What is Conscientiousness?

Conscientiousness refers to the dependability and volition of a person. It is the personality trait that manifests in behaviors such as being thorough, careful, and diligent when carrying out a task.

Conscientiousness is one of the five traits of both the Five Factor Model Opens in new window and the HEXACO model of personality and is an aspect of what has traditionally been referred to as having character (Wikipedia Opens in new window).

Conscientiousness basically implies a desire to do a task well, and to take obligations to others seriously. Conscientious individuals are typically efficient and organized. They exhibit a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; they display planned rather than spontaneous behavior; and they are generally dependable.

The typical behaviors associated with conscientiousness include being:

  • hard-working,
  • achievement-oriented,
  • persevering,
  • careful, and
  • responsible.

Conscientious individuals are typically hard-working, achievement-oriented, and more responsible. This greater work-involvement tendency can provide them increased opportunity to obtain formal (e.g., pay, promotion) and informal (e.g., recognition, respect) rewards in their work and careers Opens in new window.

To the extent that conscientious employees earn such rewards, they should have heightened levels of satisfaction Opens in new window with their jobs and careers Opens in new window, thus are less likely to change their career paths after they have achieved momentum in mid career.

Conscientious individuals also tend to hold higher levels of moral standards and are more sensitive to injustice (McCrae & John, 1992). Therefore, if all their hard work is not reciprocated with comparable rewards, there is tendency that conscientious individuals will change their work environment (e.g., by changing jobs) to reinstate the sense of fairness.

Nevertheless, given the high levels of achievement orientation that conscientious individuals have, it is unlikely for them to change career paths in reaction to unfair treatment at work. Their persistence and dutifulness in goal pursuit are more likely to drive them to prove themselves in the career path that they have chosen. In addition, individuals with high levels of conscientiousness are also more likely to have strong work-role identity, which may make them delay their retirement (Wang & Shultz, 2010).

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  • References
    • Mid and Late Career Issues: An Integrative Perspective Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience (Pg 55) By Mo Wang, Deborah A. Olson, Kenneth S. Schultz
    • Contemporary Occupational Health Psychology: Global Perspectives ..., Volume 2 Information Processing (pg 117) edited by Jonathan Houdmont, Stavroula Leka.

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