Personality And Employee Behaviour

The author through this essay would be elaborating on the relationship between the personality of an individual with that of the various factors which determine the employee behaviour in an organizational setting. For this purpose the essay first talks about both organizational behaviour and personality in brief and moves onto discussing the various theories relating to personality (Big Five Factor Model and Myers Briggers Type Indicator) along with the criticism that they have undergone over the years. The author would then be linking various employee behaviour with that of the personality of an individual and based on the research done by various authors and in the end would be presenting managerial implications which would be beneficial for the well-being of an organization.

Keywords: Organizational Citizenship Behaviour Personality, Big Five Factor Model, Myers Briggs Type Indicator, job attitude, job motivation.

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In the span of the last two decades, organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB) has been the foremost topic researchers have studied (Allen and Rush, 1998; MacKenzie, Podsakoff, and Fetter, 1991; Organ, 1997). Many researchers have pursued the study of OCBs on the notion that OCBs helps boost organizational effectiveness (Organ, D. 1988; Podsakoff and Mackenzie, 1994, 1997; Walz and Niehoff, 1996). This notion was a clear part of Organ’s (1988) definition of OCB. According to Organ, D. (1988) Organizational Citizenship Behaviour was defined as,

“Individual behaviour that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system and that in the aggregate promotes effective functioning of the organization”.

Singh, A. and Singh, A., (2009). ‘Does Personality Predict Organisational Citizenship Behaviour among Managerial Personnel’. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 291-298.

An examination of past studies has identified organizational citizenship behaviour as a significant aspect of job performance (Motowidlo and Van Scotter, 1994; Motowidlo, Borman, and Van Scotter, 1997). It discusses behaviours that pro­mote the changing nature of the organizational and social network and psycho­logical climate that surrounds the technical tasks (Gan, Y. and Cheung, F., 2010). These behaviours encompass help and cooperation with others and persistent enthusiasm. Organiza­tional citizenship behaviour could be split into two parts namely, job dedication and interpersonal facilitation (Van Scotter and Motowidlo, 1996). Job dedication includes conforming, disciplining, and motivating behaviours that promote the organization’s best interest. Interpersonal facili­tation refers to a series of interpersonal behaviours to help maintain the or­ganization’s interpersonal environment, such as inclined to help co-workers/participation in teamwork and cooperation. (Van Scotter and Motowidlo, 1996)

(Gan, Y. and Cheung, F., (2010). ‘From proactive personality to organizational citizenship behaviour: Mediating role of Harmony’. Psychological Reports, Vol. 106, No. 3, pp. 755-765)

The five-factor model of personality (FFM) or “big five” has led research in the field of personality in the past two decades, and has provided a significant degree of convergence in the trait factor analytic psychology (Robertson and Callinan, 1998). The five factors categorised as neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness (Costa and McCrae, 1992). Clear measurement frameworks have been provided by these factors to personality psychology and are responsible for the revival of interest in personality in organizational psychology (Singh, A. and Singh, A., 2009).

In the early 1990s, new prospects for research in the field of Organiza­tional citizenship behaviour were brought about by the emergence of Big-Five in the field of personality. Researchers and practicing managers can gain the most valuable explanation of organizational citizenship behaviours through an employee’s individual disposition (Organ, D. 1990). Through their work, researchers have investigated the predisposition and Organiza­tional citizenship behaviour relationship (Organ, 1990; Organ, 1994).

Singh, A. and Singh, A., (2009). ‘Does Personality Predict Organisational Citizenship Behaviour among Managerial Personnel’. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 291-298.

Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB)

Organ (1988, p. 4) defined OCB as “the individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and that in the aggregate promotes the effective functioning of the organization”. By discretionary, Organ (1988, p. 4) described OCB as the type of behavior that is not a part of the job description, but “rather a matter of personal choice, such that its omission is not generally understood as punishable”.

Most of the studies examining the structure of OCB have agreed that it is a multidimensional concept (e.g. Graham1989; Moorman and Blakely, 1995; Organ, 1988; Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Moorman, and Fetter, 1990). Graham (1989), for example, proposed a four-dimension model of OCB consisting of: interpersonal helping, individual initiative, personal industry, and loyal boosterism. Interpersonal helping involves helping co-workers in their jobs when such help is needed. Individual initiative is communicating to others in the work place to improve individual and group performance. Personal industry includes the performance of specific tasks above and beyond the call of duty. Finally, loyal boosterism involves the promotion of the organizational image to outsiders (Moorman and Blakely, 1995).

(Gan, Y. and Cheung, F., (2010). ‘From proactive personality to organizational citizenship behaviour: Mediating role of Harmony’. Psychological Reports, Vol. 106, No. 3, pp. 755-765)

Proactive Personality and Organizational Citizenship Behaviour

In recent years proactive personality has captured the attention of researchers among personality predictors of organizational citizenship behaviour. The notion of proactive personality as a stable disposition was introduced after the proactive components of organizational behaviour were explored (Bateman, T. and Crant, J., 1993). The belief of being able to create and change the environment and actually taking an initiative in doing so, is a characteristic people bearing strong proactive personalities have. By negotiating selecting, improvising, ma­nipulating, and evoking the environment, proactive individ­uals are able to influence their environments (Buss, D., 1987 as cited by Gan, Y. and Cheung, F., 2010).

Proactive personality and organizational citizenship behaviour are closely related to each other. As cited by Gan, Y. and Cheung, F., (2010) this relationship was tested by Crant, J. (1995) with a sample of real estate salespersons. When work social desirability, experience, and factors of personality like extraversion and conscientiousness were controlled, an additional 8% variance in job perfor­mance was accounted for, due to proactive personality.

Hierarchical regression results in the same research indicated that proactive personality accounted for more variance than Big Five personality factors. Therefore, it was suggested that this personality variable had the strongest positive predictive value for job performance, especially organizational citizenship behaviour (Thompson, 2005).

(Gan, Y. and Cheung, F., (2010). ‘From proactive personality to organizational citizenship behaviour: Mediating role of Harmony’. Psychological Reports, Vol. 106, No. 3, pp. 755-765)

Contexts as Moderators in Organizational Behaviour Research

The concept of proactive personality was proposed Bateman, T. and Crant, J. (1993). During their research observed that the predictive value of proactive person­ality might differ in ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ contexts. Johns, G. (2006, p. 387) defined contexts as,

“Situations [that] vary in their capacity to abet or constrain human agency. The expression of individual differences tends to get constrained due to perceived strong situations with obvious norms and rigid roles. For the expression of such differences, weak situations permit more opportunity or latitude.”

Social structure is a classification of discrete context, in which behaviour may be influenced directly by specific situational variables or it may moderate relationships between variables. While western cultural contexts are more similar to weak contexts, Asian cultures may represent strong contexts (Mowday and Sutton, 1993 as cited by Gan, Y. and Cheung, F., 2010).

The predictive value of proac­tive personality for organizational citizenship behavior might be stron­ger, under weak contexts, (Gan, Y. and Cheung, F., 2010). For example, a review of some studies showed that (Shang, J. and Gan, Y. (2009) and Chan, D. (2006) consisted samples from Asian cultures, a type of strong context while on the other hand, western studies show that their samples mostly worked in the sales industry, a typically weak context. Thus the general association of proactive personality and behaviour may not be sig­nificant, in this context. Thus, in such cases moderators or a context have significant prominence. Although proactive personality is superficially encouraged in organizations, human resources practitioners note the other side of the coin: proactivity refers to neglecting or violating rules and disciplines and implies the intention to change the current environment. Thus, a new idea being put into practice or proposed may threaten or pose a disturbance to an organization (Jiang, L., 2007 as cited by Gan, Y. and Cheung, F., 2010).

He further claimed that employees’ confor­mity and altruism is the bridge from proactivity to organizational citizenship behaviour. In the event of this idea being translated into a research hypothesis, it would be theorized that personality traits moderate the relation of proactive personality and organizational citizenship behaviour.

(Gan, Y. and Cheung, F., (2010). ‘From proactive personality to organizational citizenship behaviour: Mediating role of Harmony’. Psychological Reports, Vol. 106, No. 3, pp. 755-765)

The Big Five Personality Model

Personality has been examined from a variety of theoretical perspective and in the past researchers in the field of personality assessment had to face a wide array of scales with little guidance. One staring place for a shared taxonomy is the natural language of personality description. This work began with the extraction of all personality relevant from the dictionary and guiding them with lexical hypothesis. After such extractions took place in various languages Allport and Odbert (1936) (as cited in Pervin, L., and John, O., 1999, pp. 103) conducted a seminal lexical study of the personality relevant terms in English that could be used to distinguish the behaviour of one person from the other.

Using both semantic and empirical clustering procedures as well as his own reviews of the personological literature available at that time, Citadell reduced the 4500 traits to a mere 35 variables. What personality psychology needed was a descriptive model or taxonomy which would permit researchers to study specified areas rather than examining various domains of personality. After decades of research the field approached consensus on a general taxonomy of personality traits, the Big Five personality dimensions. (Pervin, L., and John, O., 1999). These factors are typically labelled as:

Extraversion or Surgency (talkative, assertive, energetic)

Agreeableness (good natured, cooperative, trustful)

Conscientiousness (orderly, responsible, dependable)

Emotional Stability versus Neuroticism (calm, not neurotic, not easily upset)

Intellect or Openness (intellectual, imaginative, independent-minded)

The Big Five personality model provided a starting point for vigorous research in-order to explicate the taxonomy in various dimensions. Hofstee, Kliers, Raad, Golberg, and Ostendorf (1997) compared the big five factor structures of personality traits across various languages and found out that the Big Five factors recur across languages in a relative but not in a strict sense. Trull and Geary (1997) also compared the Big Five structure across American and Chinese samples and found that the scores of the construct were not significantly different which is in line with the research of Yik and Bond (1993). Borkenau and Ostendorf (1998) found out that five factor model ignores the strength of individual behaviour and is not wedded to the trait approach.

Saucier and Goldberg (1998) suggested that future research needs to be done to supplement the Big Five to extend variable selection outside those personality traits which have been conventionally defined and opened a new dimension for future research. Digman (1997) found two higher order factors in the Big Five which he termed as alpha and beta linking alpha with socialization and beta with personal growth while DeYoung (2006) termed these as stability (alpha) and Plasticity (beta).

Critics have argued that the Big Five does not provide a complete theory of personality. The Big Five was never intended as a comprehensive personality theory and was developed to account for structural relations among personality traits. Thus like most structural models it provides an account of personality that is primarily descriptive rather than explanatory (Pervin, L., and John, O., 1999).

McAdams (1992) highlighted six important limitations of FFM and stated that it can only be viewed as one important model in personality but not the integrative model of personality. The use of factor analysis as a methodology has also come under the scanner and has been found that findings through this methodology have been less than adequate as statistical procedures are mechanical truth generators while psychological results require a psychological interpretation (Block, 1995).

A frequent objection has also been that five dimensions cannot possibly capture all of the variations in human personality owing to which Rushton and Irwing (2008) found that General Factor Personality (GFP) occupies the apex of the hierarchical structure of personality followed by Big Two factors of Alpha (Emotional Stability, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness) and Beta (Extraversion, Openness) with the Big Five at the third level.

In order to make FFM an integrative personality Denissen and Penke (2008) conceptualized the Five Factor Model as stable individual differences in people’s motivational reactions to circumscribed classes of environmental stimuli resulting in a theoretical framework which would bridge the traditional divide between structure and process oriented approaches in-order for FFM to truly become a scientific model of personality. Thus research in diverse areas such as behaviour genetics, molecular genetics, personality stability change and accuracy and bias in interpersonal perception will be instrumental in building and refining a comprehensive theoretical account of the Big Five (Pervin, L., and John, O., 1999).

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The MBTI is based on the theories of psychologist Carl Jung and helps in measuring an individual’s personality preferences over four dimensions and is often used by psychologists in career counselling and group dynamics analysis (Ludford and Terveen, 2003) The four dimensions are outlined as follows (Robbins, S., Judge, T. and Sanghi, S., 2009):

Extraversion / Introversion: Extrovert individuals are outgoing, sociable and assertive while introverts are quiet and shy

Sensing / Intuition: Sensing types are practical and prefer routine and order while intuitive rely on unconscious processes.

Thinking / Feeling: Thinking types use reason and logic to handle problems whereas feelings rely on their personal values and emotions.

Judging / Perceiving: Judging types want control and prefer their world to be ordered and structured while perceiving types are flexible and spontaneous.

These classifications together describe 16 personality types. The MBTI is widely practiced by organizations including Apple Computers, AT&T, Citigroup, GE, Tata Motors and many hospitals and educational institutions and even defence services (Robbins, S., Judge, T. and Sanghi, S., 2009). MBTI is a tool that can be used to achieve effective communication with other people by knowing their preferences and then communicate in a way they understand. In spite of the popularity of MBTI as a personality assessment model, it has had its share of criticism. MBTI based on Jungians model does not offer any scientific, experimental proof to support the existence, sequence, orientation or manifestation of these functions. As the accuracy of the MBTI depends on honesty of the person being tested and MBTI not using any scale to assess the exaggerated or socially desirable responses is susceptible to fake responses (Furnham, A., 1990). It is also criticised for forcing a person into either one type or another with no in between types available. The best that can be said is that MBTI can be a valuable tool for increasing self-awareness and providing career guidance but as results are unrelated to job performance manager’s shouldn’t use it as a selection test for job candidates (Robbins, S., Judge, T. and Sanghi, S., 2009).

Linking Personality with Determinants of Employee Behaviour

The author would now elaborate on the research that has been done on personality and how it affects the employee behaviour in an organization. Personality forms the most important factor in an individual’s behaviour and is complex to understand individuals as a whole. Individuals should be considered as a aˆzclosed boxaˆY and in-order to benefit from humans in an efficient and productive way, human resource managers should try to understand the personalities of their employees (Aksu et. al., 2009). In an organization when self-managed work groups are formed the most important question that is asked is on what basis should employees be selected, Thoms, P., Moore, K. and Scott, K., (1996) found that traits like Neuroticism, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness were significantly related to self-efficacy for participating in self-managed work groups.

By examining the link of Big Five personality traits with the ability to show self-control moderated the anger-aggression link it was found that conscientiousness was negatively related with anger and moderated the link between anger and aggression whereas agreeableness was positively related with anger only when the levels of Conscientiousness was low. (Campbell, et. al. 2007) and different people of personality traits showed different types of interpersonal stress coping responses. In extreme cases where these conflicts result to loneliness it has been found that loneliness is negatively impacted by Extraversion and Agreeableness while high levels of Neuroticism can lead to loneliness (Atak, H., 2009).

Transformational leadership in an organization has the potential of motivating the employees and establishing high rates of job performance and it has been found that leaders associated a transformational leadership with being extraverted, intuitive and perceiving preferences while subordinates associate rate sensing preference with transformational leadership (Hautala, T., 2006). During new product development (NPD) in an organization it has been found that leader openness has a significant direct as well as indirect influence on NPD project performance through teamwork under high uncertainty but not under low uncertainty conditions. In-order for an organization to achieve success it is very critical to have motivated employees and when the link of personality and motivation was analysed it was found that extraverts reported to being attracted to Herzberg motivation factors in workplace and neuroticism rated importance of hygiene factors (Furnham, A., Forde, L. and Ferrari, K., 1999).

Job performance is an important criterion for an organizational setup and organizations have always been on the lookout for measures which can enhance the job performance of its employees. Barrick, M. and Mount, M. (1991) which was the most cited article of 1990s, investigated the relationship between big five personality dimensions with job performance criteria for various occupational groups and also stated that the framework can be extended to various subfields of personnel psychology such as personnel selection, performance appraisal and training and development.

Wang, M. and Erdheim, J. (2007) stated that extraversion was significantly related to learning goal orientation and proving goal orientation while Neuroticism was marginally related to proving goal orientation and significantly related to avoiding goal orientation. Their results further confirm that personality has a significant impact on performance motivation (Barrick, M. and Mount, M., 1991) and clarify the personality performance relation.

Sawyerr, O., Srinivas, S. and Wang, S. (2009) in the service context found that there is a negative relationship between openness to new experience and service performance leading to lower ratings by their supervisors, with no other personality variable having a significant relationship with service performance. They also stated that Conscientiousness and internal LOC were negatively associated and agreeableness and emotional stability were positively related with absenteeism. They also found a positive association between internal LOC as well as openness to new experience to turnover and a negative association with emotional stability and intent to turnover.

Along with the personality and job performance relationship another relationship which holds a lot of importance for the organizations is the personality-job attitude relationship. Burnett, M., Williamson, I. and Bartol, K. (2009) established that conscientiousness and extraversion can be an important moderator of the interactive effect of procedural fairness and outcome favourability on job attitude. Bernard, N., Dollinger S. and Ramaniah, N. (2002) stated that the imposter phenomenon was related to people with high Neuroticism and low Conscientiousness in an organization.

Erdheim, J., Wang, M. and Zickar, M. (2006) explored the linkages between the personality factors and organizational commitment and stated that Extraversion was significantly related to affective commitment, continuance commitment, and normative commitment; neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness to experience were all significantly related to continuance commitment and agreeableness was significantly related to normative commitment.

It has also been found that and Over-commitment and depressive symptoms were associated with high levels of neuroticism and effort reward imbalance (Vearing, A. and Mak, A., 2007).

Personality of an individual also relates to the tendency of choosing a certain career strategy and has been found that more extroverted individuals utilized a host of career management strategies than their more introverted intended counterparts and also found that conflict frequency is negatively related to individual well-being especially when individuals are low in agreeableness, extraversion or emotional stability.

Thus we see that personality has been a hot topic for research amongst the researchers and there has been an extensive study on how personality affects an employee’s behaviour in an organizational setting but due to the word limit as well as accessibility constraint the author would have not been able to include all the factors which are affected by personality.

Managerial Implications

On the basis of the theoretical framework stated above, the author would like to suggest various strategies which followed in-order can be adopted and applied in organizations to overcome the negative implications of personality on the various factors of employee behaviour in an organizational context.

Traits of a particular culture should be looked at as advantages by managers especially in the hospitality industry and they should tap this potential in an appropriate manner to gain a competitive edge. Organizations can achieve this goal by aligning their actions with the selection of appropriate people, compliant with company image, tourism sector realities, and customer needs and expectations and in turn benefit from the personality test. (Aksu, et. al., 2009)

In advance of the decision whether to have self-managed work groups, organizations should focus on the personality of individuals before selecting candidates to work on this type of structure. (Thoms, P., Moore, K. and Scott, K., 1996).

Managers need to be very critical while providing a negative feedback as people with lower conscientiousness would not be able to regulate their anger and choose to aversive drink choice and people with higher agreeableness may be more sensitive to destructive interpersonal tactics and express more anger but would be able to control that anger and choose to more socially acceptable responses (Campbell, et. al. 2007).

Managers should be vigilant and identify neuroticism at early stage among employees and help people refrain from entering a lonely state and thus saving them from taking a drastic step. (Atak, H., 2009).

Among organizations with differences in the work related factors in which different people seek out and value them, it would be very helpful to pay attention to trait variables in selection to ensure better person environment fit. An apt way for organizations to deal with different groups of people is employing diverse performance schemes for them. To achieve the highest level of performance from individuals, motivators must encourage the extrovert with potential rewards and prompt the introvert with judicial use of punitive threat (Furnham, A., Forde, L. and Ferrari, K., 1999).

By implementing the process of assessing leaders from the self-rating as well as subordinates’ perspective, it would help enhance the mutual understanding of a leader-subordinate relationship which would also assist the leaders to be realistic when rating themselves, thus benefiting organisations. (Hautala, T., 2006).

Organizations by examining the relationship between personality with service performance, absenteeism and turnover would be able to develop recruitment and selection strategies, work redesign programs and training that would ultimately benefit the organization by reducing employee costs and enhancing their wellbeing (Sawyerr, O., Srinivas, S. and Wang, S., 2009).

Traits like extraversion and neuroticism are the strongest predictors of goal orientation. Rather than focusing on choosing only conscientiousness, organizations should employ selection methods that measure these traits too. In order to induce work motivation and attain high levels of goal orientation, organizations should focus on post entry work experiences and should also adopt selection procedures based on personality measures (Wang, M. and Erdheim, J., 2007).

Organizations can greatly reduce the turnover rate of employees and improve the working conditions by linking what the employees are looking forward to in an organization (Burnett, M., Williamson, I. and Bartol, K., 2009)

In an organisation, as managers have the onus of identifying imposter phenomenon in the employees, it is important for them to identify such traits in the earlier stages. By focusing on depression and anxiety problems with employees and also working on their lack of self-discipline, managers should assist employees providing them the right kind of treatment (Bernard, N., Dollinger S. and Ramaniah, N., 2002)

Organizations can effectively deal with employees experiencing elevated risk for being depressed by providing stress prevention and management programs, by investing in increasing supervisor and co-worker support, by using social activities to increase co-worker support and should also focus on decreasing extrinsic efforts and increasing rewards (Vearing, A. and Mak, A., 2007).


It is evident from the above discussion that progress has been made in the field of personality psychology in terms of advancement of research methodologies and techniques of data analysis as well as in awareness of the range of variables that need to be considered to understand complex personality functioning. Over the years, research in the field of personality has evolved and an increasing number of researchers in an effort to generalize and increase the practical applicability of these personality theories are challenging the past theories.

With the advent of globalisation and organizations interacting with culturally diverse populace, the traditional approaches which were used by organizations to manage any problem are out-dated in today’s dynamic work culture. It is thus necessary for organizations to recognise the fact that in-order to keep abreast with competition and achieve customer satisfaction; their primary objectives should encompass gratifying their employee’s and this journey begins with the interpretation of their personalities and using in an ethical way for the betterment of the organization. With a vast amount of research being undertaken on personality and wide range of variables being interpreted to understand the complexities of the personality domain, it is obligatory on the part of organizations to keep themselves updated so as to facilitate their employees to serve customers better.

Thus organizations need to place high level of importance on understanding the personality of its employees as personality impacts variables such as employee behaviour, job performance, job attitude, motivation etc. which are the vital functions from an organizational perspective and all these variables directly or indirectly affect the bottom-line of the organization.

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