Personality : Nature And its Theories

Personality: Nature And its Theories

In organizations, does personality matter? Ask that question of anybody who has spent any time in organizations or teams, and, intuitively, most will respond in the affirmative. Frequently, people will be more than willing to cite examples of how personalities have affected team performances or how personalities made life in an organization unbearable (or, an enjoyable experience). Personalities, in a study of organizational behavior, do matter.
A unique set of traits and characteristics, relatively stable over time. Clearly, personality is unique insofar as each of us has our own personality, different from any other people. The definition further suggests that personality does not change from day to day. Over the short-term, our personalities are relatively set or stable. However, the definition does not suggest that personality is somehow rigid, unchangeable, and cast in concrete. Definition recognizes that, over a longer term, personality may change.
To examine whether this change is indeed consistent with most people’s  reality, we ought to examine ―where personality comes from; what are the origins of personality?

The Origins of Personality: The Nature-nurture Debate

For psychologists studying the development of Personality, nature vs. nurture was a central debate. Nature vs. nurture suggests that biology (a person‘s genes) and society (the environment in which a person grows up) are competing for developmental forces. In the past, the debate sought to find whether one may be more important than the other. Today most psychologists would concede both nature and nurture are necessary for personality development. Both help to make us who we are.

Determinants of Personality

Several factors influence the shaping of our personality. Major among these are
  1. Heredity,
  1. Culture,
  1. Family Background,
  1. Our Experiences through Life,
  2. And The People we interact with.


There are some genetic factors that play a part in determining certain aspects of what we tend to become. Whether we are tall or short, experience good health or ill health, are quickly irritable or patient, are all characteristics which can, in many cases, be traced to heredity. How we learn to handle others‘ reactions to us (eg. our appearance) and the inherited traits can also influence how our personality is shaped.


The culture and the values we are surrounded by significantly tend to shape our personal values and inclination. Thus, people born in different cultures tend to develop different types of personalities which in turn significantly influence their behaviors. India being a vast country with a rich diversity of cultural background provides a good study on this. For example, we have seen that people in Gujarat are more enterprising than people from other states, Punjabis are more diligent and hardworking, people from Bengal are more creative and with an intellectual bend and the likes.

Family Background

The socio-economic status of the family, the number of children in the family and birth order, and the background and education of the parents and extended members of the family such as uncles and aunts, influence the shaping of personality to a considerable extent.
Firstborns usually have different experiences, during childhood than those born later; Members in the family mould the character of all children, almost from birth, in several ways -by expressing and expecting their children to conform to their own values, through role modeling, and through various reinforcement strategies such as rewards and punishments which are judiciously dispensed. Think of how your own personality has been shaped by your family background and parental or sibling influences!

 Experiences in Life

Whether one trusts or mistrusts others, is miserly or generous, have a high or low self-esteem and the like, is at least partially related to the past experiences the individual has had. Imagine if someone came to you and pleaded with you to lend him Rs. 100 which he 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 that 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 molded by frequently occurring positive or negative experiences in life.

People We Interact With

A Person is known by the company he or she keeps‖ is a common adage. The implication is that people persuade each other and tends to associate with members who are more like them in their attitudes and values. Beginning childhood, the people we interact with influence us. Primarily our, parents and siblings, then our teachers and classmates, later our friends and colleagues, and so on. The influence of these various individuals and groups shapes our personality. For. Instance, if we are to be accepted as members of our work group, we have to conform to the values of that group which mayor may not always be palatable to us; if we don‘t, we will not be treated as valued members of the group. Our desire to be a part of the group and belong to it as its member, will compel many of us to change certain aspects of our personality (for instance, we may have to become less aggressive, more cooperative, etc.). Thus, our personality becomes shaped throughout our lives by at least some of the people and groups we interact with.
In summary, our personality is a function of both heredity and other external factors that shape it. It is important to know what specific personality predispositions influence work behaviors.

Personality Theories

Traits Theory:

The traditional approach of understanding personality was to identify and describe personality in terms of traits. In other words, it viewed personality as revolving around attempts to identify and label permanent characteristics that describe an individual’s behavior.
Popular characteristics or traits include shyness, aggressiveness, submissiveness, laziness, ambition, loyalty, and timidity. This distinctiveness, when they are exhibited in a large number of situations, are called personality traits. The more consistent the characteristic and the more frequently it occurs in diverse situations, the more important that trait is in describing the individual.


Measures of Personality

Can Personality be Measured?

If we wish to measure the current in a electric circuit, we can insert an ammeter into the circuit. If we wish to measure the weight of some substance, we simply place that substance on scales designed to measure weight. What about personality?
Unfortunately, we cannot directly ―measure‖ personality. But if we cannot directly observe the seemingly unconscious, how do we know it exists?
The answer to the question lies in the fact that we can, in fact, directly observe behaviors. As students of human behavior, we are then left to infer personality from the behaviors it manifests. Psychologists thus use behavioral indicators in constructing projective tests. These tests are designed to draw conclusions about personality from observed behaviors.
There are various standard tests and scales available to measure personality. In the following section we will be describing a few of these.

Thematic Apperception Test (TAT):

It is a projective test that offers more validity. The TAT consists of drawings or photographs of real-life situations. People taking the test are instructed to construct stories based on these images, and trained raters then score the recorded story for predefined themes. Psychologists assume that the stories people tell reflect the unconscious.Myers-Briggs Types Indicator (MBTI) was originally developed by a mother & daughter team which have the following components.

INTJs are Visionaries

 They usually have original minds and great drive for their own ideas and purposes. They are characterized as skeptical, critical, independent, determined, and often stubborn.

ESTJs are Organizers

They are realistic, logical, analytical, decisive, and have a natural head for business or mechanics.
They like to organize and run activities.

The ENTP Type is Conceptualize

He or she is pioneering, individualistic, versatile, and attracted to entrepreneurial ideas. This person tends to be resourceful in solving challenging problems but may neglect routine assign-ments. A recent book that profiled 13 contemporary businesspeople who created super successful firms including Apple Computer, Federal Express, Honda Motors, Microsoft and Sony found that all 13 are intuitive thinkers (NTS).lZ
This result is predominantly interesting because intuitive thinkers represent only about 5 percent of the population.
More than 2 million people a year take the MBTI in the United States alone. Organizations using the MBTI include Apple Computer, AT&T, Citicorp, Exxon, GE, 3M Co., plus many hospitals, educational institutions, and even the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Big Five Model

MBTI may be deficient in valid supporting evidence, but that can‘t be said for the five-factor model of personality ‗more typically called the Big Five.
In contemporary, an impressive body of research supports that five basic dimensions. motivate all others and encompass most of the significant variation in human personality .

The Big Five factors are:

  • Extra-versionThis dimension captures one‘s comfort level with relation ships. Extraverts tend to be gregarious, assertive, and sociable. Introverts tend to be reserved, timid, and quiet.
  • Agreeableness: This dimension refers to an individual‘s tendency to defer to others. Highly agreeable people are cooperative, affectionate, and trusting. People who score low on agreeableness are cold, disagreeable, and antagonistic.  Conscientiousness. This dimension is a measure of reliability. A highly conscientious person is responsible, organized, dependable, and persistent. Those who score low on this dimension are easily distracted, disorganized, and unreliable.
  • Emotional stability: This dimension taps a person‘s ability to bear up stress. People with positive emotional stability tend to be calm, self-confident, and secure. Those with highly negative scores tend to be nervous, anxious, Depressed, and insecure.
  • Openness to experience: The final dimension addresses an individual‘s range of interests and fascination with novelty. Extremely open people are creative, curious, and artistically sensitive. Those at the other end of the open-ness category are conventional and find comfort in the familiar.