Honesty and Humility Linked to Better Job Performance

Traditionally, a five-factor model of personality traits is used for evaluation of personalities. However, the honesty–humility trait is the sixth dimension that is considered important in shaping a personality. In caregiving jobs like nursing, empathy and forgiveness are likely to be considered important emotional qualities that influence job performance. Honesty–humility is closely related to these qualities. This study found that in caregiving jobs, an employee’s higher evaluation in honesty–humility trait was matched by higher job performance rating by his supervisor. Therefore, honesty–humility is an important trait that needs to be considered when assessing an employee.

In the past, a five-factor model based on traits like extraversion, emotionality, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness to Experience was used to study personality. The HEXACO model describes personality as having six dimensions; it includes the honesty–humility trait. Features of humility include the “ability to acknowledge personal limits, openness to advice from others, keeping accomplishments in perspective, low self-focus, and appreciation of others”. These features indicate social and emotional competency. These competencies could be important for job performance, in people performing care-giving roles like nursing. The current study tested the hypothesis that the honesty–humility trait will correlate positively with supervisor ratings of employee job performance.

* The participants in this study included 269 employees from 25 companies across 20 states in the United States. All the participants provided regular assisted-living support to people who needed medical care.
* The participants completed an online International Personality Item Pool survey, which measured the same constructs as the HEXACO Personality Inventory on a five-point scale. On this scale, responses were measured from 1 (representing “very inaccurate”) to 5 (representing “very accurate”).
* The supervisors of these participants rated the job performance of each employee on 35 job skills on a five-point scale, and described the people for whom the employee provided care. On this scale, 1 represented “very poor” and 5 represented a “very good” evaluation.

* The relationship of the honesty–humility factor with job performance was significantly high. Those employees who rated themselves as having more honesty and humility were also rated high on job performance by their supervisors.
* Conscientiousness was also positively related to employee skills.
* Emotionality was inversely related to job performance ratings. Those employees who rated themselves as highly emotional were rated lower on job performance by their supervisors.
* Age had a significant relationship with the ratings of job performance.

Next steps/Shortcomings
This study was conducted in a specific employee segment, including only those providing assisted-living support to people who needed medical care. The findings of this study might not be applicable to other professions. The study used people who were already employed, and such a test might not be very useful for screening job applicants. Job applicants are likely to fake personality tests.

Selecting the right person for a specific job and improving job performance of employed persons are important for an organization. Two elements are crucial for the selection — person-job fit and person-organization fit. “Person-Job Fit” is where knowledge, skills, and the abilities of the employee match the job requirement. “Person-Organization Fit” refers to the fact that the individuals are likely to be more successful “in organizations that share their personalities.” The current study found that the honesty–humility trait was significantly related to job performance. The study also showed that this trait correlated more strongly than the factors in the big five personality traits. So, testing prospective employees on this dimension could be a new step towards improving selection of more suitable candidates for a job.

For More Information:
Honesty-Humility, the Big Five, and the Five-Factor Model
Personality and Individual Differences, 2011
By Megan K Johnson; Wade C Rowatt; Baylor University, Waco, Texas

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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