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Chapter 2 – Personality and Learning
Personality is the relatively stable set of psychological characteristics that influences the way an individual
interacts with his or her environment. Personality determined in a complex way by genetic predisposition and
by one long-term learning history.
The role of personality in organizational behavior has often been debated in what is known as the “person-
situation debate”. This has led to three approaches:
The dispositional approach
o Focuses on individuals dispositions and personalities
o Individuals possess stable traits or characteristics that influence their attitudes and behaviors.
The situational approach
o Characteristics of the organizational setting such as rewards and punishment influence people’s feelings,
attitudes and behaviour.
o Many studies have shown that situational factors such as the characteristics of work tasks predict job
The interactionist approach
o Organizational behaviour is a function of both dispositions and the situation.
o To predict and understand organizational behaviour, we need to know something about an individual’s
personality and the work setting.
Important implication of interactionist approach is that some personality characteristics are useful in certain
organizational situations, thus there is no one best personality.
The Five-Factor Model of Personality
Five basic but general dimensions that describe personality:
Extraversion – this is the extent to which a person is outgoing vs. shy. Important for jobs that require interpersonal
interaction and where being sociable, assertive, energetic, and ambitious is important for success.
Emotional Stability/Neuroticism – the degree to which a person has appropriate emotional control. Persons high on
emotional stability will have more effective interactions with co-workers and customers as they tend to be more calm
Agreeableness - the extent to which a person is friendly and approachable. Contributes to job performance in jobs that
require interaction and involve helping, cooperating, and nurturing others as well as in jobs that involve teamwork and
Conscientiousness - the degree to which a person is responsible and achievement orientated. Important for job
performance on most jobs given the tendency towards hard work and achievement
Openness to Experience – the extent to which a person thinks flexibly and is receptive to new ideas. Important for jobs
that involve learning and creativity given the tendency to be intellectual, curious, and imaginative.
Locus of Control is a set of beliefs about whether one’s behaviour is controlled mainly by internal or external forces.
(Fate and Luck vs. Self-inititative and free will). Internals are more satisfied with their jobs, earn more money, and
achieve higher organizational positions. Internals perceive less stress, cope with stress better, and engage in more
careful career planning.