Positivity & promotions: Agreeableness may be the key to success in life

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — To get ahead in life, the most successful person is a team player. New research reports having the personality trait agreeableness can improve your job performance and help you win in life.

The authors studied how personality affects job performance, focusing especially on agreeableness. They took several variables into account, including psychological health, physical health, personal relationships, leadership effectiveness, and performances across both educational and organizational environments. Their findings showed agreeableness offers “a desirable effect on hundreds of physical, psychological and occupational metrics” impacting both career and overall life success. One important finding was that people who had high levels of agreeableness had a 93% success rate in the above categories.

“We wanted to do a quantitative summary and synthesis of what we have learned about relations between agreeableness, one of the so-called Big 5 personality traits, and its consequences,” says Michael Wilmot, assistant professor of management at the University of Arkansas, in a university release. “…agreeableness is the personality trait primarily concerned with helping people and building positive relationships, which is not lost on organizational leaders.”

Separate research on job performance focused on the five big personality traits: agreeability, conscientiousness, extraversion, openness, and neuroticism. Next, to provide further clarity and emphasis on the importance of agreeableness, they placed 275 variables within “broader conceptual categories.” Categories included success, performance, physical health, motivation, and mental health.

8 ways agreeableness helps you become more successful

Eight themes showed how agreeableness helps both individuals and organizations achieve greater success. These include:

  • Self-transcendence: Aspirations of self-directed growth, and motivation to show care for others.
  • Team working: An “empathetic capacity” to coordinate goals with other people and the capacity to cooperate effectively. Regardless of the role, everyone works to meet all goals.
  • Contentment: The ability to adjust to new contexts and institutions, and accept life as it is.
  • Relational investment: Motivation to make and maintain positive, meaningful relationships with others.
  • Work investment: Willingness to take on more work on the job, perform quality work consistently, and display responsiveness to the work environment.
  • Lower results emphasis: Not placing so much emphasis on goal-setting and producing individual results, as well as a tendency to be lenient about others’ performances.
  • Social norm orientation: Greater sensitivity to and respect for compliance with social norms, and avoidance of rule-breaking and wrongdoing.
  • Social integration: The ability for successful integration into new social roles and institutions, and a low likelihood of delinquency, antisocial behavior, and job turnover.

“Taken altogether, the interaction among the themes became clear,” Prof. Wilmot concludes. “Agreeableness was marked by work investment, but this energy was best directed at helping or cooperating with others. In other words, teamwork.”

The study is available in Personality and Social Psychology Review.

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