Are you born a leader? Is anyone? Data suggests that leadership traits could be in your genetics, with 30%-60% of leadership ability being heritable. But then, where does the other 40%-70% come from?
Everyone has defining character traits that makeup who they are as human beings. While genetics and upbringing contribute to many core character traits, some key traits also develop in the workplace. Certain qualities emerge based on experiences, environments, coworkers, and organizational culture.
Character traits, the characteristics that make up the very being of a human, have wide-reaching implications on their success in life. It’s no wonder that there are documented links between children’s character traits, and their success in school.
Understanding your own character traits allows for self-awareness and growth. But it’s also critical to recognize character traits in others, especially at work, as they deeply influence behaviors and relationships.
In this article, learn what character traits are, the positive ones you should seek to gain, the negative ones to avoid, and the best ways to develop a strong character.
- Roughly half of your character traits are ones you develop yourself.
- Positive character traits include integrity, compassion, courage, and humility.
- Negative character traits include conformity, apathy, greed, and condescension.
- Gaining positive traits starts with identifying any blind spots you may have.
What Are Character Traits?
Character traits are the distinguishing qualities and attributes that make up an individual’s overall personality and disposition. They involve a person’s physical, emotional, mental, and moral characteristics that influence their behaviors, thoughts, motivations, and interactions. Character traits can be both positive and negative.
In other words, character traits are enduring qualities or attributes that make up an individual’s personality. They describe what a person is like physically, emotionally, mentally, and morally. These attributes influence behavior, thoughts, motivations, and interactions. Character traits can be positive or negative. Some traits are inherent, while others are developed through life experiences, especially in the workplace.
By becoming more self-aware of strengths and weaknesses, it’s possible to cultivate positive traits and improve. Understanding character also allows for better relationships through enhanced perspective into what drives and motivates others.
10 Common Positive Workplace Character Traits
“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”C.s. Lewis
According to Yale University, “Whether we realize it or not, our individual, daily acts of respect, integrity, and character have powerful ripple effects” across an organization. True, lasting success in the workplace cannot come without at least some positive character traits. These are the traits that will endear yourself to your coworkers, showing that you are an indispensable member of the team. While you may not perfectly embody all of these traits, by striving to improve yourself in these areas, you’ll turn yourself into a better person overall. The following workplace character traits are key to expressing your core values and fulfilling your purpose.
- Integrity: Being honest, ethical, and guiding decisions by principles. Coworkers can trust people with integrity to do the right thing.
- Responsibility: Being reliable, disciplined, and accountable for words and actions. Responsible coworkers can be counted on.
- Compassion: Showing care, kindness, empathy, and forgiveness towards others. Compassionate people offer support.
- Patience: Waiting calmly without complaint or anger when dealing with challenges. Patient people remain composed under stress.
- Determination: Persisting through obstacles to achieve goals with resilience. Determined employees keep trying despite setbacks.
- Creativity: Thinking originally with imagination and innovation to solve problems. Creative workers invent new solutions.
- Courage: Acting bravely in the face of adversity, uncertainty, or intimidation. Courageous employees will voice opinions or concerns.
- Leadership: Being able to motivate and influence others towards a vision strategically. Good leaders rally their teams.
- Loyalty: Remaining faithful, committed, and devoted to people and principles. Loyal team members promote collaboration.
- Humility: Being modest, grounded, and respectful despite professional status. Humble coworkers appreciate others’ strengths.
13 Negative Workplace Character Traits to Avoid
“In most cases, strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin. A strength in one situation is a weakness in another, yet often the person can’t switch gears.”Steve Jobs
On the flip side, having negative workplace character traits can lead to people wanting to avoid you as much as possible. With these toxic traits, you may be unwittingly contributing to a toxic work environment. Considering that one in five workers have left a job in the past five years due to toxic workplace culture, you want to make sure you’re not part of the problem. Negative traits can damage careers and ruin relationships. They represent shortcuts that may lead to temporary success in some instances but ultimately sadness and regret. The following negative traits are ones you want to ensure you don’t have.
- Dishonesty: Lying, cheating, stealing, or being deceitful damages trust.
- Irresponsibility: Being unreliable, negligent, or breaking promises burdens coworkers.
- Impatience: Lacking composure and discipline leads to frustration.
- Conformity: Properly complying with original thought helps growth.
- Cruelty: Taking pleasure in harming others emotionally or professionally is abusive.
- Cowardice: Unwillingness to take risks or stand up for beliefs reveals weakness.
- Apathy: Being indifferent or disengaged suggests a disregard for people and principles.
- Arrogance: Believing you are better than others divides teams.
- Recklessness: Making hasty decisions without considering consequences is dangerous.
- Greed: Being excessively self-serving prevents unbiased decisions.
- Micromanagement: Exerting excessive control over others hinders trust and stifles productivity.
- Closed-mindedness: Rejecting others’ perspectives limits solutions and relationships.
- Condescension: Patronizing or insulting people creates resentment.
How to Develop Strong Character
“To compose our character is our duty, not to compose books, and to win, not battles and provinces, but order and tranquility in our conduct.”Michel de Montaigne
One way to cultivate positive character traits while minimizing negative ones is to reflect on your own tendencies and seek honest feedback from those around you. It’s important to identify any blind spots that may be hindering your growth. From there, you can set goals to strengthen areas related to principles like integrity, responsibility, and respect.
Another helpful practice is to find mentors who exemplify the traits you aspire to emulate. Pay attention to their behaviors and learn from them. Additionally, reading books and articles from experts can provide valuable moral wisdom for character growth.
Recognizing your triggers, such as feelings of frustration or defensiveness, is also crucial. Once you identify them, prepare strategies to respond in a more positive manner. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone through new experiences and challenges can also help build courage.
Finally, make sure to prioritize self-care activities. Character strengths like patience and compassion can deteriorate when you’re feeling depleted, so it’s essential to take care of yourself in order to maintain a positive and balanced mindset.
The workplace influences character development immensely. With self-awareness, effort, and role models, you can cultivate the positive, principled traits needed to achieve goals, build relationships, and lead effectively. Discovering more about yourself and others allows for mutual understanding, empathy, and strength across teams.
Improving Your Traits Takes Persistence
The character traits you possess are not permanent. If you have a negative trait, you can work on overcoming it. If you want a positive trait, you can work on gaining it. With the right attitude and belief in yourself, you can become the type of person you want to be. In this way, you’ll have the highest chance for success in your career while being someone others want to be around.
One thing to keep in mind as you work on improving yourself is that you shouldn’t transform into a people pleaser. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make others happy, you shouldn’t sacrifice your own feelings for them. People pleasers can wear themselves out before long.
To gain a better understanding of what a people pleaser is and how to avoid falling into this trap, be sure to read the following article.
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- Dulebohn, J. H., Bommer, W. H., Liden, R. C., Brouer, R. L., & Ferris, G. R. (2012). A meta-analysis of antecedents and consequences of leader-member exchange: Integrating the past with an eye toward the future. Journal of Management, 38(6), 1715-1759. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206311415280
- Wagner, L., & Ruch, W. (2015). Good character at school: Positive classroom behavior mediates the link between character strengths and school achievement. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00610
- Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. (n.d.). Character in the workplace has powerfully positive ripple effects. It’s Your Yale. https://your.yale.edu/character-workplace-has-powerfully-positive-ripple-effects
- Isaacson, W. (2019, October 2). ‘Make something wonderful’ by the Steve Jobs archive: How Steve Jobs communicated purpose. Charter Works. https://www.charterworks.com/steve-jobs-make-something-wonderful/
- Security Magazine. (2019, September 30). One in five Americans leave job due to toxic workplace. Security Magazine. https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/91009-one-in-five-americans-leave-job-due-to-toxic-workplace