Does Conscientiousness Always Have a Positive Impact on Work Performance?

Among the researchers carried out on various personality traits and their role in job and life success, one common factor has been conscientiousness. It is considered as a benchmark of success. Conscientious people tend to get better grades, perform meticulously at their given tasks, work harder, and have better health and even longer lives.

This is provided to us on the basis of science and facts. There has been a massive amount of research on the subject, and conscientiousness has come out as the top trait along with four others which determine job success.

The Five Factor Model

five personality traits

The Big Five personality traits, also referred to as the five-factor model, is one of the major studies conducted on the traits that determine success in life. They are:

  • Openness to experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Conscientiousness, which gets the highest rating, is “the personality trait of being thorough, careful, or vigilant. Conscientiousness implies a desire to do a task well. Conscientious people are efficient and organized as opposed to easy-going and disorderly.” Since it has scored well in almost all researches, does it mean conscientiousness always has a positive impact on work performance?

There are several instances which are extreme cases of conscientiousness that can hamper work performance instead of uplifting it. Some of them are:

1. During Crisis

during crisis

During a crisis, one needs someone who can think fast and do the damage control. People with conscientiousness are process based. In times of crisis, they may be too slow to act and the damage may be too much. During such times, someone who doesn’t follow the proper process and can work intuitively is a bonus to an organization while the person who takes his time is better at planning and project management jobs.

2. Small Tasks

smaller tasks

Time is one of the most important factors, and is the most valuable thing that one possesses. Each task must be assigned proper timing, and none should get more time. Often with people following processes, there is a problem of devoting more time to less important and comparatively easier and smaller tasks.

3. Loss of Flexibility

loss of flexibility

Often, people with the habit of following a process fail to act with flexibility. It is an extreme case where they are bound by their habit and don’t allow for a more flexible approach when time comes. Mostly though, conscientious people don’t have this issue.

4. Workaholics


They may often cross the thin line between workaholics and hard workers, and harm both themselves and their families in the process.

Sometimes there are issues with people having the big trait of conscientiousness that is more of an aberration rather than a flaw in itself. In actuality, conscientiousness is one of the most important traits of success in a job, or in life itself. People work harder, follow the correct procedures, and during the worst tasks too, they don’t get lost. They eventually find their way by simply following the process and being meticulous in their approach.

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