Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Unemployment: Life Satisfaction Dips More for the Conscientious

Conscientiousness is one of the so-called 'Big Five' Personality Traits. This trait is usually measured using paper-and-pencil style instruments. When it is these are typical conscientious items, drawn from the Wikipedia article:

  • I am always prepared.
  • I am exacting in my work.
  • I follow a schedule.
  • I get chores done right away.
  • I like order.
  • I pay attention to details.
  • I leave my belongings around. (reversed)
  • I make a mess of things. (reversed)
  • I often forget to put things back in their proper place. (reversed)
  • I shirk my duties. (reversed)

I have no idea what it might be like to be conscientious myself.

However, a soon to be published article indicates that conscientiousness works against people if they become unemployed. As career developers we might therefore think to pay them some special attention. Here are some more details.

In "ScienceDirect - Journal of Research in Personality : The dark side of conscientiousness: Conscientious people experience greater drops in life satisfaction following unemployment" Boyce et al write (in the abstract): "Conscientious individuals tend to achieve more and have higher well-being. This has led to a view that conscientiousness is always positive for well-being. We hypothesize that conscientiousness could be detrimental to well-being when failure is experienced, such as when individuals become unemployed. In a 4-year longitudinal study of 9570 individuals interviewed yearly we show that the drop in an individual’s life satisfaction following unemployment is significantly moderated by their conscientiousness. After 3 years of unemployment individuals high in conscientiousness (i.e. one standard deviation above the mean) experience a 120% higher decrease in life satisfaction than those at low levels. Thus the positive relationship typically seen between conscientiousness and well-being is reversed: conscientiousness is therefore not always good for well-being." [bold print mine]

For a fuller discussion of this paper, see Pychyl's "The dark side of conscientiousness: Life satisfaction in the face of unemployment" in Psychology Today, which I came upon by following his (very interesting) blog.