Personality and Organizational Behavior

Cite this article as:"Personality and Organizational Behavior," in The Business Professor, updated July 13, 2020, last accessed October 22, 2020,

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What is Personality?

Personality encompasses the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that describe or define a person. Often personality is a generalization that provides insights into how someone will perceive, feel about, and react to a given situation or stimulus.

Personality is generally an established, stable, and constant characteristic; however, personalities do change. This is particularly true of individuals as they are developing mentally and physically.

For purposes of organizational behavior studies, personality has a strong impact on an individual’s behavior daily and in a given circumstance.

What are the Big Five Personality Traits?

There are five commonly accepted dimensions or traits of our personalities. Of course, there are other personality traits, but these five provide a framework for our understanding of what is personality.

  • Openness – Openness is an individual’s willingness to entertain and tolerance for the novel, different, or unexpected. Open people are generally more curious, creative, flexible, adaptable, accepting of feedback/input, and welcome to learning.
  • Conscientiousness – Conscientiousness is defined by a person’s thoughtfulness and effort to maintain awareness in a given context. Conscience people are generally thought to be motivated, organized, systematic, punctual, achievement-oriented, and dependable. In fact, conscientiousness is most closely associated with high performance in most tasks.
  • Extraversion – Extraversion concerns the extent to which a person is motivated by interaction with others or been sociable.
  • Agreeableness – Agreeableness concerns the extent to which an individual is predisposed to argue with others. Characteristics that avoid conflict and make a person agreeable include niceness, kindness, warmth, tolerance, sensitivity, and trustworthiness.
  • Neuroticism – Neuroticism is a mental complex that results in severe emotional consequences. It is related to feelings of stress, anxiousness, irritability, aggressiveness, depression, and moodiness.

The extent to which each of these personality characteristics is present in an individual or employee is a question of degree.

What is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator?

Likely the most recognized and frequently employed personality assessment is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI assessment identifies personality types based upon four dimensions (consisting of eight distinct traits). These include:

  • Extraversion vs Introversion
  • Sensing vs Intuitive,
  • Thinking vs Feeling
  • Judging vs Perceiving

As such, there are 16 possible identifiable personality types. The assessment is self-reporting. Individuals answer questions that help them understand whether they have a specific trait.

A major critique of this assessment is that it does not take into account degrees of personality. For example, someone who is slightly extraverted may have a unique personality from someone who is extremely extraverted. In any event, these personality traits are extremely useful in helping individuals understand themselves and others.

What is Holland’s Personality Job Fit?

Psychologist John Holland proposed six ideal vocational personality types:

  • Realistic – These individuals are are active but stable. They enjoy hands-on activities and manual labor.
  • Investigative – These individuals are analytical, observant, and intellectual. They enjoy STEM carrier fields.
  • Artistic – These individuals are creative and imaginative. They tend to seek a form of self-expression.
  • Social – These individuals are driven to personal relationships. They are highly concerned with the dealings and welfare of others. They often enjoy idealistic undertakings.
  • Enterprising – These individuals are energetic, ambitious, and confident. They often enjoy undertaking new ventures or persuading others – such as in sales or business development.
  • Conventional – These individuals tend to be conforming, organized, and careful. They are most comfortable in established organizations.

Further, a similar model categorizes work settings based upon the presumption that these work environments become populated by individuals with related occupational personality types. A person’s ideal work personality will combine several types to varying degrees.

Socio-Psychological Theory (Neo-Freudian Theory)

This theory focuses on the link between individuals and the society in which they live. The individual develops a personality by virtue of their efforts to meet the demands of society. The individual has experiences that establish a personality.

The theory is very psychological in nature. Social variables (family, society, religion) are the primary determinants of an individual’s personality by affecting his/her psychological characteristics (feelings, thoughts, beliefs). S/he is aware of his internal needs/wants and acts in a way that will lead to fulfilling them.

Traits Associated with Personality

  • Positive and Negative Affectivity – Behavior is closely related to mood. Individuals experience different modes based on external stimuli. The frequency of particular moods is defined by an individual’s affectivity. An individual with positive affectivity more frequently have a positive mood (happiness, enthusiasm, etc.), while people with low or negative affectivity have more negative moods (anxiety and nervousness).
  • Self-Monitoring – Self-monitoring is an individual’s ability to control her emotions, actions, and appearance in social situations. That is, s/he can change her behavior and attitude based upon the needs of the situation or what the social environment expects. Self-monitoring is closely related to the concept of emotional intelligence. Self-monitors must expend higher levels of energy during social interactions. This can lead to stress based upon the requirement to act in a way that differs from one’s true feelings. These individuals tend to be social climbers who lack a high degree of personal loyalty.
  • Proactive Personality – Proactive personality types take action seek to fix or repair inconsistencies, solve problems, change the status quo, or things they perceive as wrong. They do not wait for instructions or direction from others. These individuals tend to be drawn to situations that allow for learning and self-development, as their success depends upon the ability to perform well at their undertakings.
  • Self-Esteem – Self-esteem refers to the extent or degree to which an individual perceives themselves in a positive light. Individuals with high self-esteem are generally confident in their abilities, thoughts, and decisions. In contrast, an individual with low self-esteem exhibit self-doubt and generally perceives themselves negatively. The comparison between low and high self-esteem can also be seen as high and low self-worth or personal value.
  • Self-Efficacy – Self-efficacy concerns the extent to which an individual believes that they can carry out a specific task. It tends to be job-specific, rather than a broader personality trait that applies to all situations.
  • Locus of Control – This refers to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control the result of their actions. It can also be seen as a measure of accountability one feels for their own behaviors. A high locus of control means that you believe you can control your destiny through your actions. A low locus of control entails a feeling of things happening in your life based upon luck, serendipity, or predestination.

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