Personality: Concept, Definition, Nature, Importance, 6 Factors, Theories

Personality in Organisational Behavior

Personality factors are extremely important in organizational settings. While perception, learning, motivation, etc, deal with some specific aspects of human behavior, personality takes the whole man concept because it affects the various psychological processes.

The term personality is the role that the person (actor) displays in the public domain at large. 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. For psychologists, personality includes:

  1. Eternal appearances and behavior
  2. The inner awareness of self as a permanent organizing force,
  3. The particular organization of measurable traits, both inner and outer.

Concept of Personality

The term personality has been derived from the Latin word ‘personare’, which means ‘to speak through’. Thus personality is used in terms of influencing others through external appearance. Personality is an internalized system that includes all those aspects of a person that are inherited as well as those that are learned.

Personality can be defined as a dynamic and organized set of characteristics possessed by a person that uniquely influences his or her cognitions, motivations, and behaviors in various situations.

Definition of Personality

Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment.

Gordon Allport

Personality can be defined as those inner psychological characteristics that both determine and reflect how a person responds to his or her environment.

Schiffman & Kanuk

Personality is a broad, amorphous designation relating to fundamental approaches of persons to others and themselves. To most psychologists and students of behaviour, this term refers to the study of the characteristic traits of an individual, relationships between these traits and the way in which a person adjusts to other people and situations.

J.B Kolasa

A very diverse and complex psychological concept. The word ‘personality’ may mean something like outgoing, invigorating interpersonal abilities … but we must also recognize and explain the fact that development results in man acquiring a distinctiveness or uniqueness which gives him identity that enables him and us to recognize him as apart from others. These distinguishing characteristics are summarized by the term ‘personality.

James D Thompson and Donald Van Houten

Nature of Personality

Personality has some characteristics which are observed in the behavior of employees. These are the nature of personality as follows:

  1. Personality Traits
  2. Personality Reflects Individual Differences
  3. Personality Can Change
  4. Personality is Consistent and Enduring
Nature of Personality
Nature of Personality

Personality Traits

Personality is the sum of different traits of a person. It is the composition of physical appearance, emotional attributes, sociability, objectivity, friendliness, thoughtfulness, and so on. Personality is characterized by major trait dimensions such as restraint, emotional stability, objectivity, personal relations, etc.

Personality Reflects Individual Differences

Many individuals tend to be similar in terms of single personality characteristics. Many people can be described as high in sociability while others can be described as low in sociability. Personality is a useful concept because it enables us to categorize consumers into different groups on the basis single trait.

Personality Can Change

Personality can change under certain circumstances. An individual personality may be altered by major life events such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a major career promotion.

Personality is Consistent and Enduring

The stable nature of personality is such that it is unreasonable for marketers to attempt to change consumers’ personalities to confirm certain products. Personality characteristics influence consumer responses and attempt to obtain to relevant traits inherent in their target group of consumers.

Importance of Personality

Consideration of personality differences of focal persons is important for the following three reasons:

  1. Many people arouse hostility and aggression in their associates while some others invoke sympathy and supportive responses because of their personality features/ traits. In the same way, some people encourage while others discourage free and open communication in view of their personality traits as perceived by their subordinates and associates.

  2. Personality characteristics tend to produce different emotional reactions to stress. Some people tolerate severely stressful situations while others are overwhelmed with tensions under similar circumstances.

  3. Individual personality leads to individual differences in styles of coping with stress.

Factors Affecting Personality

The factors affecting personality development are illustrated below:

  1. Heredity
  2. Environment
  3. Culture
  4. Family
  5. Situation
  6. Social Factors
Factors Affecting Personality
Factors Affecting Personality


The relationship of heredity with personality is a well-accepted fact. Traits like physique, eye color, hair color, height, temperament, energy level, intelligence, reflexes, etc. are generally referred to describe the influence of heredity in developing personality.

The heredity approach argues that the ultimate explanation of an individual’s personality is the molecular structure of the genes, located in the chromosomes. Robbins (2003) has argued that the three different streams of research lend some credibility to the argument that heredity plays an important part in determining an individual’s personality.

The first looks at the genetic underpinnings of human behavior and temperament among young children. The second addresses the study of twins who were separated at birth and the third examines the consistency in job satisfaction over time and across situations.


The environment comprises culture, family, social, and situational factors. The environmental factors influence the personality of an individual since they provide the basis of certain experiences: which determine the individual’s view of life, both positive and negative.


Culture establishes norms, attitudes, and values that are passed on from generation to generation and create consistencies over time. Every culture expects and trains its members to behave in ways that are acceptable to the group. People from different cultural groups have different attitudes towards independence, aggression, competition, cooperation, artistic talent, etc.

However, on the basis of culture, an individual’s personality cannot be always assessed, since individuals within the same culture (but from different families and sub-cultural backgrounds) have been seen to differ in their behavior.

To a marked degree, the child’s cultural group defines the range of experiences and situations he is likely to encounter and the values and personality characteristics that will be reinforced and hence learned.” Culture requires both conformity and acceptance from its members.


One of the most important determinants of the personality of a person is the immediate family. Families influence the behavior of a person, especially in the early stages of life. The nature of such influence will depend upon the socioeconomic level of the family, family size, race, religion, parent’s educational level, and geographic location.

The parents play an especially important part in the identification process, which is important to the person’s early development. According to Mischel, the process can be examined from three different perspectives:

  1. Identification can be viewed as the similarity of behavior including feelings and attitudes between the child and model, the parents being the first model.

  2. Identification can be looked at as the child’s motives or desires to be like the model.
  3. It can be viewed as the process through which the child actually takes on the attributes of the model.

From all three perspectives, the identification process is fundamental to the understanding of personality development.


Situational factors also play a crucial role in determining the personality of a person. Every individual goes through different types of experiences and events in his/her life. Some of the events and experiences, that an individual goes through in his/her life, can serve as important determinants of his/her personality.

The trauma suffered by a person in childhood can sometimes change the structure of his/her own personality.

Social Factors

There is increasing recognition given to the role of other relevant persons, groups, and especially organizations, which greatly influence an individual’s personality. This is commonly called the socialization process. Socialization involves the process by which a person acquires, from the enormously wide range of behavioral potentialities that are open to him or her, those that are ultimately synthesized and absorbed.

Socialization starts with the initial contact between a mother and her new infant. After infancy, members of the immediate family, father, brothers, sisters, and close relatives or friends, then the social group: peers, school friends, and members of the workgroup play influential roles.

Theories of Personality

These theories aim to understand the origin of personalities and the summation of a person’s traits. The theories of personality are explained below:

  1. Psychoanalytic Theory
  2. Socio-Psychological Theory
  3. Trait Theory
  4. Self Theory
Theories of Personality
Theories of Personality

Psychoanalytic Theory

Psychoanalytic theory is based on the belief that man is motivated more by unseen forces than he is controlled by conscious and rational thought. Freud, the father of psychoanalytic theory, proposed that every individual’s personality is the product of a struggle among three interacting forces the id, the ego, and the super-ego.

The ID

The id is the source of psychic energy and seeks immediate gratification for biological or instinctual needs. Freud believed that instinct could be classified under life instincts and death instincts.

Examples of life instincts are hunger thrust and sex. The energy involved in their activity is the libido. The id operates on what is called the pleasure principle i.e. it acts to avoid tension and seeks immediate pleasure.

The Ego

The Ego is the conscious and logical part of human personality and it is associated with the loyalty principle. The ID represents the unconscious part on the other hand, ego is the conscious part. It operates on what is called the reality principle, which is capable of postponing the release of tension until that time when it will be effectively directed at coping with the external environment.

Out of the functioning of the id and ego, many conflicting situations arise because the id wants immediate pleasure, while the ego dictates denial or postponement to a more appropriate time and place. In order to dissolve a conflict the ego gets support from the super ego.

The Superego

The super-ego represents social and personal norms and serves as an ethical constraint on behavior. The super-ego provides norms to the ego to determine what is wrong and what is right.

The psychoanalytic theory of Freud is based on the theoretical conception, rather than a measurable item for scientific variation. This theory is not very relevant from a behavioral science point of view because it does not give a total picture of behavior emerging from the personality.

Socio-Psychological Theory

Socio-psychological personality theory recognizes the interdependence of the individual and society. The individual attempts to meet the needs of society, while society helps the individual to attain his goal. The socio-psychological theory differs from psychoanalytic in two respects.

First, social variables, and not biological instincts, are important determinants in shaping personality. Second, behavioral motivation is conscious; a man knows his needs and wants, and his behavior is directed to meet these needs. The theorists accept that socio-psychological factors determine personality; however, there is no general agreement as to the relative importance of social variables.

For Example, Fromm emphasized the importance of social context, while Sullivian and Horney stressed interpersonal behavior, and Alder employed different variables. Horney’s model suggests that human behavior results from three predominant interpersonal orientations- complaint, aggressive, and detached.

  1. Complaint people are dependent on other people and move towards others.
  2. Aggression is motivated by the need for power and movement toward others.
  3. Detached people are self-sufficient and move away from others.

The socio-psychological theory offers, to a very great extent, the answer to the problems of the emergence of personality, particularly in terms of the influence of social factors in shaping personality. The managers in organizations can take clues from this theory in shaping the behavior of their employees.

Trait Theory

A trait theory is defined as “any distinguishing, relatively enduring way in which one individual differs from another”. Trait factor theory presents a quantitative approach to the study of personality. Trait theorists advocated that personality tests will indicate individual differences in terms of specific traits.

There are basically three assumptions of this theory:

  1. Traits are common to many individuals and vary in absolute amounts between individuals.

  2. Traits are relatively stable and exert fairly universal effects on behavior. Thus, a consistent functioning of personality variables is predictive of a wide variety of behaviors.

  3. Traits can be inferred from the measurement of behavioral indicators.

This theory is based on personality research. In this research, a typical study attempts to find a relationship between a set of personality variables and assorted behavior. This contributes to personality tests to behavioral science. However, this theory is very descriptive rather than analytical and is a long way from being the comprehensive theory of personality.

Self Theory

The psychoanalytic, socio-psychological, and trait theories of personality represent the more traditional approaches to explaining the complex human personality. Self-theory, also termed organismic or field theory, emphasizes the totality and interrelatedness of all behaviors.

This theory treats the organism as a whole to a greater degree than any of the other theoretical formulations. Carl Roger’s self-theory of personality is very relevant to organizational behavior.

He defines the self-concept as organized consistent, conceptual, gestalt composed of perceptions of the “I’ or “me” and the perceptions of the relationships of the “I” or “me” to others and to various aspects of life, together with the values attached to these perceptions. There are four factors in self-concept, these are as follows:

  1. Self-Image
  2. Ideal-Self
  3. Looking Glass-Self
  4. Real-Self


The 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.


The ideal self denotes the way one would like to be. The ideal self is different from the self-image in the fact that the self-image indicates the reality of the person as perceived by him, while the ideal self indicates the ideal position as perceived by him.

Looking Glass-Self

The looking glass-self is the perception of the person about how others perceive his qualities and characteristics. This is the perception of others perception. In simple words, the way one thinks people perceive him and not the way people actually see him.


The real self is what one really is. The first three aspects of the self-concept are the functions of the individual perception and they may be the same as the real self or different from it.

FAQs Section

What is the nature of personality?

Personality Traits, Personality Reflects Individual Differences, Personality Can Change, and Personality is Consistent and Enduring is the nature of personality.

What are the factors affecting personality?

The following are factors affecting personality: Heredity, Environment, Culture, Family, Situation, and Social Factors.

What are the theories of personality?

Psychoanalytic Theory, Socio-Psychological Theory, Trait Theory, and Self Theory are the four major theories of personality.

What is Personality?

Personality can be defined as those inner psychological characteristics that both determine and reflect how a person responds to his or her environment.

What is the best definition of personality?

Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment. By Gordon Allport

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