Chapter 2:Personality and Learning
Personality: the relatively stable set of psychological characteristics that
influences the way an individual interacts with his or her environment
Initially, it was believed that personality was an important factor in many
areas of organizational behavior, including motivation, attitudes,
performance and leadership. This approach to OB is known as the
“dispositional approach” because it focuses on individual dispositions and
personality. Individuals possess stable traits or characteristics that influence
their attitudes and behaviours. Individuals are predisposed to behave in
certain ways. However, decades of research produced mixed and
inconsistent findings that failed to support the usefulness of personality as a
predictor of OB.
“Situational Approach”: characteristics of the organizational setting, such as
rewards and punishment, influence people’s feelings, attitudes and behavior.
Interactionist Approach: OB is a function of both dispositions and must
know something about an individual’s personality and the setting in which
he or she works. This approach is not the most widely accepted perspective
Situations can be weak or strong. Weak situations, it is not always clear how
a person should behave, while in strong situations there are clear
expectations for appropriate behavior. As a result, personality has the most
impact in weak situations. This is because in these situations there are
loosely defined roles, few rules, and weak reward and punishment
contingencies. In strong situations, which have more defined riles, rules and
contingencies, personality tends to have less impact. Thus, the extent to
which personality influences people’s attitudes and behavior depends on the
One of the most important implications of the interactionist approach is that
some personality characteristics are useful in certain organizational
situations. Thus, there is no one best personality and managers need to
appreciate the advantages of employee diversity.(putting the right person in
the right job and exposing different employees to different management
The development of a framework of personality characteristics known as the
Five Factor Model. Yet, over the years, psychologists have discovered that
there are about five basic but general dimensions that describe personality. These Big Five dimensions are known as the Five Factor Model.
Extraversion: especially important for jobs that require a lot of
interpersonal interaction, such as sales and management, where being
sociable, assertive, energetic and ambitious is important for success
Neuroticism/Emotional Stability: the degree to which a person has
appropriate emotional control. A person with low emotional stability their
job performance is likely to suffer. Persons who score high on emotional
stability are likely to have more effective interactions with co-workers and
customers because they tend to be more calm and secure.
Agreeableness: the extent to which a person is friendly and approachable.
Agreeableness is likely to contribute to job performance in jobs that require
interaction and involve helping, cooperating, and nurturing others, as well as
in jobs that involve teamwork and cooperation
Conscientiousness: the degree to which a person is responsible and
achievement-oriented. Persons who are high on conscientiousness are likely
to perform well on most jobs given their tendency towards hard work and
Openness to Experience: the extent to which a person thinks flexibility and
is receptive to new ideas. People who are high on openness to experience are
likely to do well in jobs that involve learning and creativity given that they
tend to be intellectual, curious, and imaginative and have broad interests.
These traits are independent of each other. There is evidence that each of the
“Big Five” dimensions is related to job performance. As well, they are related
to other work behaviours like retention and attendance at work. Also, related
to motivation and job satisfaction. The Big Five also related to job search and
Locus of Control: a set of beliefs about whether one’s behavior is controlled
mainly by internal or external forces. At one end, high internals who believe
that the opportunity to control their own behavior resides within
themselves. At the other end, high externals who believe that external forces
determine their behavior.
Externals see the world as unpredictable and chancy place. Internals tend to
see stronger links between the effort they put into their jobs and the
performance level that they achieve. Since, internals believe that their work
behavior will influence the rewards they achieve, they are more likely to be
aware of and to take advantage of information that will enabled them to
perform effectively. Self-monitoring: the extent to which people observe and regulate how they
appear and behave in social settings and relationships. Low self-monitors are
not so concerned with scoping out and fitting in with those around them.
Their opposites are high self-monitors who take great care to observe and
control the images that they project.
High self-monitors tend to gravitate toward jobs that require a degree of
role-playing and the exercise of their self-presentation skills. They perform
particularly well in occupations that call for flexibility and adaptiveness in
dealings with diverse constituencies. Self-monitoring is also significantly
related to a number of work-related outcomes. Tend to be more involved
with their jobs, to perform at a higher level, and to be more likely to emerge
as leaders. But they are more likely to show more job stress and remain less
loyal to organizations. Unfamiliar cultures are likely to get stressed in
situations where they don’t know what is socially appropriate.
Self-esteem: the degree to which a person has a positive self-evaluation.
Behavioural Plasticity Theory: people with low self-esteem tend to be
more susceptible to external and social influences than those who have self-
esteem. Thus, events and people in the organizational environment have
more impact on the beliefs and actions of employees with low self-esteem.
This occurs because being unsure of their own view and behavior; they are
more likely to look to others for information and confirmation. In addition,
people who have low self-esteem seek social approval from others, approval
that they might gain from adopting others’ views and they do not react well
to ambiguous and stressful situations