26 Feb The Five Factors That Lead to Work Satisfaction
Should You Change Your Personality?
Did you know that there are five distinct personality traits or factors that lead to being more satisfied in your work. Notice, I said more satisfied not “successful”, although if I would have argue that the more satisfied you are the more subjectively successful you are too, but I digress.
There doesn’t seem to be one lone psychologist who proposed this theory: it is more an agreement that psychologists have now come up with, over the years, as a result of studies in the workplace.
The Big Five are extraversion, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism. The latter of course will inversely affect how happy you are in any work. If you’ve ever done any psychometric tests, it’s probable that these are some of the traits those tests will have trying to uncover, especially if you were looking at a position that necessitated leadership
It’s a compelling theory and has an intuitive logic to it. In an earlier post I looked at whether you do need to be an extrovert to succeed in business, but the writing on the wall is that extraverts do have a better time of it. Extraversion has been been linked to ” status striving” which is good for sales (Barrick, Stewart, & Piotrowski, 2002), and it makes sense that the more extravert you are the more comfortable you will be around networking, presentations and meetings. You won’t have that introvert’s need to to withdraw to refresh when you’re around too many people, and, well, extraverts just seem easier to get to know don’t they?
Openness relates to an openness to experience, new ideas and situations: in short being fluid and flexible. Anyone, whether in a corporate situation or their own business, needs to have the ability to respond quickly and and if they can do that without making too much of a meal of it it follows that life is going to be a lot more simple for them.
Agreeableness relates to how other people find us, and again, the more likable you are, the easier you are going to find it to get clients, sail through job interviews, and get on with your team members.
Conscientiousness is an interesting one. Personally, I find people who are over conscientious a bit annoying, probably because they highlight an area in which I am lacking. However, I do believe this is trait that can be developed. Yes, it may never come naturally, or actually become an intrinsic part of your personality, but you can develop this through routine, habits and self-discipline. I know I’ve had to, over the years.
The final one is neuroticism and of, course, the more of this you have, the less happy you will be at work. Well, in life I would guess. This one makes total sense, yes?
Hogan and Blake (1999) claim that the Big 5 measure reputation and can only be seen from the point of view of an observer, so it’s hard to tell how much you actually have these traits or if you’re just indulging in wishful thinking.
If you’re interested in doing a quick test you can do so at: http://www.personalitytest.org.uk/
So, the question is how happy are you with what you see? First off, don’t get too hung about it. These are only short internet tests but I expect there will be a nugget of truth in there. Can you change your personality to cultivate the Big Five? As I mentioned, I certainly did on the conscientiousness scale. One of my very first PR jobs was working for a boss who wanted every staple in our press releases to be in exactly the same position, at the same angle. Likewise, every stamp was to go on the envelope in the same way. Even today, years later, I still keep to her mad stapling rules. Why? Because it has become ingrained in me. So, I would argue that conscientiousness is probably the easier one of these to work on.
Age will probably result in some change too. I know that I am probably more agreeable as I have become more comfortable in my own skin and less worried about proving a point. Openness is an interesting one: would you become less welcoming of new situations the older you get? I certainly know people who exemplify that in their personal life.
This article in Psychology Today looks at a study that was done on people who wished to change aspects of their personality. Some merely wrote down what they wanted to change, others took regular action. The result was that the people who took regular actions to become more extraverted for instance, actually did score higher on that score at the end of the time. The conclusion was that actions changed their self image and precipitated the resulting changes. Although these “improvements” were small the researchers argue that a longer timescale would reveal even more change.
Fascinating stuff isn’t it?
Barrick, M. R., Stewart, G. L., & Piotrowski, M. (2002). Personality and job performance: Test of the mediating effects of motivation among sales representatives. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 43-51.