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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