Ellen Lovell

Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

First Advisor

Marita Apter-Desselles


Hiring employees suitable for specific jobs is a challenge facing organizations, as the cost of a poor hire is approximately 30% of that employee’s first-year earnings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Employers look to individual differences, such as cognitive ability and personality, to help match applicants with appropriate jobs, as they are supported by research evidence. However, some variance in job performance is explained by differing combinations of these variables, among others.

Research in education and psychology have recently highlighted grit as a potentially strong predictor of success in non-work contexts. Grit was introduced by Angela Duckworth, who defined grit as a trait encompassing “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” Grit is a trait often manifested in the face of adversity and can help individuals overcome challenges and achieve success by persevering despite difficulty. Critics of Duckworth and her colleagues’ research point to a lack of conceptual clarity against existing personality factors such as conscientiousness.

The present study explores the overlap between the current grit model and existing models of personality. Prior to the main study, a group of subject-matter experts (SMEs) independently mapped the grit subscales from the shorter grit scale (Grit-S) onto the Five-Factor Model of personality at the facet level. Items from the IPIP NEO-PI personality facets (300-item version) rated by SMEs to closely align with grit were included in the main study, along with the Grit-S scale. Alternative measurement models for the grit construct (including subscales and higher-order factors) were assessed using items from the Grit-S as well as the IPIP. Results of confirmatory factor analyses guide the models of grit in subsequent analyses of the grit-performance relationship.

Although there have been several published studies on the measurement of grit and how they construct relates to success, further research is needed to determine if the grit measures are sufficiently robust when used to predict individual and work-related performance. The purpose of this study was to fill in the gaps for measurement and understanding of grit’s relationship with job success. Specifically, the present study investigated the relationship between grit and performance to determine whether a nonlinear model is a better fit than the linear model currently described in the literature. The hypothesized relationships were tested using hierarchical multiple regression with a quadratic term to prove whether a curvilinear relationship exists. The results of this study indicated that there is, in fact, a first-order, two-factor grit model with first-order factors being passion and perseverance.

Interestingly, mapping of personality facets to grit did not yield models with an acceptable fit. Using the first-order model with a satisfactory fit, a significant linear relationship was found between performance and passion and perseverance. There was not a meaningful non-linear relationship between passion and perseverance and performance, however. Although results were not what was expected, they advance the research on the measurement of the grit construct and its relationship with job performance and, ultimately, its usefulness in selection contexts. Research implications, limitations, and recommendations are presented in the discussion.