Determinants of Personality

Personality is the sum total of ways in which an individual reacts to and interacts with his/her environment.

It is most often described in terms of measurable traits that a person exhibits. Personality is determined by factors e.g.

  1. Heredity/Genes
  2. Environment

Situational conditions that moderate the effect of the two factors on personality.



Heredity refers to those characteristics that were determined at conception. They include; physical make up, gender, temperament.

The heredity approach to personality argues that the ultimate explanation of an individual’s personality is the molecular structure of the genes.

Heredity/ the genes set the parameters or the outer limits but an individual’s full potential is actually determined by how well he/she adjusts to the demands and requirements of the environment.



The environment approach argues that the environment is responsible for shaping personality. Main environmental factors that determine personality are;

  • culture in which we are raised
  • norms among family, friends and social group
  • Early conditioning.

Culture establishes norms, attitudes and values that are passed along from one generation to the next and they create consistency over time.



Situation influences the effect of heredity and environment on personality. Although an individual’s personality is generally stable over time, it changes in different situations. The different demands of different situations bring out different aspects of one’s personality and for this reason we should not look at personality patterns in isolation.


Personality attributes that influence organizational behavior.


 Locus of control

Locus of control is the extent to which people believe that they are in control of their own lives and the direction it takes.

Those who see their lives as being controlled by external forces are referred to as having external locus of control. Those who believe that they control their fate and destiny are referred to as having internal locus of control.

Individuals who rate high in external locus of control are less satisfied in their jobs, they have high rate of absenteeism, are more alienated from the work setting, less involved in their jobs.Their rates of turnover are however likely to be low.

Those who have internal locus of control take more responsibility for their work outcomes and their lives. The incidences of absenteeism and sickness are low because they take good care of themselves. They attribute organizational outcome to their own input and therefore tend to be more successful in their jobs. They are more likely to quit dissatisfying jobs and their incidences of staff turnover are likely to be high. They search actively for information before making a decision and are therefore likely to make quality decisions.


 Risk taking propensity

This is the extent to which people are willing to take risks. People differ in their willingness to take risk; this propensity to assume or avoid risk has been shown to have an impact on organizational outcomes. It determines how long it takes managers to make a decision and how much information they require before making the choice. It is important to align risk-taking propensity with specific job requirements. High propensity for risk taking may lead to more effective performance for some jobs e.g. in stock trading.

Some jobs however i.e. auditing and accounting should be performed by people who have low propensity for risk. It is therefore important for organizations to place people in positions where they can perform optimally.


Personality types (A &B)

Type A personality

Type A personality is aggressively involved in a chronic race to achieve more and more in less and less time. They have the following characteristics;

  1. They constantly feel impatient with the rate at which most events take place.
  2. Unable to settle down and do one thing at a time i.e. likely to be found working and eating at the same time.
  3. Not able to cope with leisure time because they think it is a waste of time.
  4. Obsessed with numbers and measure their success in terms of how many and how much of everything they have.
  5. They have moderate to high levels of stress because of subjecting themselves to continuous pressures and creating for themselves a live of deadlines.
  6. They are fast workers and their emphasis is on quantity not quality.
  7. They make poor decisions because they make them too quickly.
  8. They are not creative workers because they rely on past experiences when faced with problems since their concern is with speed and quantity.


Type B personality

Opposite of A with the following characteristics;

  1. They rarely suffer from time urgency with its accompanying impatience.
  2. Concerned with quality rather than quantity.
  3. Feel no need to discuss their achievement unless such exposure is demanded by the situation.
  4. They take good care of themselves and are able to relax without feeling guilt/wasting time.
  5. In spite of type A’s hard work, it is mostly type B who usually makes it to the top. It is type A however who make great marketers.
  6. They take time decision to make decisions and seek for information. They therefore make good decisions.


 Perception and Attitude

Perception is the process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment.

People’s behavior is based on their perception of what reality is and not on reality itself.

A number of factors operate to shape and sometimes to distort perception. These are;

  1. The personal characteristics of the perceiver
  2. target
  3. situations


The perceiver

When an individual looks at something and try to interpret what he/she sees that interpretation is heavily influenced by personal characteristics of individual perceiver.


Personal Characteristics Affecting Perception

  1. Motives
  2. interest
  3. past experiences
  4. expectations


The target

Characteristics of target that is being observed can affect what is perceived.



The context in which we see object/events influences our perceptions, element in the surrounding environment influence perception.



They are evaluative sentiments concerning objects, people or events. They reflect how one feels about something. There are three components of an attitude;

  1. cognitive/mental component
  2. affective/emotional component
  3. behavioral component


Cognitive component

The believe that something is wrong or right is based on a person’s value system. Such beliefs and opinions from the cognitive aspect of an attitude. Cognitive means based on mind.

Affective component

This is the emotional or feeling aspect of an attitude. It is reflected in statements such as I like I & I don’t like.

This component leads to the behavioral component.


Behavioral component

Refers to an intention to behave in a certain way towards someone or something based on the feelings towards that someone or something.

In organizations attitudes are important because they affect performance e.g. When workers believe that managers are in a conspiracy to make them work more for less pay they will resent it and will lead to a reduction in their input.

It is important to understand the attitudes that employees have how the attitudes are formed, how they relate to actual job behavior and how they can be changed.

There are four key work related attitudes. They include

Job commitment

Job Involvement

Job satisfaction

Organizational Commitment

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