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PERSONALITY AND LEARNING
CHAPTER LEARNING OBJECTIVES
After reading Chapter 2 students should be able to do the following:
LO2.1. Define personality and describe the dispositional, situational, and interactionist approaches to organizational behaviour.
LO2.2. Discuss the Five-Factor Model of personality, locus of control, self-monitoring, and self-esteem.
LO2.3. Discuss positive and negative affectivity, proactive personality, general self efficacy, and core self-evaluations and their consequences. LO2.4. Define learning and describe what is learned in organizations.
LO2.5. Explain operant learning theory and differentiate between positive and negative reinforcements, and extinction and punishment, and explain how to punish effectively.
LO2.6. Explain when to use immediate versus delayed reinforcement and when to use continuous versus partial reinforcement.
LO2.7. Explain social cognitive theory and discuss observational learning, self-efficacy beliefs, and self-regulation.
LO2.8.Discuss the following organizational learning practices: organizational behaviour modification, employee recognition programs, and training and development programs.
CHAPTER OUTLINE AND TEACHING NOTES
What Is Personality?
Personality refers to the relatively stable set of psychological characteristics that influences the way individuals interact with their environment. It is reflected in the distinctive way that individual’s react to people, situations, and problems.
Personality consists of a number of dimensions and traits that are determined in a complex way by generic predisposition and by one’s long-term learning history. As well, people have a variety of personality characteristics. There is no one best personality.
Personality and Organizational Behaviour
Personality has a rather long history in organizational behaviour that is demonstrated by the “person-situation” debate and the dispositional, situational, and interactionist approaches. According to the dispositional approach, individuals possess stable traits or characteristics that influence their attitudes and behaviours. According to the situational approach, characteristics of the organizational setting such as rewards and punishment
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influence people’s feelings, attitudes, and behaviour. According to the interactionist approach, organizational behaviour is a function of both dispositions and the situation. The interactionist approach is the most widely accepted perspective within organizational behaviour.
A good example of the interationist approach is the role of personality in strong and weak situations. The role of personality in organizational settings is strongest in “weak” situations where there are loosely defined roles and few rules. In strong situations which have more defined roles, rules, and contingencies, personality tends to have less impact. Thus, the extent to which personality influences people’s attitudes and behaviours depends on the situation.
An important implication of the interactionist approach is that some personality characteristics are useful in certain situations. According to trait activation theory, traits lead to certain behaviours when the situation makes the need for that trait salient. Thus, personality characteristics influence people’s behaviour when the situation calls for a particular personality characteristic.
As a result, managers need to appreciate the value of diversity and concentrate on achieving the right “fit” between people and positions, and exposing different employees to different management styles.
The Five-Factor Model of Personality
The “Big Five” dimensions of the Five-Factor model of personality and examples of traits are introduced as well as the kind of jobs where each trait is likely to be relevant:
- Sociable, talkative vs. withdrawn, shy. It is especially important for jobs that require a lot of interpersonal interaction, such as sales and management, where being sociable, assertive, energetic, and ambitious is important for success.
- Emotional Stability/Neuroticism. Stable, confident vs. depressed, anxious. For most jobs the performance of persons with low emotional stability is likely to suffer. Persons who score high on emotional stability are likely to have more effective interactions with co-workers and customers because they tend to be more calm and secure.
- Tolerant, cooperative vs. cold, rude. Agreeableness is most likely to contribute to job performance in jobs that require interaction and involve helping, cooperating, and nurturing others, as well as in jobs that involve teamwork and cooperation.
- Dependable, responsible vs. careless, impulsive. Persons who are high on conscientiousness are likely to perform well on most jobs given their tendency toward hard work and achievement.
- Openness to Experience. Curious, original vs. dull, unimaginative. People who are high on openness to experience are likely to do well in jobs that involve learning and creativity given that they tend to be intellectual, curious, and imaginative and have broad interests.
These dimensions are relatively independent and hold up well cross-culturally. There is also evidence for a genetic basis to them. Research has linked the Big Five to organizational behaviour. There is evidence that each of the “Big Five” dimensions is related to job performance and organizational citizenship behaviours. High conscientiousness is related to performance for all jobs across occupations and is the strongest predictor of overall job performance of all of the “Big Five” dimensions. The “Big Five” have also been found to be related to other work outcomes such as attendance, retention, counterproductive work behaviours, work motivation, job satisfaction, life satisfaction, and career success.
The Big Five personality dimensions are basic and general while those that follow are more specific.
Locus of Control
Locus of control is introduced using the examples of Laurie, a hard-working, driven individual who believes that she controls her destiny, and Stan who believes that luck is what provides advancement opportunities. These two examples are used to show the differences between an external locus of control (Stan) and an internal locus of control (Laurie).
Locus of control is a set of beliefs about whether one’s behaviour is controlled mainly by internal or external forces. High “externals” see their behaviours controlled by factors like fate, luck and powerful people. High “internals” see stronger effects on their behaviour as a consequence of self-initiative, personal actions and free will.
Locus of control influences organizational behaviour in a variety of occupations. Internals are more satisfied with their jobs, more committed to their organizations, earn more money, and achieve higher organizational positions. In addition, they seem to perceive less stress, to cope with stress better, experience less burnout, and to engage in more careful career planning. They are also less likely to be absent from work and to be more satisfied with their lives.
Self-monitoring is the extent to which people observe and regulate how they appear and behave in social settings and relationships. Individuals low in self-monitoring are said to “wear their hearts on their sleeves.” They act like they feel and say what they think without regard to the situation. Individuals high on self-monitoring behave somewhat like actors, taking great care to observe and control the images that they project. In particular, they tend to show concern for socially appropriate emotions and behaviours, tune in to social and interpersonal cues, and respond accordingly.
Self-monitoring is related to organizational behaviour. High self-monitors tend to gravitate toward jobs that require a degree of role-playing such as sales, law, public relations, and politics. They perform particularly well in occupations that call for flexibility and adaptiveness in dealings with diverse constituencies.
In terms of work-related outcomes, high self-monitors tend to be more involved in their jobs, to perform at a higher level, and more likely to emerge as leaders. They also experience more role stress and show less commitment to their organization. However, high self-monitors are unlikely to feel comfortable in ambiguous social settings in which it is hard to determine exactly what behaviours are socially appropriate. Dealing with unfamiliar cultures (national or corporate) might provoke stress.
Self-esteem is the degree to which a person has a positive self-evaluation. People with high self-esteem have favourable self-images. People with low self-esteem tend to be more susceptible to external and social influences than those who have high self-esteem, that is, they are more plastic. This is known as behavioural plasticity theory.
People with low self-esteem tend to react badly to negative feedback – it lowers their subsequent performance and they do not react well to ambiguous and stressful situations.
Despite a possible downside to excessive esteem, organizations will generally benefit from a workforce with high self-esteem. Such people tend to make more fulfilling career decisions, they exhibit higher job satisfaction and job performance, and they are generally more resilient to the strains of everyday work life. Organizations can bolster self-esteem by providing opportunities for participation, autonomy, and interesting work which have been found to be positively related to self-esteem.
Advances in Personality and Organizational Behaviour
Five more recent personality variables that are important for organizational behaviour are positive affectivity, negative affectivity, proactive personality, general self-efficacy, and core self-evaluations.
Positive and Negative Affectivity. People who are high on positive affectivity have a propensity to view the world, including oneself and other people, in a positive light. People who are high on negative affectivity have a propensity to view the world, including oneself and other people, in a negative light. Positive and negative affectivity are emotional dispositions that predict people’s general emotional tendencies. PA and NA are not opposite ends of a continuum; they are independent dimensions. People who have high positive affectivity report higher job satisfaction while those with high negative affectivity report lower job satisfaction. High PA has also been found to be related to job performance, organizational citizenship behaviours, and creativity at work. People with high negative affectivity tend to experience more stressful conditions at work and report higher levels of workplace stress and strain. NA has also been found to be associated with more counterproductive work behaviours (e.g., harassment, physical aggression), withdrawal behaviours (e.g., absenteeism, turnover), and occupational injury. PA has also been found to be a key factor that links happiness to success in life and at work.
Proactive Personality. Proactive behaviour involves taking initiative to improve one’s current circumstances or creating new ones. It involves challenging the status quo. Proactive personality is a stable disposition that reflects a tendency to take personal initiative across a range of activities and situations to effect positive change in one’s environment. Individuals with a proactive personality are relatively unconstrained by situational forces and act to change and influence their environment. Proactive personality is related to a number of work outcomes including job performance, organizational citizenship behaviours, tolerance for stress in demanding jobs, leadership effectiveness, participation in organizational initiatives, work team performance, and entrepreneurship. Persons with a proactive personality have also been found to be more successful when searching for employment and to have greater career success in terms of higher salaries, more frequent promotions, and more satisfying careers.
General Self-Efficacy. General self-efficacy (GSE) is a general trait that refers to an individual’s belief in his or her ability to perform successfully in a variety of challenging situations. It is considered to be a motivational trait rather than an affective trait because it reflects an individual’s belief that he or she can succeed at a variety of tasks rather than how an individual feels about him or herself. Individuals with high GSE are better able to adapt to novel, uncertain, and adverse situations. Employees with higher GSE have higher job satisfaction and job performance.
Core Self-Evaluations. Core self-evaluations refer to a broad personality concept that consists of more specific traits that reflect the evaluations people hold about themselves and their self-worth. The four specific traits that make up a person’s core self-evaluations are self-esteem, general self-efficacy, locus of control, and neuroticism (emotional stability). Core self-evaluations are positively related to job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job performance as well as life satisfaction and career satisfaction. Individuals with higher core self-evaluations perceive fewer stressors at work and experience less stress and conflict at work. People with higher core self-evaluations perceive their jobs as more intrinsically satisfying and have higher perceptions of fairness and support. They are also more likely to perceive and pay attention to the positive aspects of their environments.
What Is Learning?
Learning occurs when practice or experience leads to a relatively permanent change in behaviour potential. Practice or experience prompts learning which stems from an environment that gives feedback concerning the consequences of behaviour.
What do Employees Learning?
In organizations, employees learn four general types of content: practical, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills, and cultural awareness. Practical skills refer to job-specific skills, knowledge, and technical competence required to perform one’s job. Intrapersonal skills refer to skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and risk-taking.
Interpersonal skills refer to interactive skills such as communication and teamwork.
Cultural awareness refers to the cultural norms and expectations that exist in an organization.
Operant Learning Theory
Operant learning occurs when the subject learns to operate on the environment to achieve certain consequences. Operantly learned behaviour is controlled by the consequences that follow it. These consequences are usually contingent on the behaviour, and this connection is what is learned. Operant learning can be used to increase the probability of desired behaviours and to reduce or eliminate the probability of undesirable behaviours.
Increasing the Probability of Behaviour
There are two ways to increase the probability of behaviour, both based on the concept of reinforcement. Reinforcement is the process by which stimuli strengthen behaviours. A reinforcer is a stimulus that follows some behaviour and increases or maintains the probability of that behaviour. Positive reinforcers work by their application to a situation, while negative reinforcers work by their removal from a situation.
Positive reinforcement increases or maintains the probability of some behaviour by the application or addition of a stimulus to the situation in question. The stimulus is called a positive reinforcer. Whether or not something is a positive reinforcer depends on whether it increases or maintains the occurrence of some behaviour by its application.
Negative reinforcement increases or maintains the probability of some behaviour by the removal of a stimulus from the situation in question. It also occurs when a response prevents some event or stimulus from occurring. The removed or prevented stimulus is called a negative reinforcer.
Although negative reinforcers tend to be unpleasant things, it is important to note that stimuli are not inherently positive or negative; they become so only if they increase or maintain the probability of some behaviour by their application (a positive reinforcer) or by their removal or prevention (a negative reinforcer).
Organizational Errors Involving Reinforcement
Managers sometimes make errors in trying to use reinforcement. The most common errors are confusing rewards with reinforcers, neglecting diversity in preferences for reinforcers, and neglecting important sources of reinforcement.
Confusing Rewards with Reinforcers. Rewards can fail to serve as reinforcers when they are not made contingent on specific behaviours that are of interest to the organization. Rewards that are not contingent on specific behaviours which an organization wishes to encourage may fail to serve as reinforcers.
Neglecting Diversity in Preferences for Reinforcers. Organizations tend to neglect diversity and individual differences in preferences for reinforcers. Thus, even rewards that are made contingent on behaviour may fail to have a reinforcing effect. Managers need to consider the possible range of stimuli under their control for their applicability as reinforcers for particular employees.
Neglecting Important Sources of Reinforcement. While concentrating on potential reinforcers of a formal nature, such as pay or promotions, managers often neglect those which are administered by co-workers or intrinsic to the jobs being performed. Two important sources of reinforcement that managers often ignore are performance feedback and social recognition.
Performance feedback involves providing quantitative or qualitative information on past performance for the purpose of changing or maintaining performance in specific ways. Performance feedback is most effective when it is a) conveyed in a positive manner, b) delivered immediately after the performance is observed, c) represented visually, such as in graph or chart form, and d) specific to the behaviour that is being targeted for feedback.
Social recognition involves informal acknowledgement, attention, praise, approval, or genuine appreciation for work well done from one individual or group to another. When social recognition is made contingent on employee behaviour it can be an effective means for performance.
Immediate reinforcement entails reinforcing the behaviour of interest without delay after its occurrence. Delayed reinforcement entails reinforcing the behaviour of interest after some time period has elapsed since its enactment. Continuous reinforcement entails reinforcing the behaviour of interest every time it occurs. Partial reinforcement entails reinforcing the behaviour of interest only a portion of the time it occurs.
Fast acquisition of some response occurs through continuous, immediate reinforcement, while persistent learning occurs through delayed, partial reinforcement. Note that a reinforcement strategy should match the requirements of a situation. Thus, managers have to tailor reinforcement strategies to the needs of the situation and must alter strategies over time to achieve effective learning and maintenance of behaviour.
Reducing the Probability of Behaviour
Two strategies to reduce the probability of learned behaviour are extinction and punishment.
Extinction refers to the gradual dissipation of behaviour following the termination of reinforcement. It is the process of doing away with a reinforcer that is maintaining some unwanted behaviour. Behaviours that are not reinforced will gradually dissipate. Note that extinction works best when coupled with reinforcement of some desired substitute behaviour. Also, behaviours learned under delayed or partial reinforcement schedules are more difficult to extinguish than those learned under continuous, immediate reinforcement.
Punishment involves the application of an aversive stimulus following some behaviour designed to decrease the probability of that behaviour. It decreases the probability of some unwanted behaviour by the application or addition of a negative stimulus to the situation in question.
Using Punishment Effectively
Punishment has some unique characteristics that limit its effectiveness in stopping unwanted behaviour. While it provides a clear signal as to which activities are inappropriate, it does not by itself demonstrate which activities should replace the punished response. Positive and negative reinforcers specify which behaviours are appropriate. Punishment indicates only what is not appropriate and only temporarily suppresses the unwanted response. Thus, it is important to provide an acceptable alternative for the punished response. Another difficulty is that punishment has a tendency to provide a strong emotional reaction on the part of the punished individual. Thus, managers must be sure that their emotions are under control before punishing and should avoid punishment in front of observers.
In addition to providing correct alternative responses and limiting the emotions involved in punishment, the following principles should be considered for increasing the effectiveness of punishment:
- Make sure the chosen punishment is truly aversive.
- Punish immediately.
- Do not reward unwanted behaviours before or after punishment.
- Do not inadvertently punish desirable behaviour.
Punishment can be an effective means of stopping undesirable behaviour when it is applied very carefully and deliberately. In general, reinforcing correct behaviours and extinguishing unwanted responses are safer strategies for managers than the frequent use of punishment.
Social Cognitive Theory
Learning and behaviour often occurs without the conscious control of positive and negative reinforcers by managers. People have the cognitive capacity to regulate and control their own thoughts, feelings, motivation, and actions. Human behaviour is not simply due to environmental influences. Social cognitive theory emphasizes the role of cognitive processes in regulating people’s behaviour. According to social cognitive theory, human behaviour can best be explained through a system of triadic reciprocal causation in which personal factors and environmental factors work together and interact to influence people’s behaviour. In addition, people’s behaviour also influences personal factors and the environment.
According to Albert Bandura, social cognitive theory involves three components:
observational learning, self-efficacy beliefs, and self-regulation
Observational learning is the process of imitating the behaviour of others. It is a form of learning that occurs by observing or imagining the behaviour of others rather than by direct personal experience. With observational learning, self-reinforcement often shapes the behaviour of the learner. The best models for observing are attractive, credible, competent, and of high status. Vivid, memorable behaviour is most often imitated. The extent of observational learning as a means of learning in organizations suggests that managers should pay more attention to the process.
Self-efficacy beliefs refer to beliefs people have about their ability to successfully perform a specific task. It is a cognitive belief that is task specific and is the result of four sources of information: experience and success performing the task; observation of others performing the task; verbal persuasion and encouragement; and one’s physiological or emotional state. Self-efficacy influences the activities people choose to perform, the amount of effort and persistence devoted to a task, affective and stress reactions, and job performance.
Self-regulation is the process in which people use learning principles to regulate their own behaviour. Self-regulation involves collecting self-observation data, observing models, setting behavioural goals, rehearsing the desired behaviour, and applying selfreinforcement. A key part of the process is people’s pursuit of self-set goals that guide their behaviour. When there exists a discrepancy between one’s goals and performance, individuals are motivated to modify their behaviour in the pursuit of goal attainment (a process known as discrepancy reduction). When individuals attain their goals, they are likely to set even higher and more challenging goals, a process known as discrepancy production. In this way, people continually engage in a process of setting goals in the pursuit of ever higher levels of performance. Thus, discrepancy reduction and discrepancy production lie at the heart of the self-regulatory process.
Specific self-regulation techniques include: collect self-observation data, observe models, set goals, rehearse, and reinforce oneself.
Research has found that self-regulation can improve learning and result in a change in behaviour. One study found that it reduced absenteeism and in another study it improved the sales performance of a sample of insurance salespeople. Self-regulation programs have been successful in positively changing a variety of work behaviours and are an effective method of training and learning.
Organizational Learning Practices
Organizations employ a number of practices to enhance employee learning. These practices include organizational behaviour modification, employee recognition programs, and training and development programs.
Organizational Behaviour Modification
Organizational behavior modification (O.B. Mod) involves the systematic use of learning principles to influence organizational behaviour. The example in the text describes a program to improve safe working practices. Research supports the effectiveness of organizational behaviour modification. O.B. Mod programs have also been used to improve work attendance and task performance. The effects on task performance tend to be stronger in manufacturing than in service organizations. Although money has been found to have stronger effects on performance than social recognition and performance feedback, the use of all three together has the strongest effect on task performance.
Employee Recognition Programs
Employee recognition programs are formal organizational programs that publicly recognize and reward employees for specific behaviours. To be effective, a formal employee recognition program must specify (a) how a person will be recognized, (b) the type of behaviour being encouraged, (c) the manner of the public acknowledgement, and (d) a token or icon of the event for the recipient. A key part of an employee recognition program is public acknowledgement.
Peer recognition programs are formal programs in which employees can publicly acknowledge, recognize, and reward their co-workers for exceptional work and performance. With the increasing use of technology, many organizations have begun to use social recognition platforms for peer recognition.
Employee recognition programs have been found to be related to a number of individual and organizational outcomes, including job satisfaction, performance and productivity, and lower turnover. They have also been shown to be effective for improving work attendance.
Training and Development Programs
Training and development is one of the most common and important types of formal learning in organizations. Training refers to planned organizational activities that are designed to facilitate knowledge and skill acquisition to change behaviour and improve performance in one’s current job; development focuses on future job responsibilities. One of the most widely used and effective methods of training is behaviour modelling training (BMT), which is based on the observational learning component of social cognitive theory and involves the following steps:
- Describe to trainees a set of well-defined behaviours (skills) to be learned.
- Provide a model or models displaying the effective use of those behaviours.
- Provide opportunities for trainees to practise using those behaviours.
- Provide feedback and social reinforcement to trainees following practice.
- Take steps to maximize the transfer of those behaviours to the job.
Research on behavioural modelling training has found that it has a positive effect on learning, skills, and job behaviour and the effects have been found to be greatest when trainees are instructed to set goals and when rewards and sanctions are used in the trainees’ work environment.
SAMPLE ANSWERS TO DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- Describe a situation in which you think an employer could use organizational behaviour modification and an employee recognition program to improve or correct employee behaviour. Can you anticipate any dangers in using these approaches? A sales manager of office equipment was concerned that her employees were not keeping up on trends in the marketplace and trends in the competitors’ products. She sent around a memo stating that these issues would be discussed at the next sales meeting and asked salespersons to bring any information they had on these subjects for discussion. One brought in a relevant article from Business Week and another brought in a sales brochure on a new competing product. She publicly praised these persons before their materials were discussed. The following week more materials were brought in, and she continued to praise the people who brought them. Gradually, the discussion of new trends and products became an established practice due to her strategy of positive reinforcement. As long as OB Mod is confined to the use of positive reinforcement, it involves few problems. However, some might object that it makes workers highly dependent on the source of reinforcement. (In such a case, self-regulation should be initiated.) An employee recognition program could also be used to recognize and reward employees who bring in the most interesting new information and ideas. At the end of the year, an award ceremony can take place in which those employees who have made the greatest contribution in keeping up with trends in the marketplace (perhaps determined by peer vote) are recognized for their efforts. The key to making it an effective employee recognition program is to specify (a) how a person will be recognized, (b) the type of behaviour being encouraged, (c) the manner of the public acknowledgement, and (d) a token or icon of the event for the recipient. As long as the program is fair and employees appreciate the recognition, there should not be any dangers. Doing this on a monthly basis, however, might eventually lose its appeal and begin to lose its impact after a few events.
- A supervisor in a textile factory observes that one of her employees is violating a safety rule that could result in severe injury. What combination of reinforcement, punishment, and extinction could she use to correct this behaviour? What does social cognitive theory suggest that she do to correct the behaviour?
A combination of punishment and positive reinforcement is advisable. Noting the violation, the supervisor should reprimand the employee immediately at the workstation but out of the earshot of other employees. The goal is to punish the violation firmly but not to provoke strong negative emotions. Then, the supervisor should model the safe work practice and have the employee imitate her behaviour. Correct imitation should be reinforced with praise. In the following days, the supervisor should monitor the employee’s behaviour and praise safe work practices frequently. In addition to the use of observational learning, social cognitive theory also suggests strengthening the employee’s self-efficacy beliefs and self-regulation. Positive feedback, praise, and encouragement can be used when the employee exhibits safe working practices which should help to strengthen self-efficacy beliefs. The employee should also be shown how to use self-regulation for learning safe working practices by collecting self-observation data, observing other employees’ safe working practices, setting goals for safe working behaviour, rehearse the practices, and then reinforce oneself for meeting one’s goals and for engaging in safe working practices.
- Describe a job in which you think an employee recognition program might be an effective means for changing and improving employee behaviour. Explain how you would design the program and how you might use principles from operant learning theory and social cognitive theory.
An employee recognition program could be used to reinforce any behaviour that is important for an organization including employee attendance, safe working practices, customer service, or sales. What is most important is that employees’ are recognized for behaving in a manner that is highly desirable to the organization. To be effective, an employee recognition program should specify (a) how a person will be recognized, (b) the type of behaviour being encouraged, (c) the manner of the public acknowledgement, and (d) a token or icon of the event for the recipient. When answering this question, make sure that students provide answers to each of the components of an employee recognition program. Students will not have too much trouble indicating the behaviour to recognize. When they do, be sure to ask them how employees will be recognized, the manner of public acknowledgement, and the token or icon of the event for the recipient. A good example of an employee recognition program that specifies each of these components is the one for improving work attendance that is described in the text. Be sure to also bring in principles from operant learning theory and social cognitive theory. The importance of positive reinforcement and making rewards contingent on desirable behaviour from operant learning theory is particularly relevant. In addition, observational learning from social cognitive theory can be built into the public acknowledgement such that those who are recognized serve as role models for others to learn from. In addition, the public acknowledgement can also serve as a way to strengthen the self-efficacy of recipients and observers. Praise, encouragement, and social recognition can serve as strong means for strengthening self-efficacy.
- Do you think organizations should base their hiring decisions on applicants’ personality? What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing this? If an organization were to do this, what personality characteristics do you think they should focus on when assessing and choosing applicants?
Many organizations use personality tests as part of the selection process. The research evidence described in the chapter indicates significant relationships between many of the personality traits and various job attitudes and behaviours. Thus, a potential advantage is that employees with certain personality traits will have more positive attitudes and job performance. A disadvantage might be that the situation changes and the personality trait is no longer required for a particular task or job. Another disadvantage could be a lack of diversity of perspectives if employees are hired because of a particular personality trait. The key point for doing this as suggested in the text is the notion of fit. That is, putting the right person in the right job, group, or organization. This follows from trait activation theory and the idea that traits lead to certain behaviours only when the situation makes the need for that trait salient. Thus, if organizations are going to base their hiring decisions on an applicant’s personality, then they must have a good understanding of the situation or job and the personality trait that is required for a particular situation or job. A good example is that extraversion is especially important for jobs that require a lot of interpersonal interaction such as sales and management.
- Employee of the month (EOM) programs are one of the most popular forms of recognition in organizations. However, there is some evidence that such programs are not effective and can even have detrimental effects, such as sabotage and unhealthy competition. Based on the material presented in this chapter, why do you think that the typical EOM program is not effective, and how should EOM programs be designed to make them more effective?
Students will probably be familiar with EOM programs and might have worked in organizations where they were used. It might be fun to ask students if they are familiar with such programs and if they have ever worked in an organization that had them and if they were ever chosen as the employee of the month. If so, additional probes might help to determine how an employee was chosen as the employee of the month. Students might be surprised to learn that EOM programs are often ineffective. Perhaps you can ask a student who is familiar with such a program what behaviours were being rewarded and reinforced. You might then ask the class why EOM programs are often not effective in terms of leading to improved behaviour and performance. As described in the chapter, a common organizational error is confusing rewards with reinforcers. In other words, EOM programs do not make the reward contingent on specific behaviours that are of interest to the organization. In addition, the focus of EOM programs is often results rather than specific behaviours. This means that employees might engage in undesirable behaviours but achieve the results needed to be chosen as employee of the month. This could involve unethical or illegal behaviour. In some cases, it is not clear what the criteria are for being chosen as employee of the month so employees do not know what they should be doing and what they have to do to be chosen as employee of the month. Another problem that is unique to EOM programs is that there is usually only one employee of the month which means that other employees who are doing a great job and are good performers are not rewarded. As a result, many good performers will not be rewarded and overtime their good behaviour and performance might be extinguished. It is also possible that the same few employees who are consistently the best performers will frequently be chosen as employee of the month making it difficult for other good performers to be rewarded and recognized. To make EOM programs more effective, it is important to first identify the important and desirable behaviours that the organization wants to recognize and reward. They should then make it clear to employees what the desirable behaviours are and what the criteria are for being chosen as employee of the month. Finally, it is probably a good idea to have an “Employees of the Month” program so that all employees who meet the criteria can be rewarded and reinforced. The key as always is to identify the desirable behaviours and make sure that the reward and reinforcement is made contingent on the desirable behaviours. EOM programs have to be careful to reward and reinforce desirable behaviours and at the same time, avoid punishing and extinguishing desirable behaviours.
ADDITIONAL DISCUSSION QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
- Consider the relevance of the dispositional, situational, and interactionist approaches to your own behaviour. Describe examples of your behaviour in a school or work situation that demonstrates each perspective of organizational behaviour. This is a good question to get students thinking about how each approach is relevant to their own behaviour in various situations. Students should be able to think of situations in which they behaved in a certain way because of their personality and dispositions. If you need to provide an example, ask students what happens when they must work on a group project and the group meets for the first time. How do they behave and how do the other members of their group behave? This is a good example of a weak situation where there are no rules or contingencies. As a result, personality is likely to have a strong effect on how people behave. For example, students who are extraverted and have high self-esteem are more likely to begin a group discussion and provide some direction. Students should also be able to provide examples of situations in which they behaved a certain way because of the situation. For example, ask students how they and other new employees behave when they first begin a new job. They will probably tell you that they try to figure out what they are supposed to do and then conform. In other words, everybody who is new basically follows what others are doing in order to stay in line. The situation is strong in terms of rules and reward and punishment contingencies and so the situation will have a strong influence on behaviour. When students provide their examples it might be a good idea to ask them to think about whether the situation was “weak” or “strong” and how that determined whether personality or the situation was the main factor for their behaviour. Students might have a more difficult time thinking of examples of the interactionist approach. You might be able to assist them by asking them about situations in which not everybody behaved or reacted the same way. For example, if an instructor suddenly announces that there is going to be a test at the end of the class, some people will be experience a great deal of anxiety and stress while others will not be too concerned. This is a good example of how people vary in their reactions to stressors. People with low self-esteem or high negative affectivity might be more likely to experience a stress reaction in response to the instructor’s announcement.
- Suppose that you are the manager of two employees, one who has an internal locus of control and another who has an external locus control. Describe the leadership tactics that you would use with each employee. Contrast the management styles that you would employ for employees with high versus low self-esteem.
Internals are not necessarily better workers than externals. Since internals do better on more innovative and creative jobs, and externals do better in jobs that are more routine, you should place the workers in the environment where they can most excel. For instance, if you were managing the marketing department and had to produce and place a television advertisement for your company’s product, the internal locus of control individual could be placed in charge of managing the copywriting and design of advertising, while the external locus of control individual could track production schedules, cost, and procuring airtime from television stations. In terms of self-esteem, you should tend to use negative feedback sparingly with a low self-esteem worker. Low self-esteem workers also react less well to stressful and ambiguous work situations, so you should provide clear direction and minimize stress. Since most organizations and work settings will benefit from workers with high self-esteem, you should avoid petty work rules that signal that the employees are untrustworthy.
- Consider some examples of behaviour that you repeat fairly regularly (such as studying or going to work every morning). What are the positive and negative reinforcers that maintain this behaviour?
Studying: Positive reinforcers that might maintain studying behaviour include receiving good grades, feeling confident about mastery of subject matter, or receiving compliments from a professor. Negative reinforcers include the threat of losing a scholarship or the fear of being embarrassed in class.
Going to work: Positive reinforcers that might maintain work attendance include any rewards that the job provides, such as pay and interesting work. Negative reinforcers include the threat that superiors, co-workers, and family members will react negatively toward poor attendance.
- We pointed out that managers frequently resort to punishing ineffective behaviour. What are some of the practical demands of the typical manager’s job that lead to this state of affairs?
Many managers (especially those at lower organizational levels) command few tangible positive reinforcers to control employee behaviour. That is, they may have little real control over pay raises, promotions, and so forth. In addition, they may lack the social skills to use praise and compliments as positive reinforcers. In this case, they may perceive that punishment (for example, reprimands, docking pay) is the only available means to control employee behaviour. In addition, many managers are exceedingly busy and have many employees to supervise. They may concentrate only on poor performance or deviant behaviour. “Exceptions” are noted and punished, while routine, acceptable role performance is ignored due to time constraints.
- Discuss a situation that you have observed in which the use of punishment was ineffective in terminating some unwanted behaviour. Why was punishment ineffective in this case? What would have made it more effective?
Punishment is most effective when it is swift, intense, and administered in a consistent, fair, and unemotional manner. In addition, it is essential that the unwanted behaviour be replaced with a desirable behaviour that can be reinforced. For an example of ineffective punishment, consider the employee who has been turning in reports that are technically accurate but poorly written and messily presented. The boss ignores the negative aspects of the reports for several weeks, and then gets angry and “cracks down,” screaming at the employee that the reports are “totally unacceptable.” The boss committed several errors: (1) He delayed the punishment; (2) He punished with anger; (3) He didn’t explain exactly what was wrong with the reports. In this case, it is likely that the employee will become hostile, and he has little notion of how to improve the reports. Punishment would have been more effective if the boss had punished the employee immediately, made sure his emotions were under control, and explained to the employee what was wrong with his reports and what is considered to be acceptable. The manager might then reinforce the employees’ reports when they are better written and presented.