Monthly Archives: March 2011

Honesty–Humility: New Correlate of Job Performance

Arrogance + Humility
A new study of job performance indicates that beyond the Big 5 Personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) honesty and humility are unique predictors of job performance.

I came across the article today, just as I myself experienced the benefits of being humble and honest in a work situation. But a better example comes from some wisdom shared with by my friend Léo Walton:

Upon entering the Neuroscience PhD program at the University of Wisconsin Léo mentioned that at first he felt like he was expected to know everything. Soon he realized that he could contribute more and be more successful in the program by admitting what he DID NOT know (which certainly takes honesty and humility). He was able to receive more valuable feedback and job-related information. Those around you, peers and supervisors alike, when they have a clearer picture of where you are coming from, are more likely to provide information that is useful to you, meets you at your current level of understanding, allowing you to then do a better job and be more effective and targeted in your work.

I think this is an incredibly powerful personality trait, especially in fields where collaboration is required.
But, I would imagine that this attribute could be important in many areas of life besides work. For example, we are told that in our social and romantic relationships honesty is crucial. How true.

I think the take-away message from this article can be summed up nicely by this quote from Malcolm X; “Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.

In other words, you can’t know everything, and admitting what you don’t know only puts you in a position to be more successful in the future.