UCL School of Management

13 April 2018

Becoming more conscientious

What does the science say about how you can boost your conscientiousness? Are there specific things you can do to become more conscientious over time? Professor Martin Kilduff and Assistant Professor Blaine Landis have been discussing their ongoing research into becoming more conscientious in the Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Your boss sits you down for some tough feedback: You are not conscientious enough. She points out that you have missed several deadlines and show a pattern of failing to remember important details. At first, you feel defensive — it is just your personality that she’s describing. Hey, I can’t get bogged down in details! I’m a vision guy! Or maybe you blame external factors. I missed that deadline because there was a big snowstorm and the power went out! However, ultimately you realize that the future of your job, and of your career, may depend on responding to your boss’s feedback and appearing more conscientious.

If you have ever gotten feedback like this, and wanted to do something about it, you are not alone. Many people want to change at least some aspect of their personality, and conscientiousness is high on that list.

Many people, including some experts, see personality as relatively stable over time. In other words, you are who you are, and while you may evolve a little, once you become an adult your major traits — your extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and, yes, conscientiousness — won’t change much.

But this widespread belief in the immutability of personality is misplaced. People can and do change their personalities, through self-development, organizational events and processes, and external events. In a recent review, we delved into the research concerning the new science of personality change. What we found is that people may positively change their personalities by increasing their engagement in activities that fit three criteria: They feel important, enjoyable, and they accord with their values.

Find out how you can use those three criteria to improve your conscientiousness by reading the full HBR article.

Last updated Friday, 13 April 2018