Personality Research: Others Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves

“We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

For years we’ve reported that how others see us is just as important as how we see ourselves. In fact, we’ve emphasized that others’ opinions are more important since co-workers and others are in a better position to objectively view one’s behavior. Our research shows that people’s perceptions of their SOCIAL STYLE differ from their co-workers’ perceptions about 50% of the time, and this disconnect rises to about 66% with Versatility. Two other studies on personality confirm our findings and add unique insight into the power of others’ perceptions.

For many years researchers and practitioners have been puzzled and dismayed by the relative inability of personality measures to predict job performance. There was always a belief that personality should matter more than the research has shown. At last, a report in the Journal of Applied Psychology may provide the reason for the failure of past findings – they relied on self-report rather than others’ perceptions. In a meta-analysis (an analysis of multiple research studies), researchers found that when personality profiles were based on others’ perception, the relationship between personality and job performance was much greater than when personality profiles were based on self-perception. In fact, using just one “other” rater made a significant difference, and the effect was magnified with multiple raters.

The authors conclude that the validity of personality for predicting job performance is much greater than previously believed, but this can only be shown when personality is evaluated by others who know the person.

A related article in the Psychological Bulletin presents the results of additional meta-analyses on observer ratings of personality. The HR Tests blog features an interesting article on the article and discusses several reasons why observer ratings out-perform self-ratings.

SOCIAL STYLE (and Versatility) demonstrates that awareness of how others see you is a key factor in workplace success. These additional studies corroborate the value of observer input. They also show that others can judge personality, not only outward behavior, more accurately than oneself.

TRACOM’s whitepaper on the Value of Multi-Rater Profiles can be downloaded here.


Oh, I., Wang, G. & Mount, M. (2011). Validity of observer ratings of the five-factor model of personality traits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology. 96 (4), 762-773.

Connelly, B. & Ones, D. (2010). An other perspective on personality: Meta-analytic integration of observers’ accuracy and predictive validity. Psychological Bulletin Vol 136(6), Nov 2010, 1092-1122.


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