Personality traits and job fit

Self esteem (SE): An individual’s degree of like or dislike for himself or herself.

People differ in the degree to which they like or dislike themselves. This trait is called self esteem (SE). The research on SE offers some interesting insights into organizational behavior. For example, SE is a directly related to expectations for success. High SE believes that they possess the ability to succeed at work. Individuals with high SE will take more risks in job selection and are more likely to choose unconventional jobs than are people with low SE. The most common finding on self esteem is that low SEs are more susceptible to external influence than are high SEs. Low SEs are dependent on positive evaluations from others. As a result, they are more likely to seek approval from others and more prone to conform to the beliefs and behaviors of those they respect than are high SEs. In managerial positions, low SEs will tend to be concerned with pleasing others and, therefore, will be less likely to take unpopular stands than will high SEs. Not surprisingly, self esteem has also been found to be related to job satisfaction. A number of studies confirm that high SEs are more satisfied with their jobs than are low SEs.

Self monitoring: A measure of an individual’s ability to adjust his or her behavior to external, situational factors.

Another personality trait that has recently received increased attention is called self monitoring. It refers to an individual’s ability to adjust or her behavior to external, situational factors. Individuals high in self monitoring cans have considerable adaptability in adjusting their behavior to external, situational factors. They are highly sensitive to external clues and can behave differently in different situations. High self monitors are capable of presenting striking contradictions between their public persona and their private selves. Low self monitors can’t alter their behavior. They tend to display their true dispositions and attitudes in every situation; hence, they exhibit high behavioral consistency between who they are and what they do. Evidence suggests that high self monitors tend to pay closer attention to the behavior of others and are more capable of conforming than are low self monitors. We might also hypothesize that high self monitors will be more successful in managerial positions that require individuals to play multiple, and even contradicting, roles.

The final personality trait influencing worker behavior reflects the willingness to take chances – the propensity for risk taking. A preference to assume or avoid risk has been shown to have an impact on how long it takes individuals to make a decision and how much information they require before making their choice. For instance in one classic study, 79 managers worked on a simulated human resources management exercise that required them to make hiring decisions. High risk taking managers made more rapid decisions and used less information in making their choices than did the low risk taking managers. Interestingly; the decision accuracy was the same for both groups.

Although it is generally correct to conclude that managers in organizations are risk aversive, especially in large companies and government departments, individual differences are still found on this dimension. As a result it makes sense to recognize these differences and even to consider aligning risk propensity with specific job demands. For instance, a high risk taking propensity may lead to effective performance for a stock broking firm. This type of job demands rapid decision making. The same holds true for the entrepreneur. On the other hand, this personality characteristic might prove a major obstacle to accountants performing auditing activities, which might be better done by someone with a low risk taking propensity.

Individual personalities differ. So is the job. Following this logic, efforts have been made to match the proper personalities with the proper jobs. The best documented personality job fit theory states that an employee’s satisfaction with his or her propensity to leave that job depends on the degree to which the individual’s personality matches his or her occupational environment. Six basic employee personality types are identified. Exhibit describes each of the six types their personality characteristics and examples of congruent occupations:


Realistic: Prefers physical activities that require kill, strength and coordination. Shy, genuine, persistent, stable, conforming, practical Mechanic drill-press operator, assembly line worker, farmer.

Investigation: Prefers activities involving thinking, organizing and understanding: Analytical, original, curious, independent Biologist, economist, mathematician, and reporter.

Social: Prefers activities that involve helping and developing others. Sociable, friendly, cooperative, understanding Social worker, teacher, counselor, clinical psychologists

Conventional: Prefers rule regulated orderly and unambiguous activities conforming efficient, practical, unimaginative, and inflexible: Accountant, corporate manager, Bank teller, file clerk.

Enterprising: Prefers verbal activities where there are opportunities to influence others and attain power. Self confident, ambitious, energetic, domineering: Lawyer, real estate agent, public relations, specialist, small business manager.

Artistic: Prefers ambiguous and unsystematic activities that allow creative expression. Imaginative, disorderly, idealistic, emotional, impractical. Painter musician, writer, interior decorator.

Holland’s research strongly supports the hexagonal diagram. The closer two fields for orientations are in the hexagon, the more compatible they are. For instance, Realistic and Social are opposite each other. A person with a Realistic preference wants to work with objects, not people. A person with a Social preference wants to work with people, no matter what else they do. Therefore he has opposing preferences about working alone or with others. Investigative and enterprising are opposing themes as are Artistic and Conventional preferences. An example of mutually reinforcing themes is the Social Enterprising Conventional (SEC) vocational preference structure. Neha for example likes working with people, being successful, and following established rules. That combination is perfect for someone who’s going to succeed in a bureaucracy. But let’s look at another employee, Amit. He’s Realistic Investigative Artistic preferring solitary work to large groups, asking questions to answering them, and making his own rules instead of following someone else’s. How would Amit fit into Neha’s Bureaucracy? Not very well. In fact, his preferred actions could be viewed as trouble making. Where then would Amit make a better fit? Possibly in a research lab. Both the preference of the scientist and the environment of the research lab are characterized by a lack of human interruptions and a concentration on factual material. That’s consistent with the realistic investigative Artistic profile.

What do all these orientations mean? The theory argues that satisfaction is highest and turnover lowest when personality and occupation are in agreement. Social individuals should be in social jobs, conventional people in conventional jobs, and so forth. A realistic person in a realistic job is in a more congruent situation than is realistic person in an investigative job. A realistic person in a social job is in the most incongruent situation possible. The key points of this model are:

1) Intrinsic differences in personality are apparent among individuals.
2) There are different types of jobs.
3) People in job environments congruent with their personality types should be more satisfied and less likely to resign voluntarily than people in incongruent jobs.

How can an understanding of personality help managers be more effective?

The major value of a manager’s understanding personality differences probably lies in employee selection. Managers are likely to have higher performing and more satisfied employees if personality types are matched to compatible jobs. In addition, compatibility leads to other benefits. By recognizing that people approach problem solving, decision making and job interactions differently.