Personality Traits and Characteristics

Personality traits mean the basic human instincts or properties, which give every human a unique identity. These attempts to isolate and describe the basic properties of the individual that direct behavior.

Human being posses different types of characteristics. Characteristics are different due to their perception and personality. The popular characteristics are shy, aggressive, submissive, lazy ambitious, loyal and timid etc.

There are fundamentally two major theories-classical and modern which deal with personality traits and which are described below.

1. Classical Theory of Personality Trait: This theory is about 2,000 years old and it deals with emotional equilibrium of a people. Emotional equilibrium was then though to be dependent on the appropriate balance among four fluids within the body. Those four fluids are following:
    • Sanguine (bold)
    • Choleric (yellow bile)
    • Melancholic (black bile)
    • Phlegmatic (phlegm)
Personality was dependent on whichever fluid was dominant. For example, individuals with an excess of blood had a sanguine personality.

2. Modern Theory: Eysenck modernized the classic biochemical theories. The individual temperaments was described as:
  • Exroverion: >> Introversion 
  • Neuroticism: >> Stability
According to Eysenck, Personality is rooted in biology. It is not inherited directed i.e. rather an individual inhabits a particular type of nervous system, which predisposes him to develop in a particular direction. The final shape of an individual's personality is determined by the interaction between his biological disposition and the environmental influences that he encounters in life.

Classification of Personality Traits

Personality traits are the enduring characteristics that describe an individual’s behavior. Popular characteristics include shy, aggressive, submissive, lazy, ambitious, loyal and timid. There is no agreement even among psychologists to describe personality in terms of certain standard ‘traits’. Some of the popular personality traits can be classified and explain on the basis of different psychologist views as follows:

1. Cattel’s View of Personality Traits

R. B. Cattel has identified 171 personality traits in his study initially. But due to the long list of personality traits, they were superficial as well as lacking in descriptive power, he reduced these set of traits to sixteen set of traits. These sixteen traits have been found to be generally steady and have constant source of behavior, allowing prediction of an individual’s behavior in specific situations by weighing the characteristics for their situational relevance.

Personality Traits
S. No.
Dimensions of Personality
1. Reserved vs. Outgoing
2. Less intelligent vs. More intelligent
Emotional stabilities
3. Affected by feelings vs. Emotionally stable
4. Submissive vs. Dominant
5. Serious vs. Happy-go-lucky
Rule Consciousness
6. Expedient vs. Conscientious
Social Boldness
7. Timid vs. Venturesome
8. Tough-minded vs. Sensitive
9. Trusting vs. Suspicious
10. Practical vs. Imaginative
11. Forthright vs. shrewd
12. Self-assured vs. apprehensive
Openness to change
13. Conservative vs. Experimenting
14. Group-dependent vs. self-sufficient
15. Uncontrolled vs. controlled
16. Relaxed vs. Tense

Instead of looking at specific characteristics, we can group these qualities that go together into a single category. For example, ambition and aggression tend to be highly correlated. Efforts to reduce the number of traits into common groups tend to isolate introversion-extroversion and something approximating high anxiety. Extroversion would be tense, excitable, unstable, warm, sociable and dependent.

2. Hall and Lindzey’s Personality Traits 

According to the Hall, C. S. and Lindzey, G (1957), personality can be classified into five categories. Because of having five factors, popularly called as ‘Big Five Personality Traits’ these five basic dimensions underline all others and cover most of the significant variation in personality.

The big Five Personality Dimensions
Categorized Forms of Personality Traits
What Does It Affects
Talkative, Assertive, Sociable and Outgoing
-          Higher job and life satisfaction
-          Lower stress level
Good-natured, cooperative, Warm, Caring and Trusting
-          Higher performance.
-          Enhanced leadership.
-          Higher job and life satisfaction.
Self-disciplined, hard-working organized, Dependable and Persistent
-          Training performance.
-          Enhanced leadership
-          More adaptable to change.
Emotional stability
Calm, Happy, Secure and Poised
-          Higher performance.
-          Lower levels of deviant behavior.
Openness to experience
Creative, Curious, Intellectual, Imaginative and Artistically Sensitive.
-          Higher performance.
-          Enhanced leadership.
-          Greater longevity.

a. Extroversion 
It refers to one’s comfort with relationship. In other words, it is a personality dimension that describes the degree to which someone is sociable, talkative and assertive. On the basis of the individual behavior, people can be classified as extroverts (talkative, sociable, assertive, outgoing and interactive with others) and introverts (reserved quiet, timid, sensitive to feeling and work independently). 

b. Agreeableness 
It refers to one’s inclination to defer to others. In other words, it is a personality dimension that describes the degree to which someone is good natured, cooperative, and trusting. On the basis of individual behavior, people can be classified as agreeable (good-natured, cooperative and antagonistic). 

c. Consciousness 
It refers to one’s reliability, regarding responsibility. In other words, it is a personality dimension that describes the degree to which someone I responsible, dependable, persistent and achievement oriented. On the basis of individual behavior, people can be classified as conscientious persons (responsible, dependable, persistent, organized, careful and self-disciplined) and non-conscientious persons (irresponsible, unreliable, and disorganized). 

d. Emotional Stability 
It refers to one’s ability to withstand stress. In other words, it is a personality dimension that describes the degree to which someone is calm enthusiastic and secure. On the basis of individual behavior, people can be classified as emotionally stable (calm, secure, positive, self-confident and relaxed) and emotionally unstable (tensed, nervous, depressed, negative and insecure). 

e. Openness to Experience 
It refers to one’s range of interests and fascination with novelty. In other words, it is a personality dimension that describes the degree to which someone is imaginative, intellectual and artistically sensitive. On the basis of individual behavior, people can be classified as open-minded (imaginative, creative, curious and sensitive) and closed-minded (introverts, less open to new ideas and resist to change).

3. Myers – Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) 

Carl Jug is the most be known for the theory behind the well-known instrument MBTI. Based on his basic elements of human psyche, a mother-daughter team developed a 100 items instrument, popularly called MBTI which stands for Myers – Briggs Type Indicator. MBTI is the most widely used instrument for personality analysis. Sixteen personality types are generated by the instrument (a person can be of any one type). These 16 types are based on a combination of four basic elements of psyche.

Collecting Information
Sensing (S)
Intuiting (N)
-          Practical, Concrete, Would work with known facts than look for possibilities and relationship.
-          Theoretical, Abstract: Would look for possibilities and relationships than work with known facts.
Thinking (T)
Feeling (F)
-          Analytical (Had) Relies more on interpersonal analysis and logic than on personal values.
-          Subjective (Heart) Relies more on personal values than on impersonal analysis and logic.
Understanding the world
Perceiving (P)
-          Structured, Organized: Likes a planned and orderly way of life rather than a flexible, spontaneous way.
-          Flexible, Spontaneous: Likes a flexible, spontaneous way rather than a planned and orderly way of life.

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Factors Determining the Personality

Is the personality predetermined at birth itself? Or is it the result of individual's interaction with one's environment? Strictly speaking, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. Different thinkers of personality have listed different determinants of personality. For example, McClelland has categorized them into four fundamental theories (i) Traits, (ii) Scheme, (iii) Motives and (iv) Self scheme.

People are very complex. They have different abilities and interests. Most failures on job, however, are not attributable to a person’s amount of intelligence alone but also to certain personality characteristics. Personality is an important factor influencing an employee’s behavior. The determinants of personality have been categorized by different author in different ways. Scott and Mitchell have classified them into heredity, groups and cultural factors. However, a general description of these factors may run as follows:

Determinants of Personality

1. Biological Factors

The general biological characteristics of human beings influence the way in which human being trends to sense external event, (data), interpret and respond to them. The biological factors include the following three important factors.

i) Heredity
Certain physical characteristics one inherited from parents to children transmitted through genes in the chromosomes. The heredity plays an important role in one’s personality. The importance of heredity varies from one personality trait to another. For instance, heredity is generally more important in determining a person’s temperament than values and ideas.

ii) Brain
The second biological factor is brain which is supposed to play role in personality. The structure of brain determines personality, though no conclusive proof is available so far about the role of brain in personality formation. In other words, researches in this filed have given indication that better understanding of human personality and behavior might come from the study of the brain.

iii) Physical Features
Physical feature is the most important factor that contributes to personality. An individual’s external appearance is proved to have a tremendous effect on his personality. For instance, the fact that person is short or tall, fat or skinny, handsome or ugly and black or white will undoubtedly influence the person’s effect on others and in turn, will affect the self concept.

2. Situational Factors

Apart from the biological factors, situational factors also determine personality development. The S-O-B model of human behavior considers the situation under which the behavior is occurring. In other words, the effect of environment is quite strong. Knowledge, skill and language are acquired and represent important modifications of the behavior. Learned modifications in behavior are not passed on to the children they must be acquired by them through their own personal experience, through interaction with the environment. According to Milgram, situation exerts an important press on the individual. It exercises constraints and may provide push. In certain circumstances, it is not always the kind of situation in which he is placed, that determines his actions. He demonstrated that situation may potentially have a very big impact on the behavioral expression of personality.

3. Family and Social Factors

The development of the individual proceeds under the influence of many socializing forces and agencies based on nuclear family to more distant or global groupings. Family and social groups have most significant impact on personality development.

i) Home Environment
Total home environment is a critical factor in personality development. For example, children with marked institutional upbringing or children in a cold and un-stimulating home have a much greater potential to be emotionally maladjusted than children raised by parents in a warm, loving and stimulating environment.

ii) Family Members
Parents and other family members have strong influence on the personality development of children. Moreover, parents have more effect on the personality development as compared to other members of the family. The study by Newcomb showed the high correlation between attitudes of parents and children with a further consistency in patterns. The relationship between parents and children was higher than that between the children and their teachers besides parents, sibling (brothers and sisters) also contribute to personality.

iii) Social Groups
Besides a person’s home environment and family members, there are other influences arising from the social placement of the family as the person is exposed to agencies outside the home, particularly the school, friend circle and other work groups. Similarly, socio-economic factors also affect personality development.

4. Cultural Factors

Cultural factors are very important determinants of behavior of a person. Culture is the complex form of beliefs, values and techniques for dealing with the environment which are shared among contemporaries and transmitted from one generation to the next. Culture requires both conformity and acceptance from its member. In spite of the importance of the culture on personality, researchers are unable to establish linear relationship between these two concepts ‘Personality’ and ‘Culture’.

There are also some other factors for determining the personality of individual. Scott and Mitchell have classified personality determinants into heredity groups and cultural factors. The some other factors that determine the personality of an individual are as follows:
  1. Heredity factors: Personality is the aggregates form of traits, qualities and features of human beings. Individuals have unique genes and chromosomes. Most of the characteristics of our parents are transmitted to us through genes and chromosomes. Thus, heredity approach says that personality is the muscular structure of genes.
  2. Environment factors: Not only heredity influence personality. But all our personality is influenced by environmental factors also. As for example, if someone were grown in open society that people have not feeling of shyness in talking with anew unfamiliar people. The children in urban area do not feel any hesitation in talking, discussing with a new unfamiliar people. This is due to the environmental factor. The urban's children are brought up in free society that's why they did not feel hesitation in talking with any one, where as rural children feel hesitate as they are brought up in narrow society.
  3. Situational factor: Another third factor affecting the personality is situation. Situation affects on heredity and environment traits of people changes as per situation. The features of some people changes as per time and situations.
  4. Experience in life: Whether one trusts or mistrusts others, is miserly or generous, has high or low self esteem, and the like is at least partially related to the past experience the individual has had. Imagine if someone come to you to lend him Rs. 1000 which has promised to return in a week's time and you gave it to him even though it was the last note you had in your pocket to cover the expenses for the rest of month. Suppose that the individual never again showed his face to you and you have not been able to get hold of him for the past three months. Suppose also that three such incidents happened to you with three different individuals in the past few months. What is the probability that you would trust another person who comes and asks you for a loan tomorrow? Rather low, one would think. Thus, certain personality characteristics are moulded by frequently occurring positive or negative experience in life.

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Personality and Behavior

Personality may be understood as the characteristic patterns of behavior and modes of thinking that determine a person's adjustment to the environment. Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psycho-physical system that determine his unique adjustment to his environment. On the other hand, behavior is the outcome of external stimulus and internal cognitive or mental process. As we know that organizational behavior is the aggregate form of the behavior and employees in the organization. The relation between behavior and personality is a part of overall individual behavior, where as organizational behavior consists of these combine. Both the terms has close relation as both those deals with human nature. 

However, the difference between personality and behavior can be
  • Personality cannot be easily predicted and measured by behavior can be predicted and can also be measured in some extent. 
  • Personality is the source but behavior is the result of every new information received and interpreted by an individual.
  • Personality results behavior but sometime certain behavior shapes personality.
Behavior is resulted from motivation but personality mainly is the result of individual characteristics and the result of situation.

Matching personality and jobs explain that the job given to an individual should fit to his personality. If the given jobs and personality matches, then high performance can be expected from the employee. So, a rational manager should always think of personality of the employee while assigning him any task. Organizations operate in a dynamic and complex environment. They want employees who can readily change tasks and move between teams. They aim for a personality-organization fit. Organization should select those employees who fit better with organization's culture. This leads to high satisfaction and low turnover.

John Holland developed personality job fit theory. He has presented six different personality types and purpose that satisfied and propensity to leave the job depend on the degree of matching personality and the job.

The six theories are as follows:
  1. Realistic: It refers physical activities that require skill, strength and coordination. The personality characteristics of realistic are shy genuine, stable conforming etc. Their matching jobs are former, drill press, operator etc. 
  2. Investigative: It prefers activities that involve thinking organizing and understanding. The personality characteristics are realistic are analytical, original curious, independent etc. Their matching job are new reporter, mathematician etc.
  3. Social: It prefers activities that involve helping and developing others. The personality characteristics are sociable friendly, cooperative, understanding etc. Their matching jobs are teaching, counselor, social worker etc.
  4. Conventional: It prefers rule regulated, ordering and unambiguous activities. The personality characteristics are conforming, efficient, practical, unimaginative, inflexible etc. Their matching jobs are accountant, bank teller, manager etc.
  5. Enterprising: It prefers verbal activities where there are opportunities to influence other and attain power. The personality characteristics are self confident, ambitious, energetic domineering etc. Their matching jobs are lawyer, P/R officer, and small business manager.
  6. Artistic: It prefers ambiguous and unsystematic activities that allow creative expression. The personality traits are imaginative, idealistic etc. Their matching jobs are painter, musician, writer etc.
Thus, if jobs are matched to personality attributes, employee will be more motivated towards the job given to him. Therefore, a rational manager should be very much conscious regarding the type of the job and personality of the employee.

Personality: Concept and Characteristics

The term personality has been derived from Latin word ‘personnare’, which means to speak through. Traditionally personality refers to how people influence others through their external appearance (actions) more precisely. Personality is relatively stable set of psychological and behavioral attributes that distinguish one person to another. Understanding basic personality attributes is important because they affect people’s behavior in organizational situations and people’s perception and attitudes towards the organization. The term personality has been defined by different experts are as follows:
“Personality means how a person affects how he understands and views himself as well as the pattern of inner and outer measurable traits, and the person-situation interaction.” – F. Luthans (2002)
“Personality is a pattern of stable states and characteristics of a person that influences his behavior towards goal achievement. Each person has unique ways of protecting these states.” – Gluck (1977)
“Personality is a broad amorphous designation relating to fundamental approaches of persons to others and themselves. To most psychologists the term refers to the study of characteristics traits of an individual relationship between these traits and the way in which a person adjusts to other people and situations.” – Kolsasa (1978)
“Personality is the sum total of ways in which an individual reacts and interacts with others. This is most often described in terms of measurable personality traits that a person exhibits.” – Robbins (1998)
“Personality is the dynamic organizations within the individual of those psychological systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment.” – Gorden Allport (1956)
The above definition shows personality is a dynamic and complex psychological concept. It may be define in the form of consistence response to environmental stimuli. Personality is about how a person affects others depends upon his physical appearance (such as height, weight, facial features, color etc.) and behavior (such as courteous, friendly, expressive, co-operative etc.). Thus, personality represents the whole person. It includes perception, learning, motivation and more.

Personality is the major factor that influences individual behavior in an organization. To understand the behavior of an individual or a person, first, it must be familiar about personality. By understanding the personality, behavior can be directed and controlled. Personality does not mean handsome and ugliness of human being. But it is the aggregate form of traits, qualities and features of an individual. It is concerned with reaction and interaction of individual and situation. Thus, personality represents personal characteristics that lead to consistent patterns of behaviors.

In other words, personality can be summarized with the help of following points:
  • External appearance and behavior
  • The inner awareness of the self as a permanent organizing force, and 
  • The particular organizations of measurable traits, both inner and outer.

Personality is an important determinant of employee behavior. Personalities shape people’s behaviors. If people want to better understand the behavior of someone in an organization, people should know something about his/her personality. A thoughtful application of personality concept helps us to understand unique beings and groups with similar personality characteristics. Personality is the focal point determining motivation. It is impossible to give a full and comprehensive account of executive behavior without raising questions of why they behave as they do. People behavior is very much depended on the factors of motivation that are offered to them. Some of the issues addressed in organizational behavior in the sense of motivation are as follows:
  • Why do effective executives spend so much time on personal matters?
  • Why do not they concentrate their efforts on productions?
  • When we ask such questions regarding executive behaviors?
Motivation is concerned with which people’s motives from a unified and integrated system. Personality characteristics influence selection of individuals to occupy various positions in an organization. The traits required for successful sales manager are different from those required for an executive in charge of production. In this connection, psychologists have devised a series of tests which would help selection of right individuals for the right jobs.

The concept of personality is not to be understood in an organizational context only. The need for understanding human characteristics, in general, is more significant for comprehending personality in the context of organizations. Despite serious attempts, experts have not been able to comprehend the real nature of personality. Of all the problems that have confronted, human beings since the beginning of recorded history, perhaps the most significant has been the riddle of their own nature. Astrology, philosophy, and the life sciences are but a few of the many directions that the quest to understand human nature. So it may not be overstating to say that the quality of human life in the future, indeed our own survival, may well depend upon an increased understanding of human nature.

Personality has key influence on work performance. In jobs, particularly with high human relations context, where most of the working day is spent interacting with other people, personality is a major determinant of what will be done and how it will be done. Each man’s personality reveals itself in the way he works with his superior, his subordinates, and other people. As a result, when the incumbent on a job changes, everyone has to adjust to a whole series of changes in the way work is accomplished. The result is that the organization functions differently from the designers of the structure envisioned and what organization really reflects the personality of those who hold key jobs. This affects the individual performance, and consequently organizational performance. Some of the important personality factors that determine what kind of performance will be achieved or what kind of behavior is exhibited at work are self-concept and self-esteem, need patterns, Machiavellianism, locus of control, tolerance for ambiguity, type A and B personalities, introversion-extroversion, and work-ethic orientation.

Characteristics of Personality
Personality factors are extremely important in an organizational setting. While perception, learning and motivation deal with some specific aspects of human behavior, personality takes the whole man concept because it affects the various psychological processes. It is the core heart of human behavior.

Personality embraces all the unique traits and patterns of adjustment of the individual in his relationship with others and his environment. It is a sum total of a man’s growth and development. The nature and characteristics of personality may be summarized in the words of Bonner as follows:
  • It is distinguished by self-consistency,
  • Personality is visualized as a whole which actualizes itself in a particular environment,
  • It is a process of becoming
  • It is a goal-oriented behavior
  • It is a part of human behavior composed of facts
  • It forms a time-integrating structure

Major Personality Attributes Influencing OB
There are numerous personality traits that influence individual behavior at the workplace. These traits are clearly identified, measured and associated with our behavior. The major personality attributes or traits that influence OB are:
Attributes of Personality
  1. Locus of control: This concept denotes whether people believe that they are in control of events or events control them. Those who have an internal locus of control (internals) believe that they control and shape the course of events in their livers, while those who have an external locus of control (externals) believe that events occur purely by chance or because of factors beyond their own control. Internal, as compared to externals, seek more job related information, try to influence, other at work more activity seek opportunities for advancement and rely more on their own abilities and judgment at work. 
  2. Authoritarianism: Authoritarians also tend to be rigid in their positions, place high moral value on their beliefs and are strongly oriented towards conformity to rules and regulations. It is a concept developed by the psychologist Adorno during World War II to measure susceptibility to autocratic, fascistic, or anti-democratic appeals. Since that time, the concept has been extended to the authoritarian personality, a generic term used to describe and who has a strong belief in the legitimacy of established mechanism of formal authority, views obedience to authority as necessary, exhibits a negative philosophy people, adheres to conventional and traditional values system, is intellectually rigid, and opposes the use of subjective feelings.
  3. Machiavelliasm: Manipulation of others as primary way of achieving one's goals is what Machiavelliasm is all about. Individuals high on the Mach scale, a scale developed to measure the extent to which an individual tends to be Machiavellian tend to be cool, logical in assessing the system around them, willing to twist and turn facts to influence other and try to gain control of people, events and situations by of manipulation the system to their advantage. Machiavellian may fool a few people all the time and all the people for a very short time, but in the long run, they tend to be distrusted and disliked by many in the system and hence may become ineffective.
  4. Self-esteem and self-concept: Self-esteem denoted the extent to which individuals consistently regard themselves as capable, successful, important and worthy individuals. This is an important personality factor that determines how managers perceive themselves and their role in the organization. Self-esteem is important to self-concept, that is, the way individuals define themselves as to who they are and derive their sense of identify. High self-esteem provides a high sense of self-concept; high self-concept in turn, reinforces high self-esteem. Thus, the two are mutually reinforcing. Individuals high in self-esteem will try to take on more challenging assignments and be successful, thus enhancing their self-concept, that is they would tend to define themselves as highly valuable and valued individuals in organization system. The higher the self-concept and self-esteem, the greater will be their contributions to the goals of the organization; especially when the system rewards them for their contributions. 
  5. Personality type (Type A and Type B Behavior):Individuals can have type A personality or type B personality. Type A persons feel a chronic sense of time urgency are high achievement oriented, exhibit a competitive drive and are impatient when their work is slowed down for any reason. Type B persons are easy going individuals who do not experience the competitive drive. Type A individuals are significantly more prone to heart attack than type B persons. While type A persons help the organization to move ahead in a relatively short period of time they may also suffer health problems, which might be detrimental to both themselves and the organization in the long run.
  6. Risk taking:People differ in their willingness to take risks. Individuals can be high risk taking and low-risk taking. High-risk taking managers tend to make quick decision with less information. However, demands of the job determine the degree of risk taking.
  7. Self-monitoring: Self-monitoring refers to an individual’s ability to adjust his behavior to external situational factors. A personality trait which has recently received increased attention is called self-monitoring. Individuals high in self-monitoring show considerable adaptability in adjusting their behavior to external situational factors. They are highly sensitive to external cues and can behave differently in different situations. High self monitors are capable of presenting string contradictions between their public personal and their private self. Low self-monitors cannot disguise themselves in that way.
  8. Tolerance for ambiguity: This personality characteristics indicate the level of uncertainty that people can tolerate without experiencing undue stress and can still function effectively. Managers have to work well under conditions of extreme uncertainty and insufficient information, especially when things are rapidly changing in the organization's external environment. Managers who have a high tolerance for ambiguity can cope well under these conditions.

Application of Personality Traits and Characteristics at Workplace

Understanding personality has a number of implications for managing the organizations or at workplace effectively. These implications are in the area of matching jobs and individuals, designing motivation systems and designing control system. 

1. Matching Jobs and Individuals
Every job in the organizations requires some specific characteristics of the job performer and one of the basic characteristics among them is personality. An organization can do well if it is able to match the jobs and individuals, that is, the personality of the job performer matches with the requirement of the job. The starting point in matching jobs and individuals is recruitment and selection. It is a known fact that every organization uses some sort of personality test either in written form or through personal interview. The basic idea behind such an exercise is to discover the personality traits of the job seekers so that a match is established between jobs and job seekers. Another area which helps in matching jobs and individuals is training and development. Since people move upward in the organization, the nature of their job changes which required realignment between the job performer. The new personality traits can be developed, albeit in a limited range through training. The third dimension of matching jobs and individual is promotion where personality counts a lot. 

2. Designing Motivation System
All people cannot be motivated by offering the same incentives because of their personality difference. Some people may be motivated by offering financial incentives; some people may not react so favorably to such offers they may give more importance to non-financial incentives. Thus, a motivation system which takes into account the personality variables of the people in the organization is likely to be more suitable. 

3. Designing Control System
In order to ensure that people contribute in the organization in desired way, a control system is developed. Such a system may be in the form of tight control leaving no discretion to the people or may provide flexibility. Based on personality variables, different people react differently to a particular type of control system. Thus, the designing of control system must take into account the personality variables of the people.

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Behavior Management / Behavior Modification

Behavior Modification

Behavior modification is the application of reinforcement theory to people in organizational settings. It is simply based on the principle of operant conditioning. According to the reinforcement theory, the frequency of desirable behavior can be increased by an individual as it results to positive consequences whereas the undesirable behavior should be reduced as it is lined to negative consequences. The purpose of this theory is to improve performance. The behavior approach is based on two underlying assumptions i.e.
  • Human behavior is seen as determined by the environment.
  • The behavior is a response to a combination of specific stimuli and other environmental factors such as time and previous experiences.
Managers are trying to enhance the motivation of their employees that can adopt specific motivational strategies derived from one or more theories. Behavior modification (popularly also known as OB modification) is a technique for the applying the concept of reinforcement theory in individual or organizational settings. A behavior modification programme starts by specifying behaviors that are to be increased or deserved. These target behavior are then tied to specific forms or kinds of reinforcement. Through behavior modification, the behavior of individuals is modified by analyzing the antecedents (environmental cues) and consequences of changing them. Individuals are assisted in acquiring desirable behaviors by creating positive reward for good behavior and by designing appropriate reward contingencies.

“Behavior modification is a programme where managers identify performance related employee behaviors and then implement an intervention strategy to strengthen desirable behaviors and weaken undesirable behaviors.”S. P. Robbins 

Principles of reinforcement theory are applied to human resource management problems to change and direct organizational behavior towards the attainment of organizational and societal objectives. OB modification is not a theory of work motivation; instead, it is a technique for motivating employees, using principles of reinforcement theory. OB focuses on a observable and measurable behaviors instead of needs, attitudes or internal states

The various steps involved in behavior modifications are:
Procedures of Behavior Modification
a) Identification of Critical/Performance Related Behavior
Critical behavior are the actions that make significant impact on job performance. The manager should try to identify the desirable and undesirable behavior to perform a given task. Identification of critical behavior involves observing the behaviors, measuring the behaviors and describing the situation at which the behaviors occurs.

It is the first step of behavior modification. In this step, the behaviors (critical) which have significant impact on the performance outcome of the employees should be identified. Employees may be engaged in several behaviors in the organizations. Out of these, some behaviors may be critical like absenteeism, tardiness or constructive criticism and doing or not doing a particular task or procedure and some behaviors may not be critical like bad attitudes or goofing off. Critical behaviors may be identified through the discussion with the particular employee and his immediate superior as both are closely intimated with the job behaviors.

b) Measurement of Baseline Performance/ Behaviors
After identifying the critical behavior, the baseline performance data is developed. The manager has to measure existing level of performance for each individual employee. It can be obtained by determining the frequency of the behavior occurrences. For example: The customer service manager is providing better performance to 90 percent of customer.

These are measured in terms of the rate at which these are occurring. In the process, a manager develops some base line performance data. The manager records the frequency of the critical behavior over time. This allows the manager to determine his success in changing the subordinate’s behavior. Measurement of behaviors can be done either by observing and counting or by extracting from existing records.

c) Identification of Behavioral Contingencies through a Functional Analysis
The behavioral consequences have to be analyzed by a manager of an employee. It identifies existing consequences of performance. For example: if an employee works hard, does the individual is rewarded or just get tired. The consequences are performed by ABC analysis.

A = Antecedent cues

B = Behavior performance

C = Contingent consequences

A functional analysis refers to an examination of the antecedents and consequences of behavior. The antecedents consist of environmental conditions surrounding the behavior and any action that occurred immediately prior to the behavior. The consequences consist of all the outcomes associated with the behaviors, both positive and negative. Further, functional analysis often reveals that there are many competing contingencies for every organizational behavior, therefore, the analysis must not be deluded by the contingent consequences that, on the surface, appear to be affecting the critical behavior.

d) Development and Implementation of an Intervention Theory
The intervention strategy is directed to strengthen the desirable behavior and weaken the undesirable cues. The intervention can be through change in structure, process, technology and task. Manager attempts to link performance and reward to make high level of performance. A positive reinforcement is used to direct and guide employee behavior in desired direction.

Identification of critical behaviors to change and the factors that cause such behaviors will determine the development of an appropriate intervention strategy. Intervention is the action taken for changing the undesirable critical behaviors. Its main objective is to strengthen and accelerate desirable performance behavior or weaken and decelerate undesirable behaviors. There may be many intervention strategies that can be used, but the main strategies, and withdrawal of positive reinforcement. The strategies selected must be appropriate to the situation and should produce the desired result.

e) Evaluation of Performance Improvement
At the final step, the improvement of the performance of individual behavior is evaluated. The application of reinforcement and intention to the performance is studied and the emphasis is provided on offering long term reward such as pay increase, promotion, authority etc. to improve performance.
Behavior modification is the application of reinforcement theory. It is an approach to human resource management.

The learning process of modification of behavior must be evaluated for making a positive impact. Evaluation will help in the termination of negative performance and behavior and accelerate positive behavior. Systematic evaluation of behavior helps in modification and improvement for achieving favorable behavior and performance. It involves reaction, change and improvement of behavior. Reactions of employees are noted as cues for the direction and subsequent modifications are made accordingly. Positive reactions help to correct behavior. Negative reactions are viewed as discontentment, which is to be explored and remedied.

Requirement for successful modification of behavior
  1. Reinforces to attach consequences to desired behaviors. Most often used are praise and recognition.
  2. A careful analysis of the job to identify specific key behaviors for targeting.
  3. Careful, explicit communication to employee of what is wanted, including both behaviors and concrete, measurable goals.
  4. Concrete, continuous feedback or feedback soon after performance that workers can use to check on themselves.

Contribution of Behavior Modification 

Modification of behavior lays emphasis on self-management. Employees are motivated to manage their own behavior. They are given positive reinforcement and a favorable atmosphere to pay attention to positive stimuli, internal processes and responses to achieve a favorable response. They are given opportunities for self-learning, self- monitoring and adopting a favorable behavior. Incentives to self-learning help self-modification. Behavior modification has been applied successfully in many organizations starting from service organizations to manufacturing organizations. The major contributions of behavior modification can be listed as follows: 
  • It provided various tools to managers for effectively controlling and influencing the behaviors of employees in the organizations. 
  • Understanding of OB modification techniques is comparatively easy; therefore managers can use these without much problem. 
  • OB modification presents a set of tools by which people can learn new behaviors and skills thereby replacing undesirable behaviors. 
  • It deals with observed behaviors. Therefore, it can be put to testing.
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Sensation differ from Perception

Concept of Attribution Theory
The perception of people differs from our perceptions because we make inferences about the actions of people that we don't make about inanimate objects.

Attributions theory has been proposed to develop explanations of the ways in which we judge people differently, depending on what meaning we attribute to a given behavior. Basically, the theory suggests that we observe an individual's behavior, we attempt to determine whether it was internally or externally caused.

Sensation differ from Perception
People usually mean sensation and perception the same. But, there is a clear cut distinction between the two. In simple words, sensation may be described as the response of a physical sensory organ to some stimuli. Our physical senses i.e. vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste are continuously bombarded by numerous stimuli that are both inside and outside of our body. Our physical sensory organs often react to these stimuli. The reaction of our eye to color, ear to sound, nose to odour and so on are the examples of our every day sensations. What these examples indicate is that sensation activates the perception. In this way, sensation serves as a raw input to be processed so as to make sense out of them to perceive the environment or stimuli around us.

Perception is much more than sensation. Perception depends upon the sensory raw data, yet it involves a cognitive process that includes filtering, modifying or even changing these sensation raw data to make sense out of them. In other words, the perceptual process adds to or/ and subtracts from the sensory world. A simple instruction may be looking at an object. We see by means of our eyes. Remember, it is not our eyes but what we see and tend to see in its totality, with a figure and form against a background. Thus, we find that eyes activates to see an object i.e. sensation and what is being seen i.e. perception. In this seeing process, though both sensation and perception are involved, yet perception process overcomes sensation process to make what is being seen. Following example will help to understand the difference between sensation and perception more clearly.
  1. You buy a  two wheeler that you think is the best, but not one the engineer says is the best.
  2. A subordinate's answer to a question is based on what he heard his boss says, but not on what the boss actually said.
  3. The same professor may be viewed by on student as a very goods professor and by another student of the same semester as a poor professor.
  4. The same item may be viewed by the manufacturing engineer to be of high quality and by a customer to be of low quality.