Agreeableness personality: The bad side of this trait

Lindah Mavengere / Posted On: 16 October 2020 / Updated On: 26 May 2022 / Personal Development / 4,199

Search Blog Click here to search the site.
Agreeableness personality: The bad side of this trait

Download Full Article

Agreeableness is one of the five major dimensions of personality in the Big Five personality traits. Thompson (2008) describes agreeableness as a personality trait that manifests itself in individual behavioral characteristics that are perceived as kind, sympathetic, cooperative, warm, and considerate. It is a dimension of personality that is helpful to general life success. People who are high in agreeableness are described as being likeable, pleasant, and harmonious in relations with others guaranteeing them life success. Highly agreeable individuals would be perceived as pleasant to be around, however, there could be disadvantages to this. This article will explore the disadvantages that come with being a highly agreeable person. 

Related: Agreeableness Personality: Everything you need to know


According to research, persons who are described by others as "kind" are also described as "considerate" and "warm," implying a superordinate personality dimension that is relatively stable over time and related to a wide range of thoughts, feelings, and social behaviours (Graziano & Tobin, 2009). One way to conceptualize agreeableness is as a moderator of various kinds of interpersonal behaviours leading to life success. If persons differ in their motivation to maintain positive relationships with others, then we can expect persons who show higher levels of such motivation to perform more positive, constructive behaviours in various behavioural domains than their peers (Graziano & Tobin, 2009).


A central feature of agreeableness is its positive association with altruism and helping behaviour. Across situations, highly agreeable individuals are more likely to report an interest and involvement with helping others (Graziano et. al. 2007). Experiments have shown that most people are likely to help their kin, and help when empathy has been aroused, agreeable people, however, are likely to help even when these conditions are not present (Graziano et. al. 2007).


While agreeable individuals are habitually likely to help others, disagreeable people may be more likely to cause harm. Researchers have found that a low level of agreeableness is associated with hostile thoughts and aggression in adolescents, as well as poor social adjustment (Gleason, Jansen-Campbell & Richardson, 2004). When mental illness is present, low agreeableness may be associated with narcissistic and anti-social tendencies (Costa & McCrae, 1992).


Agreeableness is a part of the five-factor model of the approach to personality. Extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience are the five core personality factors of the five-factor model of personality. The five-factor model is a personality theory or approach to personality. The big five-factor structure is an alternative description of personality.

Related: The Big Five Personality Traits and Job Performance


The bad side of agreeableness

In a series of experiments known as the Milgram experiments conducted by Professor Stanley Milgram (1964), it was found that conscientious and agreeable people, when forced by ill-intent authority, are more willing to administer high-intensity electric shocks to a victim because conscientious and agreeable people are less capable of resistance (Bègue, et. al. 2014). Highly agreeable people find it hard to say no, even in detrimental situations. This clearly shows that individual differences exist by human nature. However, the trait of agreeableness is an important personality trait especially in interpersonal relationships, management of social skills and ones emotional stability.


In the workplace, these people may be a source of inefficiencies and such individuals may not be able to succeed in fields such as Marketing, Public Relations, Human Resources etc. Agreeable people are very eager to avoid conflict and not to disrupt the status quo. As a result, they will often leave the decision making to their colleagues, even in situations where their opinion would have made a significant difference. 

Related: Conscientiousness: Everything you need to know


Individuals high in agreeableness are often likely to be taken advantage of and are unlikely to enforce standards if people's feelings will be hurt. In the workplace, they are very likely to avoid conflict. Some of the other labels or common characteristics used to describe the dimension are tendermindedness, friendly compliance, behavioral compliance versus hostile noncompliance, love versus hate, likability, communion, and conformity.


Additionally, being overly familiar with the staff, agreeable people will often undermine their professionalism and ability. Agreeable people can also overwork themselves due to an inability to delegate properly. This habit will generally be formed as the more agreeable a person is, the less likely they will want to be the cause of an issue with their colleagues. They do all of this as a way to avoid negative emotionality, mood or resistance from their colleagues i.e. avoidance of rule-breaking.


In a 2011 study by the University of Notre Dame, researchers found that agreeable employees earned significantly less than disagreeable ones. Specifically, agreeable men earned 18% less than disagreeable men while agreeable women earned 5% less than disagreeable women (Hurst, Judge & Livingstone, 2011).  When one is highly agreeable, they do not usually cause any conflict and are easily manipulable, and can tend to be pushovers within the organization. 

Related: The Gender Pay Gap - fact or fiction


Ironically, most people are annoyed by overly nice people. In a 2010 study, researchers asked subjects to play a game that included both individual and group rewards. They looked at how people reacted to selfish moves versus generous ones. An initial study investigating tolerance of group members who abuse a public good surprisingly showed that unselfish members (those who gave much toward the provision of the good but then used little of the good) were also targets for expulsion from the group (Graziano et. al. 2007).


Two follow-up studies replicated this and ruled out explanations grounded in the target being seen as confused or unpredictable (Graziano et. al. 2007). Researchers suggested that the overly agreeable players made everyone else feel bad about themselves because they weren’t sticking to standard norms for civility; they were overdoing it (Graziano et. al. 2007).


Being high in agreeableness can affect physical well-being. Constantly putting the need to please others before one's own needs can lead to health problems such as stress, depression and resentment. High agreeableness can be heightened in individuals with low self-esteem, especially when excessive feelings of guilt increase the need to please people. While highly agreeable people may seem ideal to be around, there are many downsides to this personality trait, which may affect both the individual and the people around them.

Related: The Most Profitable Traits to Have


Wrapping it up

Overall, Agreeableness describes a broad, but related, set of individual differences in how a person relates to others. In linking childhood behavioral profile to adulthood personality profiles, high-compliant, high-self-control, and low-aggressive children were most likely to become high-agreeable, high-socialized, and low-impulsive adults. Levels of agreeableness affects individuals linking to their childhood personality i.e. child agreeableness reaching a consensus in personality. The antecedents and correlates of agreeableness in adulthood from adolescence agreeableness etc.


Even though this article focuses on the bad side of the agreeableness personality, there is a positive side of it. For example, teamworking which is the empathetic capacity to coordinate goals with others and ability to cooperate effectively, regardless of role, to accomplish collective objectives. Other examples of agreeableness include:

  • The desire to please people: People with an agreeableness personality are willing to sacrifice their own wants in order to make others happy, which can lead to self-destructive behavior.
  • The desire to avoid conflict and strife: High agreeableness people prefer to avoid disagreements and confrontations as much as possible, even if it means sacrificing their own interests.
  • Being patient and tolerant of mistakes: In high-pressure situations, a person's agreeableness personality trait allows them to keep their cool and remain level-headed.


The agreeableness personality trait in a person allows them to keep their cool and remain level-headed in high-pressure situations. The above-mentioned agreeableness personality trait examples are only some of the many. Agreeableness a helpful trait for general success in life. It is a dimension of the five-factor approach to personality. It has also implicates to conflict management skills, school adjustment, peer-social status and self-esteem. 


Lindah Mavengere is a Business Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a business management and human resources consulting firm.


Phone: +263 242 481946-48/481950

Mobile: +263 717 988 319


Main Website:



Bègue, Laurent; Beauvois, Jean-Léon; Courbert, Didier; Oberblé, Dominique; Lepage, Johan; Duke, Aaron (2014). "Personality Predicts Obedience in a Milgram Paradigm" (PDF). Journal of Personality. 83 (3): 299–306. doi:10.1111/jopy.12104. PMID 24798990.

Costa, P. T. & McCrae, R. R. (1992). NEO Personality Inventory professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources

Graziano, W. G., & Tobin, R. M. (2009). Agreeableness. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behaviour (p. 46–61). The Guilford Press.

Graziano, W. G., Habashi, M. M., Sheese, B.E., & Tobin, R. M. (2007). Agreeableness, empathy, and helping: A person X situation perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Thompson, E.R. (October 2008). "Development and Validation of an International English Big-Five Mini-Markers". Personality and Individual Differences. 45 (6): 542–548

Gleason K.A.; Jensen-Campbell L.A.; Richardson D. (2004). "Agreeableness and aggression in adolescence". Aggressive Behavior. 30: 43–61. doi:10.1002/ab.20002.

Judge, Timothy & Livingston, Beth & Hurst, Charlice. (2011). Do Nice Guys-and Gals-Really Finish Last? The Joint Effects of Sex and Agreeableness

Lindah Mavengere
      View Lindah Mavengere's full profile

Related Articles

Popular Categories