Personality, Theories, and Determinants.

What is personality?

The word personality comes from the Latin root persona, meaning “mask.”

According to this root, personality is the impression we make on others; the mask we present to the world.

Gordon Allport coined the most frequent used definition:
Personality—“the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment”

According to Floyd.L.Ruch,”Personality should include :
1. External appearances and behaviour of social stimulus values
2. Inner awareness of self as a permanent organising force ; and
3. The particular pattern of organisation of measurable traits, both inner and outer

Characterstics of Personality:

1. Personality is something which is unique in each individual

2. Personality refers particularly to persistent qualities of an individual

3. Personality represents a dynamic orientation of organism to environment

4. Personality is greatly influenced by social interactions

5. Personality is a dynamic concept describing the growth and development of a person’s
whole psychological system–it looks at some aggregate whole that is greater than the sum
of the parts.

6. Personality represents a unique organisation of persistent dynamic and social

7. Every personality is unique.

8. Personality is acquired.

Importance of Personality in an Organisation?

Personality is a key element in an organisation as it defines what the culture will be like, what the attitudes and behaviours are and in turn the success of the company.

When hiring a person their personality needs to fit in with the rest of the company so that the culture which has been created, can be kept the same and a company can continue striving for results. Although in most cases this is true, personality can also be important when a company needs a change in direction, as a new personality, say in the CEO position of a business, can dramatically alter the way the company works and therefore how well the company does in terms of revenue and profit.

Therefore the Human Resource Management section of a company really needs to figure out a personality before they are hired. This is why a number of questions are asked in terms of motivation, personal development and hobbies, as matching these with what the company already has is the best way of getting the right culture.

Determinants of Personality

Personality is determined by heredity, environment (culture) and situation under which an individual works.


Heredity refers to acquiring from parents certain biological, physical and psychological commonalities.

These factors have a deciding influence on how a person in an organization would display his reactions in a particular situation. In  some organisations, particularly in defence services a detailed screening is carried out of the candidates based on the background of the parents as it relates to physique, psychological make up, disability and transferable disease as it has far reaching impact on the general health of the organization.


Environment refers to norms, ethics and value that are observed and the attitude displayed by the social group.

In childhood, parents, uncles, aunts and even neighbour’s behaviour is copied by a child. It is therefore necessary to display an ideal behaviour on the part of all the adults who come in direct contact with the children. Family moulds character of children through role models re-enforcements, rewards and punishments. It is therefore important to study early conditions under which the child has been brought up, norms followed in the family and the existence of cultural value system in the society. All these factors have a marked influence on the personality of an individual.


Individual has to interact with number of problems in a different situations. Personalities therefore mean how people affect others, how they understand and view themselves, pattern of personality traits and person situation interaction. For example individual modifies his behaviour based on situation.
When an individual goes to temple he would be sober, generally put on plain clothes and bow. When the same individual goes for interview he would be armed with knowledge of the organization.


1.Traits Theory

Traditional approach of understanding personality

Identify and describe personality in terms of traits like shyness, aggressiveness, submissiveness, laziness, ambition, loyalty, and timidity.

The more consistently and frequenty a person displays a particular trait, the more important is that trait in the individual’s personality.

The traits are assumed to be fairly stable and the differences in personality between two individuals is assumed to be a result of differences in traits of persons.

2. Freud Theory

Based on the notion that man is motivated more by unseen forces than by conscious and rational thoughts.

Major force which motivates a human being is his unconscious framework which includes three conflicting psychoanalytic concepts the Id, the ego and the super ego.

(i) The ID: Id is the foundation of the unconscious behaviour and seeks immediate satisfaction of biological or instinctual needs. These needs include sexual pleasure and other biological pleasures. As an individual matures he learns to control the Id, but even then it remains a driving force throughout life.

(ii) The EGO: The ego develops in order to mediate between the unrealistic id and the external real world.The ego considers social realities and norms, etiquette and rules in deciding how to behave. With its logic and intellect, ego controls the Id so that the pleasures unconsciously demanded by the human beings are granted at an appropriate time and place and in an appropriate manner.

(iii) The Super EGO: The superego incorporates the values and morals of society which are learned from one’s parents and others. It is similar to a conscience, which can punish the ego through causing feelings of guilt. The conscious of a person is continuously telling him what is right and what is wrong.


All these three elements are interred related. In order to create a normal personality, there must be a proper balance in the relationship among these forces.

The biggest drawback of this theory is that, it is based upon theoretical concept. It does not give a total picture of behaviour which is emerging from the personality.

3. Chris Argyris’s Immaturity Maturity Theory: 

According to Argyris, human personality progresses along a continuum from immaturity as an infant to maturity as an adult.

A mature person is characterized for being active, independent, self-confident and self-controlled. On the contrary, an immature person is passive, dependant, has lack of confidence and feels need of control by others.

Along the immaturity/maturity continuum, employees must move from:

1. Passivity to activity;

2. Dependence to independence;

3. Few behaviors to many behaviors;

4. Shallow interests to deep interests;

5. Short-term perspective to long-term perspective;

6. Subordination to equality or superiority; and

7. Non self-awareness to self-awareness/self-control.

However, one should keep in mind that seven dimensions represent only one aspect of the total personality. Much also depends upon the individual’s perception, self concept and adaptation and adjustment.

4. Self Theory:

The most important contribution in self theory comes from Carl Rogers. He has defined the self or self concept as an organised, consistent, conceptual gestalt (integrated structure) composed of perceptions of ‘I’ or “Me’.

There are four factors of self concept:

(i) Self Image:

Self image is the way one sees oneself. Every person has certain beliefs about who or what he is, taken together, these beliefs are a person’s self image or identity.

(ii) Ideal Self:

The ideal self denotes the way one would like to be. Thus, self image is the reality whereas ideal self is the perception. There may be a gap between these two images because self image indicates the reality of a person as perceived by him and ideal self indicates the ideal position as perceived by him.

(iii) Looking Glass Self:

Looking glass self is the perception of other’s perception. It is the way one thinks people perceive about him and the way people actually see him.

(iv) Real Self:

The real self is what one really is. The first three aspects of self concept are the perceptions and they may be same or different, as the real self.

Person with a different self concept needs different types of managerial practices.

5. Erikson Stages:

Erikson describes eight developmental stages as we grow from childhood to adulthood and the trauma of resolving certain critical conflicts we face at each of these stages. Till we resolve the particular conflicts of a particular stage, we cannot move to the next stage.

Stage 1: Infancy/Trust Vs. Mistrust: It is the period between 0-1 years of age. In this stage, children learn the ability to trust others depending on their caregivers.

Stage 2: Early Childhood Autonomy Vs. Shame and Doubt: It is the period between 1-3 years of age. In this stage, children learn to be independent. If given support, they become more confident else they become dependent over others.

Stage 3: Play Age/Initiative Vs. Guilt:  It is the period between 3-6 years of age. In this stage, children assert themselves frequently. The failure leads to development of a sense of guilt among them.

Stage 4: School Age/Industry Vs. Inferiority: It is the period between 6 years of age till puberty. In this stage, children become more innovative. They feel confident and want to achieve their goals. If not encouraged they may feel inferior.

Stage 5: Adolescence/Identity Vs Role Diffusion: This stage is a transformation from childhood to adulthood. Here children find their own identity and should be guided and supported in order to help them choose the right direction.

Stage 6: Early Adulthood/Intimacy Vs. Isolation: Here, children begin to open up and become more intimate with others.

Stage 7: Adulthood/Generatively Vs. Stagnation:  In this stage, focus is on establishing career and settling down with relationships that are important.

Stage 8: Mature Adulthood/Ego Integrity Vs Despair: In this stage, a person is old and thus in this stage the productivity slows down.

Managers can play a very important role in identifying the unresolved conflicts and try to help the employees in dealing with them.

6. Freud’s Psychosexual stages of development:

Freud believed that life was built round tension and pleasure. Freud also believed that all tension was due to the build up of libido (sexual energy) and that all pleasure came from its discharge.

According to Freud, children’s pleasure-seeking urges are focused on erogenous areas of the body. There are five stages of development:

Oral Stage (0-1 year): libido is centered in a baby’s mouth. It gets much satisfaction from putting all sorts of things in its mouth to satisfy the libido, and thus its id demands.

Anal Stage (1-3 years): libido now becomes focused on the anus and the child derives great pleasure from defecating. The child is now fully aware that they are a person in their own right and that their wishes can bring them into conflict with the demands of the outside world (i.e. their ego has developed).

Phallic Stage (3 to 5 or 6 years): During this stage,Sensitivity becomes concentrated in the genitals.Preschoolers take pleasure in their genitals and, according to Freud, begin to struggle with sexual desires toward the opposite sex parent (boys to mothers and girls to fathers).

Latency Stage (5 or 6 to puberty): The libido is dormant.  Freud thought that most sexual impulses are repressed during the latent stage and sexual energy can be sublimated (re: defense mechanisms) towards school work, hobbies and friendships.

Genital Stage (puberty to adult):   It is a time of adolescent sexual experimentation, the successful resolution of which is settling down in a loving one-to-one relationship with another person in our 20’s.


Major Personality Attributes

Following are the major personality attributes that influence OB −

Locus of Control

Locus of control is the center of control of an individual’s code of conduct. People can be grouped into two categories i.e., internals and externals respectively.

People who consider themselves as the masters of their own fates are known as internals, while, those who affirm that their lives are controlled by outside forces known as externals.

Before making any decision, internals actively search for information, they are achievement driven, and want to command their environment. Thus, internals do well on jobs that craves complex information processing, taking initiative and independent action.

Externals, on the other hand, are more compliant, more willing to follow instructions, so, they do well in structured, routine jobs.


Machiavellianism is being practical, emotionally distant, and believing that ends justify means.

Machiavellians are always wanting to win and are great persuaders. Here are the significant features of a high-mach individuals −

  • High-Machs prefer precise interactions rather than beating about the bush.
  • High-Machs tend to improvise; they do not necessarily abide by rules and regulations all the time.
  • High-Machs get distracted by emotional details that are irrelevant to the outcome of a project.


It is the extent up to which people either like or dislike themselves. Self-Esteem is directly related to the expectations of success and on-the-job satisfaction.

Individuals with high self-esteem think that they have what it takes to succeed. So, they take more challenges while selecting a job.

On the other hand, individuals with low self-esteem are more susceptible to external distractions. So, they are more likely to seek the approval of others and to adapt the beliefs and behaviors of those they respect.


Self-monitoring is the capability of regulating one’s behavior according to social situations. Individuals with high self-monitoring skill easily adjust their behavior according to external, situational factors. Their impulsive talents allow them to present public personae which are completely different from their private personalities.

However, people with low self-monitoring skills cannot cover themselves. Regardless of any situation, they are always themselves. They have an attitude of, “what you see is what you get.”

Risk taking

Generally, managers are reluctant on taking risks. However, individual risk-taking inclination affects the bulk of information required by the managers and how long it takes them to make decisions.

Thus, it is very important to recognize these differences and align risk-taking propensity with precise job demands that can make sense.


Based on personality, people can be bifurcated in two categories i.e. Type A personality and Type B personality.

Type A

The Type A personality generally lives at a higher stress level. This is driven by

  • They enjoy achievement of goals, with greater enjoyment in achieving of more difficult goals. They are thus constantly working hard to achieve these.
  • They find it difficult to stop, even when they have achieved goals.
  • They feel the pressure of time, constantly working flat out.
  • They are highly competitive and will, if necessary create competition.
  • They hate failure and will work hard to avoid it.
  • They are generally pretty fit and often well-educated (a result of their anxiety).

Type B

The Type B personality generally lives at a lower stress level and are typically:

  • They work steadily, enjoying achievements but not becoming stressed when they are not achieved.
  • When faced with competition, they do not mind losing and either enjoy the game or back down.
  • They may be creative and enjoy exploring ideas and concepts.
  • They are often reflective, thinking about the outer and inner worlds.



If you belong to type A personality, you need to be more cautious as they are more prone to heart diseases as compared to type B individuals. These two personality types are diametrically opposite of each other wherein one dislike failure and work hard to avoid it, while one is not even affected by it.

“Big 5” personality traits:


Many contemporary personality psychologists believe that there are five basic dimensions of personality, often referred to as the “Big 5” personality traits. The five broad personality traits described by the theory are extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism.

1. Extraversion:

Extraversion is characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and high amounts of emotional expressiveness.

People who are high in extroversion are outgoing and tend to gain energy in social situations. People who are low in extroversion (or introverted) tend to be more reserved and have to expend energy in social settings.

2. Agreeableness:

This personality dimension includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection and other prosocial behaviors.

People who are high in agreeableness tend to be more cooperative while those low in this trait tend to be more competitive and even manipulative.

3. Conscientiousness:

Standard features of this dimension include high levels of thoughtfulness, with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors. Those high on conscientiousness tend to be organized and mindful of details.

4. Neuroticism:

Neuroticism is a trait characterized by sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability. Individuals who are high in this trait tend to experience mood swings, anxiety, moodiness, irritability and sadness. Those low in this trait tend to be more stable and emotionally resilient.

5. Openness:

This trait features characteristics such as imagination and insight, and those high in this trait also tend to have a broad range of interests. People who are high in this trait tend to be more adventurous and creative. People low in this trait are often much more traditional and may struggle with abstract thinking.

It is important to note that each of the five personality factors represents a range between two extremes.

For example, extraversion represents a continuum between extreme extraversion and extreme introversion. In the real world, most people lie somewhere in between the two polar ends of each dimension.


  1. Explain the following: freudian stages (2016)
  2. Biological factors are important in determining the personality of any person. Comment on this statement. (2016)
  3. Explain the following – internal vs external locus of control. (2010)

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