Personality and Individual Behavior

Personality and Individual Behavior

Personality consists of stable psychological and behavioral attributes that give you your identity. We describe five personality dimensions and five personality traits that managers need to be aware of to understand workplace behavior.

In this and the next four chapters we discuss the third management function (after planning and organizing)—namely, leading. Leading, as we said in  Chapter 1 , is defined as motivating, directing, and otherwise influencing people to work hard to achieve the organization’s goals. Personality and Individual Behavior

How would you describe yourself? Are you outgoing? aggressive? sociable? tense? passive? lazy? quiet? Whatever the combination of traits, which result from the interaction of your genes and your environment, they constitute your personality. More formally,  personality  consists of the stable psychological traits and behavioral attributes that give a person his or her identity. 10  As a manager, you need to understand personality attributes because they affect how people perceive and act within the organization. 11

The Big Five Personality Dimensions

In recent years, the many personality dimensions have been distilled into a list of factors known as the Big Five. 12  The  Big Five personality dimensions are (1) extroversion, (2) agreeableness, (3) conscientiousness, (4) emotional stability, and (5) openness to experience. Personality and Individual Behavior

· Extroversion. How outgoing, talkative, sociable, and assertive a person is.

· Agreeableness. How trusting, good-natured, cooperative, and soft-hearted one is.

· Conscientiousness. How dependable, responsible, achievement-oriented, and persistent one is.

· Emotional stability. How relaxed, secure, and unworried one is.

· Openness to experience. How intellectual, imaginative, curious, and broad-minded one is.

Current estimates are that approximately 76% of organizations with more than 100 employees now use some sort of pre- or post-hiring assessment, including personality tests,13 spending more than $500 million annually on such services.14 Companies use these tests, believing that hiring decisions will be more accurate and predictive of high performers. But are they? We’ll discuss this shortly. Dimensions in the Big Five have been associated with performance, leadership behavior, turnover, creativity, and workplace safety.15 Do you wonder if your personality has affected your behavior at work? Sociable and assertive. Does it take a certain kind of personality to be a good salesperson? Have you ever known people who were quiet, unassuming, even shy but who were nevertheless very persistent and persuasive—that is, good salespeople?© Blend Images/Alamy RFPage 359 Personality and Individual Behavior

Where do you think you stand in terms of the Big Five? You can find out by completing  Self-Assessment 11.1 .


Where Do You Stand on the Big Five Dimensions of Personality?

This survey is designed to assess your personality, using the Big Five index. Please be prepared to answer these questions if your instructor has assigned Self-Assessment 11.1 in Connect.

1. What is your personality profile, according to the Big Five?

2. Which of the Big Five is most likely going to help you achieve good grades in your classes and gain employment after graduation? Personality and Individual Behavior

The Proactive Personality 

A person who scores well on the Big Five dimension of conscientiousness is probably a good worker. He or she may also be a  proactive personality, someone who is more apt to take initiative and persevere to influence the environment. Research reveals that proactive people tend to be more satisfied with their job and committed to their employer, as well as produce more work, than nonproactive individuals. 16

Do Personality Tests Work for the Workplace?

Personality tests are more commonly used to hire managers than entry-level employees (80% and 59% of the time, respectively).17 Nevertheless, many experts conclude personality tests are not a valid predictor of job performance.18 One explanation for this finding is that test takers don’t describe themselves accurately, instead guessing answers that might make them look better. Another is that companies use “off-the-shelf” tests possessing limited validity. You should avoid administering such tests. To overcome these limitations, companies like Pymetrics and Knack use games to assess cognitive ability and decision making. Other companies are looking toward genetic testing.19 Personality and Individual Behavior

The table below will help managers avoid abuses and discrimination lawsuits when using personality and psychological testing for employment decisions. 20  (See  Table 11.1 .)

TABLE 11.1   Cautions about Using Personality Tests in the Workplace

Use professionals. Rely on reputable, licensed psychologists for selecting and overseeing the administration, scoring, and interpretation of personality and psychological tests. This is particularly important, since not every psychologist is expert at these kinds of tests.
Don’t hire on the basis of personality test results alone. Supplement any personality test data with information from reference checks, personal interviews, ability tests, and job performance records. Also avoid hiring people on the basis of specified personality profiles. As a case in point, there is no distinct “managerial personality.” Personality and Individual Behavior
Be alert for gender, racial, and ethnic bias. Regularly assess any possible adverse impact of personality tests on the hiring of women and minorities. This is truly a matter of great importance, since you don’t want to find your company (or yourself) embroiled in a lawsuit at some point downstream.
Graphology tests don’t work, but integrity tests do. Personality traits and aptitudes cannot be inferred from samples of people’s penmanship, as proponents of graphology tests claim. However, dishonest job applicants can often be screened by integrity tests, since dishonest people are reportedly unable to fake conscientiousness, even on a paper-and-pencil test. Personality and Individual Behavior

Core Self-Evaluations

A  core self-evaluation represents a broad personality trait comprising four positive individual traits: (1)  self-efficacy, (2)  self-esteem, (3)  locus of control, and (4)  emotional stability. Managers need to be aware of these personality traits so as to understand workplace behavior.

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1. Self-Efficacy: “I Can/Can’t Do This Task”

Self-efficacy  is the belief in one’s personal ability to do a task. This is about your personal belief that you have what it takes to successfully complete a specified task.

Have you noticed that those who are confident about their ability tend to succeed, whereas those preoccupied with failure tend not to? Indeed, high expectations of self-efficacy have been linked with all kinds of positives: not only success in varied physical and mental tasks but also reduced anxiety and increased tolerance for pain. 21  One study found that the sales performance of life-insurance agents was much better among those with high self-efficacy. 22  A meta-analysis involving 21,616 people also found significant positive correlation between self-efficacy and job performance. 23  Low self-efficacy is associated with  learned helplessness, the debilitating lack of faith in one’s ability to control one’s environment. 24 Personality and Individual Behavior

Photo of Charlie Linville and Tim Medvetz Self-efficacy. Former Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville, 30, shown here (left) with his climbing partner, Tim Medvetz. Linville reached the 29,029-foot summit of Mt. Everest in May 2016, becoming the first combat-wounded veteran to do so. He had already conquered some of the highest peaks in the world on one leg. He was injured while defusing bombs in Afghanistan in 2011, when an explosive device detonated, leading to the amputation of his right leg below the knee. Do you have a personal belief that you can succeed at great things? © Niranjan Shrestha/AP Photo

Among the implications for managers are the following:

· Assign jobs accordingly. Complex, challenging, and autonomous jobs tend to enhance people’s perceptions of their self-efficacy. Boring, tedious jobs generally do the opposite.

· Develop self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a quality that can be nurtured. Employees with low self-efficacy need lots of constructive pointers and positive feedback. 25  Goal difficulty needs to match individuals’ perceived self-efficacy, but goals can be made more challenging as performance improves. 26  Small successes need to be rewarded. Employees’ expectations can be improved through guided experiences, mentoring, and role modeling. 27 Personality and Individual Behavior


2. Self-Esteem: “I Like/Dislike Myself”

How worthwhile, capable, and acceptable do you think you are? The answer to this question is an indicator of your  self-esteem, the extent to which people like or dislike themselves, their overall self-evaluation. 28 Page 361 Research offers some interesting insights about how high or low self-esteem can affect people and organizations. Personality and Individual Behavior

· People with high self-esteem. Compared with people with low self-esteem, people with high self-esteem are more apt to handle failure better, to emphasize the positive, to take more risks, and to choose more unconventional jobs. 29  However, when faced with pressure situations, high-self-esteem people have been found to become egotistical and boastful. 30  Some have even been associated with aggressive and violent behavior.

· People with low self-esteem. Conversely, low-self-esteem people confronted with failure have been found to have focused on their weaknesses and to have had primarily negative thoughts. 31  Moreover, they are more dependent on others and are more apt to be influenced by them and to be less likely to take independent positions.

Self-esteem varies around the world. A survey of 13,000 students from 31 countries showed that self-esteem and life satisfaction were moderately related. The relationship was stronger in individualistic countries (United States, Canada, New Zealand) than collectivist cultures (Korea and Japan).32 Personality and Individual Behavior

Can self-esteem be improved? According to one study, “low self-esteem can be raised more by having the person think of desirable characteristics possessed rather than of undesirable characteristics from which he or she is free.” 33  Some ways in which managers can build employee self-esteem are shown below. (See  Table 11.2 .)

TABLE 11.2   Some Ways That Managers Can Boost Employee Self-Esteem

· Reinforce employees’ positive attributes and skills.
· Provide positive feedback whenever possible.
· Break larger projects into smaller tasks and projects.
· Express confidence in employees’ abilities to complete their tasks.
· Provide coaching whenever employees are seen to be struggling to complete tasks.

3. Locus of Control: “I Am/Am Not the Captain of My Fate”

As we discussed briefly in  Chapter 1 ,  locus of control indicates how much people believe they control their fate through their own efforts. If you have an internal locus of control, you believe you control your own destiny. If you have an external locus of control, you believe external forces control you.

Research shows internals and externals have important workplace differences. Internals exhibit less anxiety, greater work motivation, and stronger expectations that effort leads to performance. They also obtain higher salaries.34 Most importantly, one’s internal locus of control can be improved by providing more job autonomy.35

These findings have two important implications for managers:

· Expect different degrees of structure and compliance for each type. Employees with internal locus of control will probably resist close managerial supervision. Hence, they should probably be placed in jobs requiring high initiative and lower compliance. By contrast, employees with external locus of control might do better in highly structured jobs requiring greater compliance. Personality and Individual Behavior

· Employ different reward systems for each type. Since internals seem to have a greater belief that their actions have a direct effect on the consequences of that action, internals likely would prefer and respond more productively to incentives such as merit pay or sales commissions. (We discuss incentive compensation systems in  Chapter 12 .)

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4. Emotional Stability: “I’m Fairly Secure/Insecure When Working under Pressure”

Emotional stability  is the extent to which people feel secure and unworried and how likely they are to experience negative emotions under pressure. People with low levels of emotional stability are prone to anxiety and tend to view the world negatively, whereas people with high levels tend to show better job performance. Personality and Individual Behavior

Emotional Intelligence: Understanding Your Emotions and the Emotions of Others

Emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) has been defined as “the ability to carry out accurate reasoning about emotions and the ability to use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thought.” 36  Said another way,  emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor your and others’ feelings and to use this information to guide your thinking and actions. The trait of emotional intelligence was first introduced in 1909. Since that time some claim it to be the secret elixir to happiness and higher performance. Are you curious if research supports such lofty conclusions Personality and Individual Behavior