Conscientiousness in Negotiations
In the last two articles, I talked about openness and neuroticism affects negotiations. While these last two articles were about personality traits that are more based in specifically how someone acts, this article will be a little different but along the same lines because this trait is as broad as openness, while as specific as neuroticism. Continuing the series on how personality affected negotiations, I’m going to talk about another one of the Big Five personality traits: conscientiousness.
What is Conscientiousness?
According to simplypsychology, conscientiousness is how a person regulates their impulse control in order to engage in goal-directed behaviors. In other words, conscientiousness is control. You might find yourself in a scenario where you might be emotionally stressed such as an incident where you are on the freeway and someone cuts you off. Now, I think we can all relate to the feelings of ‘road rage’ before, where one might try to speed up to catch up or pass the person that has cut you off. Ideally, and legally: it’s best not to do this. Most people usually resist the urge to do this, and that’s also a good sign of how conscientious a lot of people are. Other examples of conscientiousness can be as simple as choosing to set your bed everyday instead of choosing to let it stay a mess, or every day you log into a detailed calendar of your schedule instead of ‘going with the flow’ Essentially this is what conscientiousness is, however what are the differences between having a high amount of it, and a low amount of it?
Those who are high in conscientiousness can be characterized as organized, self-disciplined, and achievement striving. Essentially those who are high in conscientiousness are likely those who set long-term goals for themselves with a good idea of how they plan on getting there instead of just saying “I plan on becoming successful one day” Think of a career person, or someone who seeks to rise in the ranks of a company instead of settling where they are at now. Ideally, we all want a promotion and a raise, but our immediate need for these might not be of a high priority compared to one who is high in conscientiousness. However, it shouldn’t be mistaken to think that conscientious people seek the highest positions within a company, rather upward mobility from an entry to a mid-level position. Higher positions such as being a general manager may not be entirely compatible with a high conscientious personality since those jobs require more spontaneity, which also requires creativity from leaders to navigate these scenarios, something that isn’t entirely compatible with an organized personality as being a highly conscientious person. While being high in conscientiousness may be ideal some of the time, there do come some flaws with being too high in conscientiousness. Being very high in conscientiousness may lead to those who are very organized or attention-detailed, which is good for jobs that are meticulous and specific such as an advertising executive and sales management. However, too much attention to detail can fog the bigger picture; the bigger picture being the general goal one’s trying to obtain as one’s strict focus on trying to make one small part of a project look good (i.e. the font of the writing) can be detrimental as it is helpful.
Those who are lower in conscientiousness are more impulsive, disorganized, and have a tendency to procrastinate. In general, being lower in conscientiousness can lead to generally being laid-back. According to Crystalknows.com, careers for those who are lower in conscientiousness are those like being a sales representative and technical support. Like these jobs, those with lower conscientiousness tend to function best in environments that aren’t too meticulous and attention-detailed. It’s good to know that conscientiousness itself, just like with neuroticism and openness, isn’t a flawed trait to have nor is not having it bad to have either. What does and definitely matters is how one uses their traits to their advantage, which in this case, is how conscientiousness plays a role in negotiations.
How Does Conscientiousness Play a Role into Negotiations?
The organizational and self-control aspects of conscientiousness might naturally fit the profile of an individual with a high degree of conscientiousness. Negotiations themselves may be reasonably stressful depending on the stakes, but those with a high degree of conscientiousness do have a good sense of self-control so any worries that one will give into some negative impulses such as yelling won’t be bothered. Studies conducted on the subject found that in distributive negotiations (negotiations that are competitive and fixed-pie) conscientiousness wasn’t “associated with economic gain either directly or controlling for the effects of early offers” (Barry, 352) Likewise, this does showcase the opposite of what was expected, that being conscientiousness lacking a good relation with economic gain, meaning that there isn’t much of a net benefit to it within a given negotiation compared to openness and neuroticism, along with the other Big Five personality traits.
Further research for integrative negotiations (negotiations that are mutually beneficial to both sides) found that “Conscientiousness helped one side, but it did not help the dyad create joint gains” (Barry, 356) What this showcase is that conscientiousness, by not being able to create joint gains which is the major component of an integrative agreement, then there lacks a good relation to a benefit by simply having a conscientiousness personality in that negotiation. Or in other words: just being clean and organized doesn’t make as big of an impact as we thought on the overall outcome. While this may showcase that conscientiousness doesn’t make an impact on negotiations, there is a good case to be made that anyone doesn’t have to worry about being overly organized or too laid back in order to be successful in a negotiating environment. Ideally it’s good to be organized and don’t procrastinate too much, but neither side makes an incredible impact on negotiations as it would make sense. A very goal-oriented, achievement-striving negotiator can do as well in a negotiation as someone who may not be incredibly worried or anxious about a negotiation. While this may not be too relevant to the study, that same research has found that “Conscientiousness was correlated with higher personal utility” (Barry, 357) While you may not seek higher gains just by having self-control, one who’s conscientious will have a better sense of satisfaction within a negotiation.
What Does this Mean?
Conscientiousness is still an interesting trait of the Big Five. It may not carry the same weight within a negotiation as we might think, but it’s still essential to have it or at least some of it. It may be ideal to always have a sense of organization and tidiness when it comes to personal management, but having too much of anything does have downfalls as well. It’s nevertheless good to remember that what we may think will be better for us, may not be as essential as we might think.
Barry, B. and Friedman, R., 2006. Bargainer Characteristics in Distributive and Integrative Negotiation. [ebook] Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. [Accessed 2 August 2021].
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