Researchers have found that a match of personality characteristics to job tasks improves an individual’s experience at work.
When someone frequently uses a character strength such as self-control, teamwork or kindness, the trait is called a signature strength; most people typically have three to seven signature strengths.
In two news studies, psychologists Drs. Claudia Harzer and Willibald Ruch from the University of Zurich have shown that a job is particularly rewarding if it suits one’s own signature strengths. That is, the application of signature strengths in one’s profession goes hand in hand with more positive experiences at work; namely enjoyment, flow, sense of purpose or satisfaction and calling.
In the first study, Harzer and Ruch interviewed over 1,000 working people about the manifestation of their character strengths, whether they are able to apply these strengths at work and how positively they experience their work.
In their second study, besides self-assessments the scientists also analyzed how the test subjects’ colleagues rate the applicability of the character strengths.
Researchers determined the degree of positive experiences increased with the number of signature strengths applied.
In both studies, people who are able to apply four or more signature strengths at work have the highest values in terms of positive experience. They enjoy work more, are more wrapped up in it, perceive their work as more meaningful and are more satisfied with their job.
These people also perceive their work more as a calling than those who are able to apply three signature strengths or fewer in the workplace.
Whether character strengths can be applied at work depends, among other things, on which rules are stipulated in the job description or whether strength-related behavior is helpful to carry out the work.
A job description for nursing staff, for example, might contain a lot about hygiene but not so much on friendly conduct. Nevertheless, patient care will be more successful if the nursing staff is friendly and sympathetic.
Harzer and Ruch’s findings can help human resource departments’ better match personnel to job openings.
“If it is clarified which character strengths are central for the job before a position is filled, a person can be recruited based on these strengths. Employers and employees only stand to benefit from this,” said Harzer.
Future research will investigate if four signature strengths are found in all professions and hierarchical levels or whether fewer signature strengths can also be linked to a positive experience in employees.
Source: University of Zurich