Discuss the concept of personality and the factors that affect its development.

To social scientists, personality is the sum total of behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and values that are characteristic of an individual. Our personality traits determine how we adjust to our environment and how we react in specific situations. No two individuals have the same personalities. Each individual has his or her own way of interacting with other people and with his or her social environment.

The term personality represents the overall profile or combination of characteristics that capture the unique nature of a person as that person reacts and interacts with others and how he views himself. Personality combines a set of physical and mental characteristics that reflect how a person looks, thinks, acts, and feels. An understanding of personality contributes to an understanding of organizational behavior in that we expect a predictable interplay between an individual’s personality and his or her tendency to behave in certain ways.

Personality Traits and Classifications

Numerous lists of personality characteristics describing an individual’s behavior, have been developed, many of which have been used in OB research and can be looked at in different ways. First, recent research has examined people using extensive lists of personality dimensions and distilled them into the “Big Five Personality Traits:”

•Extraversion— outgoing, sociable, assertive

•Agreeableness— Good-natured, trusting, cooperative

•Conscientiousness— Responsible, dependable, persistent

•Emotional stability— unworried, secure, relaxed

•Openness to experience— Imaginative, curious, broad-minded

A second approach to looking at OB personality traits is to divide them into social traits, personal conception traits, and emotional adjustment traits, and then to consider how those categories come together dynamically.

  • Social traits are surface-level traits that reflect the way a person appears to others when interacting in various social settings. Problem-solving style, based on the work of Carl Jung, a noted psychologist, is one measure representing social traits. It reflects the way a person goes about gathering and evaluating information in solving problems and making decisions.
  • The personal conception traits represent the way individuals tend to think about their social and physical setting as well as their major beliefs and personal orientation concerning a range of issues. An important personal conceptions trait of special importance to managers is self-monitoring. Self-monitoring reflects a person’s ability to adjust his or her behavior to external, situational (environmental) factors.
  • The emotional adjustment traits measure how much an individual experiences emotional distress or displays unacceptable acts

Personality and self-concept

Collectively, the ways in which an individual integrates and organizes the previously discussed categories and the traits they contain are referred to as Personality dynamics. It is this category that makes personality more than just the sum of the separate traits. A key personality dynamic in the study of OB is the self-concept. We can describe the self-concept as the view individuals have of themselves as physical, social, and spiritual or moral beings. It is a way of recognizing oneself as a distinct human being. A person’s self-concept is greatly influenced by his or her culture.

Two related and crucial aspects of the self-concept are self-esteem and self-efficacy. Self-esteem is a belief about one’s own worth based on an overall self-evaluation. People high in self-esteem see themselves as capable, worth-while, and acceptable and tend to have few doubts about themselves. The opposite is true of a person low in self-esteem. Some OB research suggests that, whereas high self-esteem generally can boost performance and human resource maintenance, when under pressure, people with high self-esteem may become boastful and act egotistically. They also may be overconfident at times and fail to obtain important information. Self-efficacy, sometimes called the “effectance motive,” is a more specific version of self-esteem; it is an individual’s belief about the likelihood of successfully completing a specific task. You could be high in self-esteem, yet have a feeling of low self-efficacy about performing a certain task, such as public speaking.

Personality Determinants and Development

Heredity and the Environment

To what is the development of ones personality owed? Just what determines personality? Is personality inherited or genetically deter-mined, or is it formed by experience? You may have heard someone say some-thing like, “She acts like her mother. Similarly, someone may argue that “Bobby is the way he is because of the way he was raised”. These two arguments illustrate the nature/nurture controversy: Is personality determined by heredity, that is, by genetic endowment, or by one’s environment? These two forces actually operate in combination. While Heredity consists of those factors that are determined at conception, including physical characteristics, gender, and personality factors, Environment consists of cultural, social, and situational factors.

The impact of heredity on personality continues to be the source of considerable debate. Perhaps the most general conclusion we can draw is that heredity sets the limits on just how much personality characteristics can be developed; environment determines development within these limits.


People’s personalities continue to develop throughout their lifetimes. Specific traits change at different rates and to different degrees. Some personality traits seem to remain constant throughout a person’s life, while others undergo dramatic changes. Personality development is more obvious during childhood, when people are experiencing rapid physical, emotional, and intellectual growth. At adulthood, personality traits change at a slower rate. However personality development varies form individual to individual. The developmental approaches of Chris Argyris, Daniel Levinson, and Gail Sheehy systematically examine the ways personality develops across time. Argyris notes that people develop along a continuum of dimensions from imma-turity to maturity. Levinson and Sheehy maintain that an individual’s personality unfolds in a series of stages across time. implications are that personalities develop over time and require different managerial responses. Thus needs and other personality aspects of people, initially entering an organization change sharply as they move through different stages or toward increased maturity.


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