Conscientious people are better at finding jobs.
Your personality and attitude towards finding a job has a lot of impact on whether or not you actually get a job. Several studies have shown a direct link between some personality traits like conscientiousness and duration of unemployment. One study found out that “personality traits conscientiousness and neuroticism have a strong impact on the instantaneous probability of finding a job, where the former (conscientiousness) has a positive effect and the latter (neuroticism) has a negative effect.”
Bottom line, if you are not conscientious, you are more like to stay unemployed.
Conscientious people are more productive in the workplace.
They are good at getting things done. This is due, in part, to the simple fact that conscientious types are better when it comes to goals. They know how to set goals, they have what it takes to reach them and they are persistent even amid failures and setbacks.
They are also less likely to commit any “organizational deviance” (as opposed to those with high levels of neuroticism). They have lower rates of absenteeism, tardiness and counterproductive work behaviors (like stealing and fighting with fellow employees) which makes them more productive in the workplace.
Conscientious people have higher incomes.
A study by the National Institute on Aging (2009) points to conscientiousness as the sole personality trait correlated with remarkably higher income in all industries. This is but a logical conclusion given the fact that conscientious people are better at finding jobs and are more productive in the workplace.
Conscientious people are more satisfied with their jobs.
Organizational behavior studies highlight the effect of personality to satisfaction and pleasure in all aspects of life. These studies show a positive correlation between being conscientious and job satisfaction.
Conscientious workers are happier with their jobs. They are often agreeable and so they are also less likely to complain about work. Their bosses have little to complain about their work either. Since they are more productive, they are less likely to be reprimanded by their superior or boss. In fact, they are more likely to be commended and promoted as explained in the next point below.
Conscientious people have a higher chance of getting promoted.
Again, this is but a logical conclusion which is also backed by various studies. An employee who works hard, is satisfied with his/her job, and doesn’t make any enemies at work – there’s no doubt that conscientious people are just the type of employees who deserve a promotion.
What’s more interesting is that another study from Washington University in St. Louis reveals that when you have a conscientious spouse, you’re more likely to be promoted and be more satisfied at work. Thus, conscientious people make really good spouses.
Conscientious people are generally more successful.
If there is any truth in the saying that “90 percent of success is showing up” then it comes as no surprise that conscientious people are generally more successful. And it’s not only in their careers that they excel in. Conscientiousness is a trait that benefits people far beyond their careers or jobs. Research has shown that conscientious people have happier marriages and live healthier and longer lives.
“Conscientiousness, which was the best predictor of longevity when measured in childhood, also turned out to be the best personality predictor of long life when measured in adulthood,” one study concludes.
There is no doubt that conscientiousness is a personality trait that’s useful virtually anywhere. And while there are other characteristics or personality traits that can contribute to an individual’s success, it definitely helps to be conscientious – whichever way you look at it.
Are you conscientious? Take this quiz to find out!