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Questions and Exercises prepared by Alan Saks.
I. What is Personality?
Personality is the relatively stable set of psychological characteristics that influences the way an
individual interacts with his or her environment. It is reflected in the way people react to other people,
situations, and problems.
II. Personality and Organizational Behaviour
Personality has a rather long and rocky history in organizational behaviour that is demonstrated by the
“person-situation.” According to the dispositional approach, individuals possess stable traits or
characteristics that influence their attitudes and behaviours. According to the situational approach,
characteristics of the organizational setting such as rewards and punishment influence people’s feelings,
attitudes, and behaviour. According to the interactionist approach, organizational behaviour is a function
of both dispositions and the situation. The interactionist approach is the most widely accepted
erspective within organizational behaviour. The role of personality in organizational settings is
strongest in “weak” situations where there are loosely defined roles and few rules. In strong situations
which have more defined roles, rules, and contingencies, personality tends to have less impact. Thus, the
extent to which personality influences people’s attitudes and behaviours depends on the situation.
A. The Five-Factor Model of Personality
Psychologists have discovered that there are about five basic, but general dimensions that describe
zExtraversion. Sociable, talkative vs. withdrawn, shy.
zEmotional Stability/Neuroticism. Stable, confident vs. depressed, anxious.
zAgreeableness. Tolerant, cooperative vs. cold, rude.
zConscientiousness. Dependable, responsible vs. careless, impulsive.
zOpenness to Experience. Curious, original vs. dull, unimaginative.
There is evidence that each of the “Big Five” dimensions is related to job performance. High
conscientiousness is related to performance for all occupations and the best predictor of performance of
all the “Big Five” dimensions. The “Big Five” dimensions have also been found to be related to
motivation, job satisfaction, and career success.
B. Locus of Control
Locus of control is a set of beliefs about whether one's behaviour is controlled mainly by internal or
external forces. High "externals" see their behaviours controlled by factors like fate, luck and powerful
eople. High "internals" see stronger effects on their behaviour as a consequence of self-initiative,
ersonal actions and free will.
Locus of control influences organizational behaviour in a variety of occupations. Internals are more
satisfied with their jobs, earn more money, and achieve higher organizational positions. In addition, they
seem to perceive less stress, to cope with stress better, and to engage in more careful career planning.
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is the extent to which people observe and regulate how they appear and behave in
social settings and relationships. Individuals low in self-monitoring are said to "wear their hearts on their
sleeves." They act like they feel and say what they think without regard to the situation. Individuals high
on self-monitoring behave somewhat like actors, taking great care to observe and control the images that
they project. In particular, they tend to show concern for socially appropriate behaviour, tune in to social
cues, and respond accordingly.
High self-monitors tend to gravitate toward jobs that require a degree of role-playing such as sales, law,
ublic relations, and politics. In social settings that require a lot of verbal interaction, high self-monitors
tend to emerge as leaders. High self-monitors tend to be more involved in their jobs and to perform at a
higher level. They also experience more role stress and show less commitment to their organization but
they have been found to receive more promotions than low-self-monitors.
Self-esteem is the degree to which a person has a positive self-evaluation. People with high self-esteem
have favourable self-images. According to behavioural plasticity theory, people with low self-esteem
tend to be more susceptible to external and social influences than those who have high self-esteem.
People with low self-esteem tend to react badly to negative feedback – it lowers their subsequent
erformance and they do not react well to ambiguous and stressful situations. Despite a possible
downside to excessive esteem, organizations will generally benefit from a workforce with high self-
esteem. Such people tend to make more fulfilling career decisions, they exhibit higher job satisfaction,
and they are generally more resilient to the strains of everyday work life.
E. Recent Developments in Personality and Organizational Behaviour
Five more recent personality variables that are important for organizational behaviour are positive and
negative affectivity, proactive personality, general self-efficacy, and core self-evaluations.
Positive and Negative Affectivity
People who are high on positive affectivity have a propensity to view the world, including oneself and
other people, in a positive light. People who are high on negative affectivity have a propensity to view
the world, including oneself and other people, in a negative light. People who have high positive
affectivity report higher job satisfaction while those with high negative affectivity report lower job
satisfaction. People with high negative affectivity tend to experience more stressful conditions at work
and report higher levels of workplace stress and strain.
Proactive behaviour involves taking initiative to improve one’s current circumstances or creating new
ones. It involves challenging the status quo. Proactive personality is a stable disposition that reflects a
tendency to behave proactively and to effect positive change in one’s environment. Individuals with a
roactive personality are relatively unconstrained by situational forces and act to change and influence
their environment. Proactive personality is related to a number of work outcomes including job
erformance, tolerance for stress in demanding jobs, leadership effectiveness, participation in
organizational initiatives, work team performance, entrepreneurship, and career success.
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