Born to be who you are

Published: October 29th, 2008

Category: Spotlights

Timothy Judge

Timothy Judge

Management Professor, Eminent Scholar
Warrington College of Business Administration

We already know that genes determine the widths of our noses, the lengths of our feet or the sizes of our ears. But what if they also account for the heights of our happiness or the depths of our insecurities?

Management professor Timothy Judge has studied personality in the workplace for about 20 years. He believes key aspects of our personalities are hardwired into our DNA and aren’t influenced by our environments as much as we might think.

“We tend to underestimate the impact of our genes,” Judge said.

Judge has found that people who have a “positive self-concept,” a term that encompasses confidence and high self-esteem, tend to be more successful in everyday life than those with a negative self-concept.

“If you measure personality well, it has enduring effects on almost every aspect of work and life,” he said.

The effects begin early and can last a lifetime. In one study, for instance, Judge found that self-confident children earned more money as adults than their insecure counterparts.

In a recent study, Judge also discovered that men and women’s views on the workplace can affect their wages. According to his research, men with more traditional views about gender roles make the most money, while women with the same views make the least.

He has also found that taller men are paid more and that an extroverted, open personality reflects leadership more than intelligence.

But some of us aren’t born leaders, and those who try to go against their genes may face an endless uphill climb.

“It’s a constant battle,” he said. “The struggle’s never over. It’s like the Lilliputians tying Gulliver down.”

Rather than bending our personalities to fit the mold of success, Judge suggests that people determine their own personality strengths and then make the most of them.

For the record, Judge considers himself an introvert. Though he might wish he could change some aspects of his personality, his work has shown him that probably won’t happen, at least not for the long haul.

But that’s OK, Judge said.

“I think it’s taken me a long time to focus less on who I want to be,” he said, “and more on who I am.”

Photo credit: Kris Nichols — University Photography

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