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Basic understanding of human personality is vital to the study and analysis of organizations and their management. Because of differences in personalities to employees, the way in which they respond to organizational environment differs in the words of D.E. James “it is better to consider the individual aspects of a person’s make up as bricks, and personality as the whole house built of bricks, but held together with cement”. Personality is an organized whole without which an individual would have no meaning as such. 

1. Personality Defined

The term ‘personality’ is derived from Latin word ‘per sonnar’ which means “to speak through”? The Latin term was used to denote the masks the actors used to wear in ancient Rome and Greece. Personality thus traditionally referred to how people influence others through their external appearances (actions). But for an academician personality included (i) external appearance and behavior (ii) the inner awareness of self as a permanent organizing force and (iii) the particular organization of measurable traits, both inner and outer. Thus, a thoroughly complete definition of personality becomes a jigsaw puzzle because human being operates as a whole, not as a series of distinct parts. Though psychologists and social scientists unanimously agree to the importance of personality, they are unable to come out with a unanimous definition.

Personality has been defined by many people in different ways. Let us consider some of them: 

  1. Personality it a broad, amorphous designation relating to fundamental approaches of persons to others and themselves. To most psychologists and students of behavior, this terms refers to the study of the characteristics traits of an individual, relationships between these traits, and the way in which a person adjusts to other people and situations.
  2. Personality is a pattern of stable states and characteristics of a person that influences his or her behavior toward goal achievement. Each person has unique ways of protecting these states.
  3. Personality is a very diverse and complex psychological concept. The word ‘personality’ may mean something like outgoing, invigorating interpersonal abilities.
  4. …… but we must also recognize and explain the fact that development results in man acquiring a distinctiveness or uniqueness which gives him identify which enable him and us to recognize him as apart form others. These distinguishing characteristics are summarized by the term personality. 

2. Determinants or Personality

People are enormously complex; abilities and interest and attitudes are diverse. The drama of life unfolds in fantastically broad intricate patterns – from nursing infant to the lonely, senile adult; from the rebellious teens to the stable fifties; from the idealistic to realistic; from tragedy to comedy; from the birth to death. The journey of an individual through life can take infinite number of paths. But the question arises “what ·are the determinants of individual personality? We often notice personality characteristics such as extroversion, assertiveness and warmth etc. greatly contribute to success of an individual in his jobs. Most failures on job, however, are not attributable to a person’s amount of intelligence alone but also to certain personality characteristics.

We frequently hear such comments as, “He is very intelligence but lazy”, “He is mediocre but hard working” etc. The most pertinent and relevant question then is how personality originates and develop? The major determinants of personality of an individual can be studied under four broad headings – biological, cultural, family and situational. 

3. Biological Factors

Biological factors may be studied under three heads – the heredity, the brain, and the physical stature. 

1. Heredity: The relative effects of heredity comprise an extremely old argument in personality theory. Certain characteristics, primarily physical in nature, are inherited from one’s parents, transmitted by genes in the chromosomes contributed by each parent. Research on animal has showed that both physical and psychological characteristics can be transmitted through heredity. But research on human beings inadequate to support this viewpoint. However, psychologists and geneticists have accepted to the fact that 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 ideals.

2. Brain: Another biological factor that influences personality is the role of brain of an individual. Though some promising in roads are made by researcher, the psychologists are unable to prove empirically the contribution of human brain in influencing personality. Preliminary results from the Electrical Stimulation of the Brain (ESB) research gives indication that better understanding of human personality and behavior might come from the study of the brain.

3. Physical Features: Perhaps the most outstanding factor that contributes to personality i.e., the physical stature of an individual. An individual’s external appearance is proved to be having a tremendous effect on his personality. For instance, the fact that a person is short or tall, fat or skinny, handsome or ugly, black or whitish will undoubtedly influence the person’s effect on others and in tum, will affect the self-concept.

According to Paul H.Mussen” ….. a child’s physical characteristics may be related to his approach to the social environment, to the expectancies of others, and to their reactions to him. These in tum may have impacts on personality development”.

Similarly, a rapidly maturing girl or boy will be exposed to different physical and social situations and activities than will a slowly maturing boy or girl. Psychologists contend that the different rates of maturation will also influence the individual’s personality.

4. Cultural Factors

Culture is traditionally considered as the major determinant of an individual’s personality. The culture largely determines what a person is and what a person will learn. The culture within a person is brought up, is very important determinant of behavior of a person. Culture is the “complex of these beliefs, values, and techniques for dealing with the environment which are shared among contemporaries and transmitted by one generation to the next”. Culture required both conformity and acceptance from its members. There are several ways of ensuring that members comply with the dictates of the culture. Such socialization takes place through the early training given to the young of a culture, through establishing mores and through informal pressure to obey certain ways of behaving. The personality of an individual to a market extent determined by the culture in which he is brought up. According to Mussen ” … each culture expects, and trains, its members to behave in the way that are acceptable to the group”. In spite of the importance, of the culture on personality, researchers were unable to establish liner relationship between these two concepts ‘personality’ and ‘culture’.

5. Family and Social Factors

Family and social factors also are important in shaping personality of an individual. In order to understand the effect of a family on individual’s personality, we have to understand the socialization process and identification process.

1. Socialization process

The contribution of family and social group in combination with the culture is known as socialization. In the words of Mussesn “socialization is the process by which an individual infant acquires, from the enormously wide range of behavioral potentials that are open to him at birth, those behavior patterns that are customary and acceptable according to the standards of his family and social group”. It initially starts with the contact with mother and later on the other members of the family (father, sisters, close relatives) and the social group plays influential role in shaping an individual’s personality. 

2. Identification process: Identification is fundamental in understanding personality. Identification starts when a person begins to identify himself with some other members of the family. Normally a child tries to behave as his father or mother. He tries to emulate certain actions of his parents. According to Mischel identification process can be examined from three angles: (a) it can be viewed as the similarity of behavior between child and the model, and (b) it can be looked as the child’s motives or desires to be like the model and (c) it can be viewed as the process through which the children actually takes on the attributes of the models.

Apart from the socialization and identification processes, the personality of an individual is influenced by the home environment. There is a substantial empirical evidence to indicate that the overall environment at home is created by parents is critical to personality development.

Family background a part, social class also influences as person’s perceptions, perception of self and others, and perception of work, authority and money etc.

6. Situation Factors

Human personality is also influenced by situational factors. The effect of environment is quite strong. Knowledge, skill and language are obviously acquired and represent important modifications of behavior. Learned modifications in behavior are not passed on to children, they must be acquired by them through their own personal experience, through interaction with the environment. In one research by Milgram it was found that situation plays a vital role in human personality. According to Milgram “situation exerts an important press on the individual. It exercise constraints and may provide push. In certain circumstances it is not so much the kind of person a man is, as the kind of situation in which he is placed that determines his actions”. Milgram certainly does not completely rule out the importance of the developmental aspects of personality. He rather demonstrated that the situation may potentially have a very big impact on the behavioral express of personality.

7. Theories of Personality

Let us now make a historical trip though different theories of personality. Over time researchers have developed a number of personality theories and no theory, at the outset, it must be pointed out, is complete in itself. Many personality theories can be conveniently grouped under the five heads:

  1. Intrapsychic theory
  2. Type theories
  3. Trait theories
  4. Social learning theory
  5. Self-theory

These theories differ markedly in the constructs they propose as forming the structure of the personality, and also the way they related these constructs to behavior. They also differ in the methods they use to assess or measure an individual’s personality.

Let us examine these theories. 

Intrapsychic Theory of Sigmund Freud

The grand – daddy of many personality theories is the one originated by Sigmund Freud as a result of his psycho-analytical explorations. Though other prolific theorists such as Karen Homey, Carl Jung, Erich From have also made a significant additional contributions Freud remains the most influential theorist in the area of personality.

According to Freud the human mind is composed of three elements (i) the preconscious, (ii.) the conscious, (iii.) the unconscious. The items in the mind that can be recognized – only through Freud’s association method are “preconscious”. The conscious element is concerned with thoughts, feelings, beliefs and desires that we can learn about ourselves through introspection. The final component “unconscious” is basically concerned with ideas and wishes that cannot be learned through introspection but can be determined from hypnotism, dreams, and Frediiam therapeutic techniques.

According to Freud the “conscious” is guided by a “reasoned. reality” principle and the “Unconscious” is guided by the famous “hedonistic principle” of pleasure. Freud developed an organization of personality consisting of three structures within the human mind the id, the ego, and the superego. These parts of the mind are primarily responsible for originating human actions and reactions and modifications. 

Evaluation of Intrapsychic Theory

The psychoanalytical theory has had an enormous impact on psychological and philosophical conceptions of people. Liebert and Spiegler contend that there are four major characteristics of the theory that makes this theory unique and bring specific identity. They are:

  1. It is deterministic. Behavior is assumed to be caused. Surprisingly, even unconscious ‘slips’ are considered to exhibit or reveal a certain meaning.
  2. It is dynamic. It assumes that human action results from psychic energy called libido (i.e life maintaining and pleasure – seeking energy that becomes attached to or withdrawn from various goals and objects).
  3. It is developmental. Human development begins at birth and progresses through life.
  4. It is structural. The three basic structures of personality are idea, ego and superego.

Psychoanalytic theory is also known as ‘met psychology’ because it attempts to extend human behavior and actions beyond conscious elements, i.e. by placing emphasis on unconscious motivations of behavior.

Psychoanalysis while acknowledged as having a powerful influence has been seriously questioned as a scientific theory. This theory is criticized on methodological grounds. It is pointed out that it is more empirical inferential of behavior in general rather than being purely historical reflection. Further Freud’s theory is criticized because it is largely un testable (since his constructs are difficult to define and are ambiguous). 

Type Theories

The type theories represent an attempt to scientifically describe personalities by classifying individuals into convenient categories. Sheldon’s physiognomy theory, Carl Jung’s extravert and introvert theory are some examples of type theories. 

Sheldon’s Physiognomy Theory

William Sheldon has presented a unique body-type-temperamental – model that represents a link between anatomical psychological traits and characteristics of an individual with his behavior. Sheldon identifies some relationship between the physique types of individuals and their personality temperaments. He identifies three body types endomorphic, mesomorphic and ectomorphic.

Endomorph. He is bulky and beloved. Shelon contends that the endomorph to be rather fat, thick in proportion to his height. His personality temperament is viscertonic i.e, the person seeks comfort, loves find food, eats too much, jovial, affectionate and liked by all person.

Mesomorph. He represents absolutely category two type people. He is basically strong, athletic and tough. His physique is appreciated by all. In fact, it is this personality all other “morphs” wish for According to be Sheldon he will tend to somatotonic temperament i.e., he is fond of muscular activity; he tends to be highly  aggressive, and self-assertive. He can run faster, smile brighter, and beats alone the other two ‘morphs’ together.

Ectomorph. The final category of people according to Sheldon’s classification is the ectomophs. These people are thin, long and poorly developed physically. Though physically weak, he leads the league in the intellectual department. His temperament is Cerebrotonic i.e excessive inhibition, restraint, and avoidance of social contacts etc., He is labeled as absent -minded, shy, but brilliant university professor stereotype. 

Trait Theories

Another useful way of looking at and understanding the structure of human personality is by considering the traits he possesses. A personality trait can be defined as “an enduring attribute of a person that appears constantly in a variety of situations”. The trait theory makes certain fundamental assumptions:

  1. Traits distinguish one personality from another.
  2. Individuals can be described in terms of construction of traits such as affiliation, achievement, anxiety, aggression and dependency.
  3. Traits can be quantifiable and do not defy measurement.
  4. Traits and the amount of each trait that a person has is assumed to be stable fairly, and the differences in personality and behavior between two individuals is assumed to be the result of differences in the amount of each that each person has.

Trait theory is, in fact, an extension of type theory. It is rather a multiple model of type theory. Instead of trying to sort people into types, trait theories assume that an individual’s personality can be described in terms of traits. A trait is any characteristic in which one individual differs from another in relatively permanent and consistent way.

We frequently use such terms as friendly, cautious, excitable, aggressive, kind, hardhearted and anxious etc. All these are “trait terms’. Normally people abstract these from their behaviors.

Thousands of words in English language refer to the characteristics of behavior of traits. But the fundamental question is how to reduce them to a small number of meaningful traits? One useful approach is the factor-analysis. It is a complex statistical technique for reducing a large number of personality traits into a small number of independent traits or dimensions. This technique has the advantage of reducing several hundred test responses. For example, Norman provides the different descriptive objective pairs of words for the same kind of trait. 

Evaluation of Trait Theories

When compared to type theories, trait theories have some sense. Instead of making unrealistic attempt to place personalities into discrete, discontinuous categories, trait theories give recognition to continuity of personalities. But the trait theories suffer from the following limitations:

  1. Traits may be too abstract. For example, the scale of ‘measuring’ ‘anxiety’ may be abstract.
  2. Traits approach focuses on isolated traits without specifying how these traits are more important and how they are related to other traits of an individual, it is not possible to make adequate description of an individual’s personality. For instance an individual who scores high on measure compulsiveness” may engage in useless repetitive rituals, thereby interfering with the expression of other traits or show dogged determination to stay with a productive task, thus capturing advantage of other personality traits also.
  3. Another fundamental problem (or drawback of trait theories is that they are essentially descriptive rather than analytical).

Social Learning Theory

As against the trait theory that assumes the personality to be consistent so that a person can be characterized according to the enduring trait, social learning theory considers the situation as an important determinant of behavior. In nut shell an individual’s actions in a given situation depend on the specific characteristics of the situation, individual’s appraisal of the situation, and post reinforcement to behavior in somewhat similar situations. When the situations they encounter are relatively stable, individual’s behavior will be more or less consistent.

The main focus of social learning approach is on the patterns of behavior the individuals learning coping with environment. Some behavior patterns are learned or acquired through direct experience. Responses can also be acquired or learned without direct reinforcement. For instance, people make use of complex symbolic processes to code and store these observations in memory, and learn by observing the actions of others and by noting the consequences of these actions. Thus, social learning theorists believe that reinforcement is not necessary for learning but they accept the view that reinforcement facilitates learning by focusing attention. According to social learning school, much of human learning is vicarious or observational.

Reinforcement, though not necessary for learning, is very crucial for the performance of learned behavior. The notable assumption of social learning theory in this connection is that people behave in ways likely to produce reinforcement. An individual’s repertoire of learned behaviors is extensive; the particular action chosen for specific situation depends on the expected outcome. The reinforcement that controls the expression of learned behavior may be (i) direct, (ii) vicarious, or (iii) self-administered.

  1. Direct. It refers to the social approval or disapproval or alleviation of aversive conditions, and other tangible rewards.
  2. Vicarious. It refers to observation of someone else receiving reward of punishment for similar behavior.
  3. Self-administered. It refers to evaluation of one’s own performance with self-praise or reproach.

Of all these, self-administered reinforcement theory plays a vital role in social learning theory.

Evaluation of Social Learning Theory

Through its emphasis on precision in the determination of environmental variables that elicit specific behaviors, social learning theory has made a significant contribution to personality theory. It enables us to look more clearly at human actions as reactions to specific conditions or circumstances rather than merely symbolic manifestations of internal and unconscious forces. But social learning theory has been criticized on two solid grounds;

  1. It overemphasizes the importance of situational factors in behavior and neglected the individual differences.
  2. The experimental methods used by social learning theorists are particularly sensitive to the impact of situational variables and are apt to emphasize change in behavior.

But scientists cannot ignore the hard fact that the way the person perceives the situations is the most important “factor in determining behavior. 

Self Theory

The intrapsychic, physiognomy and trait theories represent the traditional approaches to understanding the complex human personality. Of many contemporary theories the one that has received the most recent emphasis is the self-theory of personality. Self theory rejects both psychoanalytic and behaviorist conceptions of human nature as too mechanistic portraying people as creatures helplessly buffeted about by internal instincts or external stimuli. Carl Rogers is most closely associated with this approach of self-theory Rogers and his associates have developed this personality theory that places emphasis on the individual as an initiating, creating, influential determinant of behavior within the environmental framework. According to Rogers there are three basic ingredients of personality the organism, the phenomenal field, and the self.

8. Evaluation of the Self Theory

Self- concept is the result of one’s perceptual process. It is a cognitive factor and maintained through thinking – related activities. The self-theory is appreciated on the ground that it is organized around the concept of self. It is the one in which personality and behavior are largely determined by the individual whereas, in other theories, the individual is the only medium through which behavior is elicited after having been acted on by elements over which he has no control.

Another positive point in favor of self theory is that the ‘best vantage point for understanding is from the internal frame of reference of the individual himself. To Rogers the individual is the centre of experience. To understand one’s behavior one should understand how that person views about himself.

In analyzing organizational behavior, it would be beneficial for the manager to understand the self-concept because this unique concept influences the way he should apply various reinforcement motivation and leadership techniques in the process of maintaining these required amount of output. For instance, monetary rewards for performance, authoritarian leadership style and motivational strategies when applied to an intelligent, independent, confident, worker may be ineffective. These techniques may prove to be effective when may be ineffective. These techniques may prove to be effective when are applied to the unintelligent, insecure, indecisive workers.

The self theory focuses on the person’s would as he perceives it. It is the individual’s perception and interpretation of the experiences that determine behavior. But the trouble with the self-theory is that it vaguely defines the terms such as selfactualization, self concepts etc., and such vague concepts will not be of much value in making precise predictions of behavior of individuals. Of several other troubling criticisms are the accurate measurements of subjective experiences and the revealing of self.