Chapter 2 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 perspective 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
A. The Five-Factor Model of Personality
Psychologists have discovered that there are about five basic, but general dimensions that
Extraversion. Sociable, talkative vs. withdrawn, shy.
Emotional Stability/Neuroticism. Stable, confident vs. depressed, anxious.
Agreeableness. Tolerant, cooperative vs. cold, rude.
Conscientiousness. Dependable, responsible vs. careless, impulsive.
Openness 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 people. High "internals" see stronger effects on their behaviour as a
consequence of self-initiative, personal 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.
Self-monitoring 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, public 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 performance 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-
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
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 proactive 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 performance, tolerance for stress in
demanding jobs, leadership effectiveness, participation in organizational initiatives, work team
performance, entrepreneurship, and career success.
General self-efficacy (GSE) is a general trait that refers to an individual’s belief in his or her
ability to perform successfully in a variety of challenging situations. It is a motivational trait
rather than an affective trait. Individuals with high GSE are better able to adapt to novel,
uncertain, and adverse situations and have higher job satisfaction and job performance. Core Self-Evaluations
Core self-evaluations refer to a broad personality concept that consists of more specific
traits that reflect the evaluations people hold about themselves and their self-worth. The four
specific traits that make up a person’s core self-evaluations are self-esteem, general self-
efficacy, locus of control, and neuroticism (emotional stability). Core self-evaluations
are positively related to job satisfaction, job performance, and life satisfaction.
III. What is Learning?
Learning occurs when practice or experience leads to a relatively permanent change in
behaviour potential. We assume that learning has occurred when we see a change in our
individual behaviour or performance. Employees must learn four general types of learning
content: practical, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills, and cultural awareness. Practical
skills refer to job-specific skills, knowledge, and technical competence required to perform
one’s job. Intrapersonal skills refer to skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and risk-
taking. Interpersonal skills refer to interactive skills such as communication and teamwork.
Cultural awareness refers to the cultural norms and expectations that exist in an organization.
IV. Operant Learning Theory
According to operant learning theory, the subject learns to operate on the environment to
achieve certain consequences. Operantly learned behaviour is controlled by the consequences
that follow it. The consequences depend on the behaviour, and it is this connection that is
learned. Operant learning can be used to increase or reduce the probability of behaviour.
V. Increasing the Probability of Behaviour
One of the best methods of promoting behaviour is reinforcement, or the process by which
stimuli strengthen behaviours. The two main types of reinforcement are positive reinforcement
and negative reinforcement.
A. Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement increases or maintains the probability of some behaviour by the
application or addition of a stimulus to the situation in question. This stimulus is called the
positive reinforcer. Although positive reinforcers tend to be pleasant stimuli, this is not always
true since the resultant increase or maintenance of behaviour determines whether or not a
given stimulus was a positive reinforcer.
B. Negative Reinforcement
Negative reinforcement increases or maintains the probability of some behaviour by the
removal of a stimulus from the situation in question. Although negative reinforcers tend to be
unpleasant, they are defined only by what they do and how they work, not by their
unpleasantness. A confusing point about negative reinforcers is that they increase the
probability of behaviour, since we learn to repeat behaviours that remove or prevent the onset
of negative stimuli.
C. Organizational Errors Involving Reinforcement