Session 11-12: Personality

Personality is the sum of ways in which an individual reacts to and interacts with others. This explains why some are quiet and passive while others are loud and aggressive. We most often describe personality in terms of the measurable traits a person exhibits.

Personality assessments have been increasingly used in diverse organizational settings. In India, several companies like Cognizant, Ford motors, TVS Sundaram and Deloitte use psychometric assessments for recruitment and competency mapping. The most common means of measuring personality is self-report surveys in which an individual evaluate themselves on a series of factors such as “I worry a lot about the future.”

However, generally, when people know their personality scores are going to be used for hiring decisions, they rate themselves as about half a standard deviation more conscientious and emotionally stable than if they are taking the test to learn more about themselves. Another problem is accuracy, a candidate who is in bad mood when taking the survey may have inaccurate scores. In addition, cultural factors also have influence while rating their personality.In that way, it will seem observer rated personality provide anindependent assessment. However, research says, there is a strong correlation between observer rating survey and self- rating. The research also states that observer rated personality predicts job performance better than self-reported personality.

Determinants of Personality

An early debate centered on whether an individual’s personality is the result of heredity or environment. Personality is basically the result of both; however, heredity has a slightly more significant influence than environment as per researches.

Heredity refer to factors determined at conception; one’s biological, physiological and inherent psychological makeup. Examples are physical stature, facial features, temperament, muscle composition and reflexes, energy level and biological rhythms are completely or substantially influenced by parentage. Ultimate explanation is the molecular structure of genes which are located in chromosomes.

Review of 134 studies found that there is some truth to this approach, with about 40 percent of personality being attributable to heredity and the other 60 percent attributable to the environment.

What are personality traits?

When someone frequently exhibits characteristics such as shy, aggression, submissiveness, laziness and so on and they are relatively enduring overtime and across situations, we call them personality traits.

Personality frameworks

Important theoretical frameworks and assessment tools help us categorize and study the dimensions of personality.

The most widely used and best known personality frameworks are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Big Five Personality Model. Both gives complete frameworks of the personality. Dark triad and positive personality attributes are examples of frameworks that give explanation to a part of the complete personality.


 It is the most widely used personality framework. It is a 100 question personality assessment instrument that asks people how they feel or act in situations. Respondents are classified as extraverted (extroverted) and introverted, sensing and intuitive, thinking and feeling and perceiving and judging.

Extraverted (E) VS introverted (I): Extraverted individuals are outgoing, sociable and assertive. Introverts are quiet and shy.

Sensing (S) VS Intuitive (N): Sensing types are practical and prefer routine and order and they focus on details. Intuitives rely on unconscious processes and look at the big picture.

Thinking (T) VS Feeling (F): Thinking types use reason and logic to handle problems. Feeling types rely on their personal values and emotions.

Judging (J) VS Perceiving (P): Judging types want control and prefer order and structure. Perceiving types are flexible and spontaneous.

The MBTI describes personality types by identifying one trait from each of the four parts. For example, ISTJ or ENFP are MBTI personality types. Thus forms 16 different personality types using MBTI scale.

The bigfive personality model

 The MBTI lack supporting evidence but big five personality has large body of evidence to prove it is right. Big five model proposes five basic dimensions underlie all others and encompass most of the significant variation in human personality. Test scores of these traits do a very good job of predicting how people behave in a variety of real-life situations and remain relatively stable for an individual overtime with some daily variations. Big five dimensions are;

Openness to experience: it addresses the range of interests and fascination with novelty. Open people are creative, curious and artistically sensitive. Those at low end of the category are conventional and find comfort in the familiar.

Open people tend to be most creative and innovative compared with other traits. Open people are more likely to be effective leaders and more comfortable with ambiguity-they cope better with organizational change and are more adaptable. While openness is not related to initial performance on a job, individuals higher in openness are less susceptible to a decline in performance over a longer time period. Open people also experience less work-family conflict.

Conscientiousness: it is a measure of personal consistency and reliability. A highly conscientious person is responsible, organized, dependable and persistent. Those who score low on this dimension are easily distracted, disorganized and unreliable.

They develop high level of job knowledge and show exceptional job performance. They are likely to engage in organizational citizenship behavior and less likely to engage in counter productive work behavior (CWB). However, high scores of conscientiousness can result in perfectionism resulting in diminished happiness and performance. They might become less creative and so focused in finishing routine work.

Extraversion: this captures our relational approach toward the social world. Extraverts tend to be gregarious, assertive and sociable. They experience more positive emotions than do introvert and they are more lore free to express their feelings. On the other hand, introverts (low extraverts) tend to be more thoughtful, reserved, timid and quiet.

They perform better in jobs with significant interpersonal interaction. They are socially dominant, take charge people who are usually more assertive than others. It is a strong predictor of leadership emergence and behavior in groups. They tend to have high job satisfaction and burnout. Some negatives are they appear to be self-aggrandizing, egoistic, or too dominating and they may not be suitable for jobs with limited social interaction.

Agreeableness: It refers to an individual’s propensity to defer to others. Agreeable people are cooperative, warm and trusting. Agreeable people are very slightly happier than non-agreeable people. When people choose organizational group members, agreeable people are usually their first choice.

 They are better liked than disagreeable people. They can perform well interpersonal jobs such as customer service. They experience less work-family conflict and less susceptible to turnover. They also contribute to organizational performance by engaging in Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). However, this dimension is associated with lower levels of career success possibly due to they consider themselves as less marketable and are less willing to assert themselves.

Neuroticism: this taps a person’s ability to withstand stress. This dimension is otherwise called as emotional stability. People with emotional stability tend to be calm, self-confident, and secure. High scorers are more likely to be positive and optimistic and to experience fewer negative emotions; they are generally happier than low scores. Emotional stability is sometimes discussed as its converse, neuroticism. Low scorers are hyper vigilant and vulnerable to the physical and psychological effects of stress. Those with high neuroticism tend to be nervous, anxious, depressed and insecure.

It is most strongly related to life satisfaction, job satisfaction and reduced burnout and intentions to quit. People with high emotional stability can adapt to unexpected or changing demands in the workplace. At the other end of the spectrum, neurotic individuals who may be unable to cope with these demands may experience burnout. These people also tend to experience work-family conflict, which can affect work outcomes. Given these negative, straining effects, neurotic employees are more likely to engage in CWBs, less likely to engage in OCBs and less likely to be motivated at work.

Big fives are OCEAN highlighted in rainbow colors above.

Positive personality attributes relevant to OB

Core Self-evaluations (CSEs)

Bottom line conclusions individuals have about their capabilities, competence and worth as a person. People who have high positive CSEs like themselves and see themselves as effective and in control of their environment. Those with negative CSEs tend to dislike themselves, question their capabilities and view themselves as powerless over their environment. People who are high in CSEs find out challenging and complex jobs. They perform better than others because they set ambitious goals, more committed to their goals, and persist longer in attempting to reach them. They provide better customer service, more popular co-workers and may have careers that begin on a better footing and ascend more rapidly overtime. They perform especially well if they feel their work provides meaning and is helpful to others.

If you want to measure your CSE, check out the image file.


It is a personality trait that measures an individual’s ability to adjust his or her behavior to external, situational factors. High self-monitors show considerable adaptability to adjusting their behavior to external situational factors. They are highly sensitive to external cues and can behave differently in varying situations, sometimes presenting striking contradictions between their public response and their private selves. Low self-monitors cannot disguise themselves and they show their true dispositions and attitudes in every situation; hence, there is high behavioral consistency between who they are and what they do.

High self-monitors pay close attention to the behavior of others and are more capable of conforming than are low self-monitors. High scorers show less commitment to workplace but obtain high performance ratings and are more likely to emerge as leaders. They get more promotions and get to occupy central positions in organizations.

 Dark triad

Dark triad is the constellation of negative personality traits consisting of Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy. In big five, except neuroticism, we find all the four as desirable. Researchers have found that three other socially undesirable traits which we will have varying degrees and also relevant to organizational behavior. Because of their negative nature, researchers have labeled as dark triad.

 These negative personalities may not hinder one’s daily life. This will be particularly manifested under stressful situations and they become unable to moderate any inappropriate responses.

  • Machiavellianism: The degree to which an individual is pragmatic, maintains emotional distance and believes that ends can justify means is Machiavellianism. This characteristic is named after Niccolo Machiavelli who wrote in the sixteenth century about how to gain and use power. An individual high in Machiavellianism is pragmatic, maintains emotional distance and believes ends can justify means. High Machs manipulate more, win more and are persuaded less by others but persuade others more than do low Machs. They are more likely to act aggressively and engage in CWBs as well. It doesn’t predict job performance in long term though short term goals are achieved well.
  • Narcissism: It is the tendency to be arrogant, have a grandiose sense of self-importance, require excessive admiration and possess a sense of entitlement. They like to be center of attention. They often look at mirror, have extravagant dreams about their future and consider themselves as someone who got multiple talents. They often have fantasies of grand success, tendency to exploit situations and people, a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy. They are hyper sensitive and fragile people. They may also experience more anger. It is one of the predictor of CWBs in firms from individualistic cultures. Positive side of it is, some of the narcissists are charismatic in nature. They are chosen for leadership positions and medium ratings of narcissism are related to leadership effectiveness.
  • Psychopathy: it is the tendency for a lack of concern for others and a lack of guilt or remorse when actions cause harm. Measures of psychopathy attempt to assess the motivation measures of psychopathy attempt to assess the motivation to comply with social norms; impulsivity; willingness to use deceit to obtain desired ends; and disregard, that is, lack of empathic concern for others.

To test your Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy check out the links

Nomothetic and Idiographic: Two Approaches to Personality

The Nomothetic and Idiographic approaches tackle Personality from opposing angles.

The idiographic approach to personality suggests that we each possess a unique psychological structure. Certain traits, or combinations of traits, might be held by just one person, and therefore it is impossible to compare people like for like. This approach nestles within the study of individual differences and therefore relies on Case Study research. However, solely identifying and describing a personality characteristic is not the same as explaining it, which can be a challenge for idiosyncratic researchers due to the small sample sizes (of one ‘participant’).

The nomothetic approach looks for similarities between individuals. What is it that makes us (as a species) human. Nomothetic researchers study traits, which are assumed to have the same psychological effects for everyone; individual differences are accounted for as variations along a commonly shared scale for each measurable trait or quality. Nomothetic researchers all share an assumption that individuals share a series of traits in common, and therefore they aim to discover the basis of these common traits, for example considering biological and environmental determinants and contributory factors affecting personality.

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