Personality and Behavior in organization

Another area of particular interest to organizational behavior is personality. In recent years, many employers showed heightened interest in matching  people’s personalities to the needs of the job and the organization.

In the workplace, we find people whose behavior is consistently pleasant or aggressive or stubborn in a variety  of situations. An individual’s personality is the set of characteristics that underlie a relatively stable pattern of behavior in response to ideas, objects, or people in the environment. Understanding personality can help managers predict  how a person might act in a particular situation.  Managers who appreciate the ways their employees’ personali- ties differ have insight  into what kinds of leadership behavior will be most influential.


In common usage, people think of personality in terms of traits, the fairly consistent charac- teristics  a person exhibits. Researchers investigated  whether  any traits  stand up to scientific scrutiny. Although investigators examined thousands of traits over the years, their findings fit into five general dimensions that describe personality. These dimensions,  often called the “Big Five” personality factors, are illustrated in Exhibit 10.7.23 Each factor may contain a wide range of specific traits. The Big Five personality factors describe an individual’s extrover- sion, agreeableness, conscientiousness,  emotional stability, and openness to experience:

  1. Extroversion. The degree to which a person is outgoing,  sociable, assertive, and comfort- able with interpersonal relationships.
  2. Agreeableness. The degree to which a person is able to get along with others by being good-natured, likable, cooperative, forgiving,  understanding, and trusting.
  3. Conscientiousness. The degree to which a person is focused on a few goals, thus behaving in ways that are responsible, dependable, persistent, and achievement oriented.
  4. Emotional stability. The degree to which a person is calm, enthusiastic, and self-confident, rather than tense, depressed, moody, or insecure.
  5. Openness to experience. The degree to which a person has a broad range of interests and is imaginative, creative, artistically sensitive, and willing to consider new ideas.

As illustrated in the exhibit, these factors  represent  a continuum. That is, a person  may have a low, moderate, or high degree of each quality.  Answer  the questions in Exhibit 10.7 to see where you fall on the Big Five scale for each of the factors. Having a moderate-to-high degree of each of the Big Five personality factors is considered desirable for a wide range of employ- ees, but this isn’t always a key to success. For example, having an outgoing,  sociable personality (extroversion) is considered desirable for managers, but many successful top leaders, including Bill Gates, Charles Schwab, and Steven Spielberg, are introverts, people who become drained by social encounters and need time alone to reflect and recharge their batteries.

One study found that 4 in 10 top executives test out to be introverts.24 Thus, the quality of extroversion is not as significant  as is often presumed. Traits of agreeableness, on the other hand, seem to be particularly important  in today’s collaborative organizations. The days are over when a hard-driving manager can run roughshod over others to earn a promotion. Com- panies want managers who work smoothly  with others and get help from lots of people inside and outside the organization. Today’s successful CEOs  are not the tough guys of the past but those men and women who know how to get people to like and trust them. Philip Purcell was forced  out as CEO of Morgan Stanley largely because he was a remote, autocratic leader who treated many employees with contempt and failed to build positive relationships with clients. Purcell had little goodwill to back him up when things started going against him. Many people just didn’t like him. In contrast, Procter & Gamble, CEO A. G. Lafley stresses good  relation- ships with employees, suppliers, partners, and customers as a key to effective management.25

teammate, a neighbor,  a professor, or a supervisor. Managers  can increase their likeability by developing traits of agreeableness, including being friendly and cooperative, understanding other people in a genuine way, and striving  to make people feel positive about themselves.26

Many companies, including JCPenney, DuPont, Toys“R”Us, and the Union Pacific Railroad, use personality testing to hire, evaluate, or promote employees. Surveys show that at least 30 percent of organizations use some kind of personality testing for hiring.27 Amer- ican MultiCinema (AMC), one of the largest theater chains in the United States, looks for front-line workers with high conscientiousness and high emotional stability.28 Marriott Hotels looks for people who score high on conscientiousness  and agreeableness because they believe these individuals  will provide better service to guests.29  Companies  also use personality testing for managers. Hewlett-Packard, Dell Computer, and General Electric all put candidates for top positions through testing, interviews with psychologists, or both to see whether  they have the “right stuff” for the job.30 Executives at franchises  such as Little Gym International and Yum Brands, which owns Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell, are using personality testing to make sure potential  franchisees can fit into their system and be successful.31 As described in the Spotlight  on Skills box, a growing number of entrepre- neurs are using sophisticated personality  testing to match singles through online dating services. eHarmony, for example, claims to have facilitated  30,000 marriages by matching people based on their compatible personalities.

Despite growing use of personality tests, little hard evidence shows them to be valid predic- tors of job or relationship success. The long-term tracking of data of romantic matchmaking sites has been referred to as “the  early days of a social experiment of unprecedented proportions, involving millions of couples and possibly extending over the course of generations.”32 Similarly, scientific evidence for the valid use of personality testing for job success is still years away.


In recent years, new insights into personality are emerging through research in the area of emotional intelligence. Emo- tional intelligence (EQ) includes four basic components:33

  1. Self-awareness. The basis for all the other components is being aware of what you are feeling. People who are in touch with their feelings are better  able to guide their own lives and actions. A high degree of self- awareness means you can accurately assess your  own strengths and limitations  and have a healthy  sense of self-confidence.  Companies have become highly suc- cessful by helping  people become more self-aware, as shown in the Spotlight on Skills box.
  2. Self-management. The ability to control disruptive or harmful emotions and balance one’s moods so that worry, anxiety, fear, or anger do not cloud thinking and get in the way of what needs to be done. People who are skilled at self-management remain optimistic and hopeful  despite setbacks and obstacles. This abil- ity is crucial for pursuing long-term  goals. For exam- ple, MetLife  found that applicants who failed the regular sales aptitude  test but scored high on optimism made 21 percent more sales  in their first year and 57 percent more in their second year than those who passed the sales test but scored high on pessimism.34
  1. Social awareness. The ability to understand others and practice empathy,  which means  being able to put yourself in someone  else’s shoes, to recognize what others are  feeling without them needing to tell you. People with social awareness are capable of understanding divergent points of view and interacting effectively with many different  types of people.
  1. Relationship awareness. The ability to connect to others, build positive relationships, respond to the emotions of others, and influence  others. People with relationship awareness know  how to listen and communicate clearly, and they treat others with com-passion and respect.

Studies find a positive relationship  between job performance and high degrees of emo- tional intelligence in a variety  of jobs. Numerous organizations, including the U.S. Air Force and Canada Life, use EQ tests to measure such things  as self-awareness, ability to empathize, and capacity to build positive relationships.35   EQ seems to be particularly important for jobs that require  a high degree of social interaction, which includes manag- ers, who are responsible for influencing others and building positive attitudes and relation- ships in the organization. Managers with low emotional intelligence can undermine em- ployee morale and harm the organization.

At times of great change or crisis, managers rely on a high EQ level to help employees cope with the anxiety and stress they may be experiencing.  In the United States, fears of terrorism, devastating natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, anxiety and sorrow over the war in Iraq, and continuing economic hardship for many people all make meeting the psychological and emotional  needs of employees a new role for managers. Following  are some elements of EQ that are particularly important  in times of crisis and turmoil. It is important to remember that EQ is not an in-born personality characteristic, but something that can be learned and developed.36


An individual’s personality influences a wide variety of work-related attitudes and behav- iors. Four that are of particular interest to managers are locus of control, authoritarianism, Machiavellianism, and problem-solving styles.

Locus of Control. People differ in terms of what they tend to accredit as the cause of their success or failure. Their locus of control defines whether  they place the primary responsibility within themselves or on outside forces.37 Some people believe that their own actions strongly influence what happens to them. They feel in control of their own fate. These individuals  have a high internal locus of control. Other people believe that events in their lives occur because of chance, luck, or outside people and events. They feel more like pawns of their fate. These individuals  have a high external locus of control. Many top lead- ers of e-commerce and high-tech  organizations possess a high internal locus of control. These managers have to cope with rapid change and uncertainty associated with Internet business. They must believe that they and their employees can counter the negative impact of outside forces and events. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, is a good example.

Despite   a tough economy and a drastically  diminished  stock price in the early 2000s, Chambers maintained his belief that Cisco can defeat any challenge thrown its way.38  A person with a high external locus of control would likely feel overwhelmed trying to make the rapid decisions and changes needed to keep pace with the industry, particularly when environmental conditions  are unstable.

Research on locus of control shows real differences in behavior  across a wide  range of settings. People with an internal locus of control  are easier to motivate because they believe the rewards are the result of their behavior. They are better able to handle complex infor- mation and problem solving and are more achievement oriented, but are also more inde- pendent and therefore more difficult to manage. By contrast, people with an external locus of control  are harder to motivate,  less involved  in their jobs, more likely to blame others when faced with a poor performance evaluation, but also more compliant  and conforming and, therefore, easier to manage.39

Do you believe luck plays an important  role in your life, or do you feel that you control your own fate? To find out more about your locus of control,  read the instructions and complete the following New Manager Self Test.

Authoritarianism. Authoritarianism is the belief that power and status differ- ences should  exist within the organization.40 Individuals high in authoritarianism tend to be concerned with power and toughness, obey recognized authority  above them, stick to conventional  values, critically  judge others, and oppose the use of subjective feelings. The degree to which managers possess authoritarianism will influence how they wield and share power. The degree to which employees  possess authoritarianism will influence how they react to their managers. If a manager and employees differ in their degree of authoritarian- ism, the manager may have difficulty leading effectively. The trend toward empowerment and shifts in expectations among younger employees for more equitable relationships con- tribute to a decline  in strict authoritarianism in many organizations.

Machiavellianism. Another personality dimension that is helpful in understand- ing work behavior is Machiavellianism, which is characterized by the acquisition of power and the manipulation of other people for purely personal gain. Machiavellianism  is named after Niccolo  Machiavelli,  a 16th-century  author who wrote The Prince, a book for noblemen of the day on how to acquire and use power.41   Psychologists developed instru- ments to measure a person’s Machiavellianism (Mach) orientation.42 Research shows that high Machs are predisposed to being pragmatic, capable of lying to achieve personal goals, more likely to win  in  win-lose situations, and more likely to  persuade  than be persuaded.43

Different situations may require people who demonstrate one or the other type of behav- ior. In loosely structured situations, high Machs actively take control,  whereas low Machs accept the direction  given by others. Low Machs thrive in highly structured situations, and high Machs perform in a detached, disinterested  way. High Machs are particularly good in jobs that require bargaining skills or that involve substantial rewards for winning.44

Problem-Solving Styles and the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator. Managers also need to understand that individuals differ in the way they solve problems and make decisions. One approach to understanding problem-solving styles grew out of the work of psychologist Carl Jung. Jung believed differences resulted from our prefer- ences in how we go about gathering and evaluating information.45 According to Jung, gathering information  and evaluating information  are separate activities.  People gather information either by sensation or intuition but not by both simultaneously. Sensation- type people would rather work with known facts and hard data and prefer routine and order in gathering information. Intuitive-type people would rather look for possibilities than work with facts and prefer solving new problems and using abstract concepts.

Evaluating information  involves making judgments about the information  a person has gathered. People evaluate information by thinking or feeling. These represent the extremes in orientation. Thinking-type individuals   base their judgments on impersonal analysis, using reason and logic rather than personal values or emotional  aspects of the situation. Feeling-type individuals base their judgments more on personal feelings such as harmony and tend to make decisions that result in approval from others.

According to Jung, only one of the four functions—sensation, intuition, thinking, or feeling—is dominant in an individual. However, the dominant function usually is backed up by one of the functions from the other set of paired opposites. Exhibit 10.8 shows the four problem-solving  styles that result from these matchups,  as well as occupations  that people with each style tend to prefer.

Two additional sets of paired opposites not directly related to problem  solving are introversion–extroversion and judging–perceiving. Introverts gain energy by focusing on personal thoughts  and feelings, whereas extroverts gain energy from being around others and interacting with others. On the judging  versus perceiving  dimension,  people with a judging preference like certainty and closure and tend to make decisions quickly  based on available data. Perceiving people, on the other hand, enjoy ambiguity, dislike deadlines, and may change their minds several  times as  they gather large amounts  of data and information to make decisions.

A widely used personality test that measures how people differ  on all four of Jung’s sets of paired opposites  is the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI measures  a person’s  preferences   for introversion   versus extroversion,  sensation versus intuition, thinking versus feeling, and judging  versus perceiving. The various combina- tions of these four preferences result in 16 unique personality types.

Each of the 16 different  personality types can have positive and negative consequences for behavior. Based on the limited research that has been done, the two preferences that seem to be most strongly  associated with effective management in a variety of organizations and industries are thinking and judging.48  However, people with other preferences can also be good managers. One advantage of understanding  your natural preferences is to maxi- mize your innate strengths and abilities. Dow Chemical manager Kurt Swogger believes the MBTI can help put people in the right jobs—where they will be happiest and make the strongest contribution  to the organization.


Given the wide variation among personalities and among jobs, an im- portant responsibility of managers is to try to match employee and job characteristics  so that work is done by people who are well suited to do it. This goal requires that managers be clear about what they expect em- ployees to do and have a sense of the kinds of people who would succeed at various types of assignments. The extent to which  a person’s ability and personality match the requirements of a  job is called  person–job fit. When managers achieve person–job fit,  employees   are  more likely to contribute  and have higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment.49

The importance of person–job fit became especially apparent during  the dot-com heyday of the late 1990s. People who rushed to Internet companies in hopes of finding a new challenge—or making a quick buck—found themselves floundering in jobs for which they were unsuited. One manager recruited by a leading  executive search firm lasted less than two hours at his new job. The search firm, a division  of Russell Reynolds Associates, later developed  a “Web Factor” diagnostic to help determine whether  people have the right personality for the Internet, including such things as a tolerance  for risk and uncertainty, an obsession with learning, and a willingness  to do whatever needs doing,  regardless of job title.50

As a manager, determining  which candidates will have the best fit to the job is a real chal- lenge and one done successfully by Teach for America, as shown  in the Benchmarking box.

A related concern is person–environment fit, which looks not only at whether the person and job are suited to one another but also at how well the individual will fit in the overall organizational environment. An employee who is by nature strongly authoritarian,  for ex- ample, would have  a hard time in an organization  such as W. L. Gore and Associates, which has few rules, no hierarchy, no fixed or assigned authority,  and no bosses. Many of today’s organizations pay attention  to person–environment fit from the beginning of the recruitment  process. Texas Instruments’  website includes an area called  Fit Check that evaluates personality  types anonymously  and gives prospective job candidates  a chance to evaluate for themselves whether they would be a good match with the company.51

Source: Daft Richard L., Marcic Dorothy (2009), Understanding Management, South-Western College Pub; 8th edition.

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