Personality and Attitudes

Personality and attitudes represent important micro, cognitively oriented variables in the study of organizational behavior.

Personality - Introduction

Personality represents the "whole person" concept. It includes perception, learning, motivation, and more. According to this definition, people's external appearance and traits, their inner awareness of self, and their person-situation interaction make up their personalities.
In personality theory, different approaches have been tried. The historically important ones include trait theory (observable patterns of behavior that recur frequently), Freud's psychoanalytic or psychodynamic theory (in which personality is shaped by unconscious determinants of behavior), and Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow's humanistic theory (Every person strives to realize one's potential).
Although the nature versus nurture debate in shaping personality continues, the findings of twin studies of the importance that heredity may play in personality and recent breakthroughs in neuropsychology that points to the importance of the brain in personality have led most psychologists to recognize both nature and nurture. However, the nurture side still dominates.
In personality theory, the study of relatively fixed predispositions has resurfaced in the form of the "Big Five" personality traits. Conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness, extraversion, and openness to experience have been found to significantly relate to job performance, especially conscientiousness. In addition, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) remains a popular tool for personal and career development. Whereas the Big Five is based on research, the MBTI is based on the historically important Carl Jung theory of personality types and mental processes. Both the Big Five and MBTI if carefully interpreted and used can make a contribution to the understanding and application of organizational behavior.

Personality and Related Concepts

Luthans has taken the position that personality will mean how people affect others and how they understand and view themselves, as well as their pattern of inner and outer measurable traits and their person-situation interaction behavior.


The self of a person is a unique product of many interacting parts andmay be thought of as the personality viewed by a person within. People's understanding regarding themselves is called self-concept in personality theory. Self-esteem, multiple intellgences, emotion, optimism and efficacy are important self-variables and have application in organizational behavior.


Self-esteem includes people's self perceived competence and self-image. Is high self esteem good for organization's performance. Kreitner and Kinicki concluded that high self esteem can be good thing only when it is nurtured and channeled in constructive and ethical ways. Otherwise, it can become antisocial and destructive. So behavior managers have a role to play in getting the appropriate performance from high self-esteem individuals.
An elaboration of self esteem in organizational context has emerged. It is called organization-based self esteem (OBSE). It is defined as the self-perceived value that individuals have of themselves as organization members acting within an organization context.
Self esteem is a global trait, meaning it is present interactions of an individual in a similar way.

The Big Five Personality Traits

Researchers have identified 171 personality traits on which persons can be ranked or measured. This 171 trait list was prepared after sufficient effort in reducing the number of traits by identifying similar traits and combining them. From these 171 traits, five core personality traits called the five factor model was found to be of value for use in organizational situations.
These five traits are:
  •     Conscientiousness
  •     Emotional stability
  •     Agreeableness
  •     Extraversion
  •     Openness to experience
To get a high score on these parameters the person must have the following characteristics or behavior.
To get a high score on conscientiousness, the person has to be dependable, hardworking, organized, self-disciplined, persistent and responsible.
To get a high score on emotional stability, the person has to be normally calm, secure, happy and unworried.
To get a high score on agreeableness, the person has to be cooperative, warm, caring, good-natured, courteous and trusting.
To get a high score on openness to experience, the person has to be curious, flexible, creative, imaginative, artistically sensitive, open to other cultures and open to intellectual discussions.

Myers- Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

In the 1940s, Katharine Briggs and  Isable Briggs-Myers developed a personality test to measure their preferences on four pairs of traits proposed earlier by Carl Jung in the 1920s.
These four traits are extraversion-introversion, sensing-intuiting, thinking-feeling, and judging-perceiving.
Extraversion and introversion are related to feeling energetic and comfortable. Extraverts are more energetic in groups. Introverts are more energetic and productive alone.
Sensing and intuiting are related to collecting information for solving a problem. People who prefer sensing look into the specifics of situation, want concrete evidence and facts, go into details and are practical persons. People who prefer intuition look into possibilities, are satisfied with general description of the situation, use abstract and theoretical ideas.
Thinking and feeling are related to evaluation of alternatives for decision making. People who prefer thinking are analytical, they follow a set of rules, use their head or brain and are more inclined to judge based on the evidence. Persons who prefer feeling, are more subjective, take circumstances into account and are not so rule bound, they use heart in preference to brain and may show mercy (or vindictiveness in negative manner).
Judging and perceiving are related to the orientation of a person to the outside world. Persons who show the traits of judging are organized, structured, time oriented and decisive people.Persons who show traits of perceiving are seen more as flexible persons who explore things spontaneously and are open ended with behavior.


Nurture is socialization. Every new born child is nurtured or socialized by his parents, relatives, neighbors,  friends, teachers, religious priests, his superiors, subordinates etc. Personality development is influenced by socialization.

Application of Various Personality Theories and Concepts in Organization Behavior Theory

Self-esteem is an important variable. If a person has low self-esteem and not confident about his thinking ability, he likely to fear decision making and may not be able to assert himself in interpersonal relations. Research has shown that employees with high self esteem feel unique, competent, secure,  and empowered.


Schein has advocated that organizations must have socialization process.
The socialization process helps in changing attitudes, values and behaviors. It ensures continuity and consistency of behavior of various persons of the organization. It will facilitate adjustment to new jobs, work groups and new practices. The early period of socialization of new recruits is a critical period.
The important activities related to socialization process of an organization include:
1. Relevant training
2. Timely and consistent feedback
3. Initial work under good supervisors
4. A orientation program
5. Socialization in high morale work groups.
6. Challenging jobs in the early part of career.
Deliberate and well designed socialization programs do have tremendous potential impact on the personality development of members of an organization within the organization (personality development after they have joined the organization).


An attitude can be defined as a persistent tendency to feel and behave in a particular way toward some object.
Attitudes are a complex cognitive variables that have three basic characteristics: they are directed toward an object about which a person has feelings, and beliefs,  they persist unless changed in some way; and they range along a continuum from positive to negative. 
Attitudes have three components: emotional (feelings), informational, and behavioral. Behavior can be observed, but the feelings and belief which give rise to the behavior cannot be observed.
Attitudes, being persistent often help employees adapt to their work environment by providing a way of interpreting things or happenings in the environment. There are four functions that attitudes have in this process: (1) they help people adjust to their environment, (2) they help people defend their self-image, (3) they provide people with a basis for expressing their values, and (4) they help supply standards and frames of reference that allow people to organize and explain the world around them.

Changing Attitudes

Attitudes can be changed.
Bit it is sometimes difficult to change attitudes. There are two important barriers.  One reason is prior commitments. A second is insufficient information on the part of the person having an attitude to be changed.
Research shows that some of the ways of bringing about attitude changes are providing new information, and persuasion by friends or peers, and co-opting. Fear also helps in changing attitudes. There are some instances, where or when an individual may be in stage of forming attitude or belief. Organizations can provide appropriate information and create appropriate situation to develop desirable attitudes at that point of time.
Personality traits or dispositions, such as positive affectivity (PA) and negative affectivity (NA), are important antecedents to attitudes about one's job.
Traditionally the most important attitude studied and given concern in the real world is job satisfaction.

Job Satisfaction

This attitude is defined as a pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one's job or job experience. More simply stated, it an attitude toward the job. Does the person has a positive attitude or negative attitude toward job. 
A number of factors influence job satisfaction. Job satisfaction is a combination of attitudes towards factors related to a job.Some of the major ones are the work itself, pay, promotions, supervision, the work group, and working conditions.
There are a number of outcomes of job satisfaction. For example, There is relationship between satisfaction and job performace.  Although the relationship with performance was thought to be relatively weak (0.17), recent research is showing a much stronger relationship. Low job satisfaction tends to lead to both turnover and absenteeism, whereas high job satisfaction often results in fewer on-the-job accidents and work grievances, less time needed to learn new job-related tasks, and less stress.

Efforts to Increase Job Satisfaction

A job satisfaction has positive impact on many desirable outcomes of the organizations, management can take some steps to increase job satisfaction.
Some of the specific guidelines mentioned by Luthans:
  • Make jobs more fun,
  • Ensuring fairness,
  • Get the right fit,
  • Design jobs to make them more exciting and satisfying.

Organizational Commitment Attitude

Closely related to job satisfaction is the organizational commitment attitude. It traditionally refers to the employees' loyalty to the organization. An an attitude, organizational commitment is defined as (1) a strong desire to remain a member of a particular organization; (2) a willingness to exert high levels of effort on behalf of the organization; and (3) a definite belief in, and acceptance of, the values and goals of the organization.
Organizational commitment is determined by a number of personal, organizational, and nonorganizational variables.
Now commitment is generally conceived as having three components:
Affective (emotional attachment),
Continuance (costs of leaving): willingness to stay in the organization due to costs of leaving. 
Normative (obligation to stay): The person feels it obligatory to stay in the organization. 
Like job satisfaction, the organizational commitment attitude is very complex (composed of number of attitudes towards various factors in the organization) and has mixed results with respect to desired outcomes of the organization. But in general, it is thought to have a somewhat stronger relationship with organizational outcomes such as performance, absenteeism, and turnover.
Like satisfaction, organizational commitment can be enhanced.

Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCBs) 

Organ defines this concept as "individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward syste, and that in the aggregate promotes the effective functioning of the organization." The OCBs can be a personality level concept.
The extra-role, prosocial/organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) involve predispositional traits to be cooperative and conscientious. OCBs include  a variety of behaviors, and the major ones are  altruism, conscientiousness, civic virtue, sportsmanship, and courtesy. In an organization perceived as a just organization, more employee display OCBs.
Although there is still some criticism of the conceptualization and research of OCBs, there is growing evidence that OCBs positively relate to individual, group, and organizational performance.


Fred Luthans, Organizational Behavior,  McGraw-Hill, 10th Edition, 2005 (Main Text for Revision Articles)

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