In school, did you have that one teacher who was an easy A? And then that one who was ready to pounce on any little error? Which one was more popular?

Maybe you’ve encountered this situation in other aspects of your life too. The boss who always gives good performance reviews versus the one who never seems to be satisfied.

Generally, this is one of the big variables in systems where people are asked to subjectively evaluate each other’s performance: how generous the person doing the evaluating feels can be as important as the performance of the person being evaluated!

So an international team of psychology and business researchers decided to investigate how people’s personalities affected the way they gave subjective performance ratings. The researchers developed questionnaires for evaluating people’s tendency to rate others leniently and to rate themselves leniently, then administered these questionnaires to a group of real estate dealers and compared the participants’ leniency ratings with their personality traits.

It turned out that those who were predisposed to evaluate others more leniently tended to be more extraverted and more agreeable. So there’s the profile of the person you want doing your next performance evaluation: outgoing, friendly, and easy to get along with!

Meanwhile, people who tended to evaluate themselves leniently also scored high on certain personality traits: conscientiousness and emotional stability. This one kind of makes sense too. People who are more disciplined, hard-working and dependable but less emotionally volatile aren’t as harsh on themselves when they look back on their own performance.

The results are relevant for anyone who ever has to deal with having their performance evaluated, evaluating the performance of others, or interpreting evaluations of the performance of others – which is to say, pretty much everyone at some point. The findings are a good reminder that when people evaluate each other (or themselves), the personality of the person doing the evaluating is a key factor.

Plus, if you ask me, this study is just plain interesting – it’s some good scientific work. But hey, I might just be saying that because I’m agreeable!

Image: Flickr/jvleis