The power of personality at work: core self-evaluations and earnings in the United Kingdom

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

January 15, 2018


Organisations are increasingly taking an interest in personality as certain traits purportedly predict desirable attitudes and behaviours. We examine the relationship between one increasingly popular construct—core self-evaluations (CSEs)—and earnings. We argue that if high levels of CSEs really are valuable traits, then high CSE individuals should be observed to earn more than those with moderate or low levels of CSEs. Using the nationally representative British Household Panel Survey, we find little evidence that individuals with very high CSEs earn more than those with only moderate levels. However, we do find the existence of a pay penalty for individuals very low in CSEs. Similar patterns emerge for the Big Five model of traits. Although the exact mechanisms remain unclear, our findings imply that organisations should play a greater role in the career development of employees scoring lowly in “desirable” traits—especially in a context of increasing career fluidity.

Published in

Human Resource Management Journal

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 28 , p.45 -60







Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest