Individual Differences in Organisational Behaviour

2898 words (12 pages) Essay in Psychology

13/07/17 Psychology Reference this

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The impact of individual differences on organisational behaviour is becoming more and more tremendous. Especially in organisation’s recruitment and selection process, individual differences are highly concerned by employers. Considering the development of organisational effectiveness, researchers spent more time on the study of individual differences to discover how they may affect individual performance so to influence organisation’s performance. Robbins (2003, p.103) states that organisations want to match individual to specific jobs by taking individual differences into account and organisations have expanded their interest to the individual-organisation fit recently. How to effectively manage people within a diverse context is becoming a serious issue for all managers. According to Mullins (2007, p.122), people differ from each other and individual differences are the basis of diversity. Thus, an effective manager in modern business world is required to be able to identify individual differences and coordinate individual with organisation’s requirement. This essay will illustrate a brief study about individual differences and discuss three main factors that have a significant influence on individual differences: Demographic factors, intelligence and ability, and personality.

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Individual differences are becoming more and more important to organisations. According to Mullins (2007, p.123), in order to generate good performance of an organisation, managers should be able to understand the individuals within the organisation and the way how individual are related and interact. Moreover, individuality is considered as a key to organisational effectiveness especially in recruiting and selecting process. Ashleigh and Mansi (2012, p.68) state that individual differences are particularly crucial for work psychologist in selection, recruitment, development, and training of individual. How do individuals differ is a very complex topic for researchers to study. In general, researchers and work psychologists differentiate individual based on several factors such as: ethnic origin, gender, culture background, attitudes, personality traits, intelligence, abilities, perception, motivation, and etc. (Mullins, 2007, p.124). In other words, as psychological perspective, individual behaviour differences can be explained by variety of theories such as cognitive intelligence. The study of individual differences is also known as differential psychology (Ashleigh and Mansi, 2012, p.68) which evaluates individual differences in intelligence, ability, values, emotional adjustment, creativity, and personality. In reality, individual differences can be seen from people’s appearance, the way people think, the way people behave, the way people react against stimulations, and etc. Ashleigh and Mansi (2012, p.68) state that individual differences can shape people’s career path and affect other people’s perception about you. The study of individual differences has been done by researchers for many years. According to Ashleigh and Mansi (2012, p.69), individual differences were learned by human behaviour at the first. After World War II, researchers started to focus on individual personality aspect which led to traits theories. There are two main approaches can be concluded as the way for researchers to study individual differences which are nomothetic and ideographic approaches. As a matter of fact, most of the organisational behaviour researchers prefer to use nomothetic approach and focus on traits to assess individual differences. So far, the widely adapted measures of individual differences were basically developed upon traits. Therefore, it is glad to see that the development of such theories has enabled researchers and work psychologists to predict future performance of individual in order to improve organisational effectiveness.

Individual differences can be easily recognised from people’s appearance at the first time meet. Everyone can be appeared differently from their gender, race, age, ethnicity and etc. All these characteristics are referring to demography. According to Ashleigh and Mansi (2012, p.80), demographics refer to differences within a population such as race, age, educational level, gender, and etc. Due to the globalisation, the world is becoming smaller, the barriers of entering to another country becomes lower at the same time. Nowadays, it is normal to see people from different part of the world working together. It can be concluded as an increasing diversity of workforce. Diversity refers to dissimilarities or differences among people based on demographics. (Ashleigh et al, 2007, p.136). People have to admit that individual differences based on demographic factor have an impact on work performance. For instance, there was a research suggested that female executives have better performance than male colleagues on certain skills. (Sharpe, cited in Ashleigh et al, 2007, p.139). Moreover, the prediction of work performance in organisation is influenced by demographics as well. Frino (2013) has conducted a research on the role of demographics as predictors of successful performance of sales professions in B2B sales organisations which showed a result of female’s performance increased steadily then longer they stay in their position rather than male’s. It is obvious that demographic factor is becoming more important for organisations especially in how to manage people in diversity and to predict future performance of employees. In order to assess organisational behaviour, researchers need to control individual differences which may affect research reliability. Ashleigh and Mansi (2012, p.80) also state that demographic differences should be considered as an important factor when assessing data which may be applied in organisations by work psychologists. Thus, demographic factors are very important for assessing individual differences and it should be taken into account by organisations.

Individual differences can be recognised in intelligence and abilities and it is not easy to measure. Intelligence is considered one of the most important factors in individual differences by organisations is because they expect the person can bring certain level of performance in contributing the organisation. (Ashleigh and Mansi, 2012, p.73). The concepts of intelligence are always abstract. Even until now, after so many years of discussion, neither psychologists nor senior managers are able to state complete definitions of intelligence and ability. Eysenck (1994, p.4) states that people who tend to be more intelligent are considered as good at abstract reasoning, problem solving and decision-making. Some psychologists believe the notion of intelligence should be broader than that which intelligence is defined as a mental ability. Intelligence can be considered as a mental activity of purposive adaptation, selection and shaping under a real world environment. (Sternberg, cited in Eysenck, 1994, p.5). But still, all definitions about intelligence are relatively abstract and people can only have a general view and understanding about it. In fact, individual has his or her own definition about intelligence based on different perspective of view. While talking about intelligence in real life, it seems that people do believe more intelligent man tend to be learn things more quickly and be able to perform well. Is that true? Eysenck (1994, p.4) argues that people who considered as less intelligent can display some extraordinary abilities in a way that they are extremely familiar with relevant information. It obvious showed that intelligence is important but somehow intelligence is not the key assessment of a person. Ability then becomes another important element that differs individual. Unlike intelligence, ability refers to a person’s capacity to deliver a satisfied performance by given different tasks. Or to be simplified, ability is what a person can do. (Robbins, 2003, p.40). Individual differs from each other due to different level of intelligence and ability. So it is always difficult for employers to measure individual differences in intelligence in order to give suitable positions. With the purpose of developing an effective measurement, intelligence quotient (IQ) was born and it reflects individual performance based on sub-tests contained in intelligence test. Individual differences in intelligence may be simply measured by using intelligence tests which are designed to have an IQ score that can differentiate individual. And it is considered as an overall measure of individual intelligence and it became the best-known measurement. (Eysenck, 1994, p.7). However, IQ test only illustrate a broad intellectual ability of one person. Moreover, it is found that high IQs do not always perform well on all tests and low IQs do not always perform poorly. (Eysenck, 1994, p.9). Hence, other measures had been developed by using ‘Factor Analysis’ which is a multivariate statistical technique to simplify correlational relationships between variables. For instance, Charles Spearman’s general intelligence (g) approach which indicates a two-factor theory. One is specific abilities (s) and the other one is positive correlations. (Maltby et al, 2010, p.285). Then, the two famous and standardised measures stand out. According to Maltby et al (2010, p.286) first one is The Wechsler tests, which has two tests: Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and Wechsler Scale for Children (WISC), and the tests contained numbers of subtests to measure different aspects of intelligence like verbal and performance tests. This test seems more standardised and can be easily adapted by employers. The second one is Raven’s Progressive Matrices which has minimised the influence of culture and language by giving non-verbal problems. (Maltby et al, 2010, p.292). This test can enable the employers to have a better knowledge about people’s abstract reasoning ability in intelligence. Nevertheless, the meaning of intelligence was expanded by researchers. Intelligence can be evaluated by four parts which are cognitive, social, emotional, and culture. (Riggio, cited in Robbins, 2003, p.41). In March 2000 Daniel Goleman introduced ‘Emotional Intelligence’ which refers to people’s ability of understanding people’s emotions including his own. (Maltby et al, 2010, p.391). This approach is becoming more important for employers dealing with individuals nowadays. The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test which yields an EI score and two area scores; and the Self-Rated Emotional Intelligence Scale which refers to assessment of perception, use, understanding and management of emotions; are considered as two effective measurements to measure EI. (Webb et al,. 2013). It may be seen, then, that individual differences in intelligence can be measured but will still acts as a challenging role for organisations.

People have different personalities and there are numbers of ways to describe a person’s personality. Generally, personality reflects what people do and say, and more importantly, it reflects how people do and what they do. (Carver and Scheier, 2008, p.3). Gordon Allport (cited in Carver and Scheier, 2008, p.5) states personality is a dynamic organisation inside a person which is shown from the person’s behaviour, thoughts, and feelings. It is considered as the most frequently used definition of personality however personality is not easy to be determined and measured. Robbins (2003, p.94) states that there are several personality determinants such as heredity, environment, and situation. It indicates that personality is not a constant character of a person, it might change or express differently due to external environment and along with the time changing. Individual difference is one of the fundamental themes in personality, and it is important to theorists to understand personality. (Carver and Scheier, 2008, p.5) There are two main approaches to studying personality: idiographic and nomothetic. The biggest difference between these two approaches is idiographic approach claims individual’s personality is unique and there is no measurement, however nomothetic approach states the personality can be described through set of variables so it can be measured. (Maltby et al, 2010, p.8). In order to measure personality and help organisation to be effective in selection, mainly organisational behaviour researchers prefer to apply nomothetic approach. Personality traits are defined as characteristics that describe individual’s behaviour. (Robbins, 2003, p.96). And trait is acting as an important role in personality theories and measures. One of the most famous early theories is Cattell’s trait theory. He produced 171 trait names which covered almost everything important in personality, and later they have been concluded as 16 personality factors (PF). (Eysenck, 1994, p.51). Whereas, Eysenck (1994, p.51) claims this theory is not fully accepted since the 16PF appears to be weak and difficult to replicate so Cattell actually failed to develop adequate traits for his theory. In fact, Cattell’s theory has a clear identification of major traits of personality and it enabling researchers to assess personality relatively effectively based on 16 PF. Another theory developed by Eysenck (1994, p.52) is Eysenck’s 3 Factor Model, which is based on three ‘superfactors’: Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Psychoticism. These three major factors are the most important factors of personality, unlike 16 PF, a lot of traits can be defined within these three factors. His 3 factor model is considered as a successful theory since people know how genetic factors are used to determine individual’s level of personality on these three. The two main theories talked above might also be used complementarily in organisation’s selection to have a relatively more reasonable assessment of individual differences in personality. And the organisational behaviour researchers are able to measure personality based on traits. Same as measuring intelligence, measure personality is not easy as well. The Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is widely used as the framework to measure personality which involves answering questionnaires than enabling psychologists to classify person’s traits based on four dichotomous types: Extrovert (E) versus Introvert (I), Sensing (S) versus Intuitive (N), Thinking (T) versus Feeling (F), and Judging (J) versus Perceiving (P). (Cohen et al, 2013). People can be classified into 16 different categories shown in Figue 1.

Figure 1: The 16 possible personality types of the MBTI. (Cohen et al, 2013)

And based on MBTI practices, different job or positions can be considered suitable for certain type of people with particular MBTI type. For instance, according to Cohen et al (2013), his study of MBTI personality type of project managers concluded that a success project leader should have an INTJ, ENTJ, ISTJ, or any other type with the existence of TJ. However, Furnham and Crump (2013) claim that MBTI has a weakness which indicated this measure of personality have an unclear Extraversion-Introversion dimension and lack of valid supporting evidence. As a matter of fact, MBTI is considered as one of most frequently used measure by organisations even for the famous organisation like Apple Computer, AT&T, GE, 3M Co., Citigroup, and etc. (Robbins, 2003, p.91). Another widely applied measure is called The Big Five Model which refers to five domains: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism (sometimes named by its polar opposite, Emotional Stability), and Openness to Experience (sometimes named Intellect). Soto and Jackson (2013) states that psychologist believe the five domains are able to capture most important and individual differences in personality. This measure provided a unifying personality framework and it also illustrated an important relationship between personality and individual performance. For instance, Robbins (2003, p.98) states employees who have high score in conscientiousness tend to have a high-level of job knowledge. In short, personality does have a big impact on individual differences and the measures discussed above should be adapted by organisations to ensure an effective selection process.

To sum up, individual differences is acting an important role in today’s environment. The impacts of individual differences have driven researchers and work psychologists to study this topic. There are a lot of factors can be discussed as having influences on individual differences while intelligence and personality are considered as two dominant factors that count on the nature of individual differences. Organisations adapted several measures to measure individual differences in order to improve organisational effectiveness and performance. Even though there are amount of theories and measures has been developed, it seems that none of them can be accepted by everyone and they all have deficiency. Maltby et al (2010, p.447) states that many individual differences psychologists did not even conduct their researches on a wealth of diverse theory. For the perspective of organisations, measuring individual differences is very important and it can help them to develop effective organisational processes. Moreover, it has enabled organisations to make specific organisation mechanism or adjust organisation’s requirement individually in order to generate greater performance for both individual and organisation. Individual differences can bring creativity for organisations, can result in different level of satisfaction at work, and even can be the root of conflict and frustration within the organisation. (Mullins, 2007, p.122). There can be no doubt that individual differences will either being great assets or big challenges for organisations.


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Frino, M.G., and Desiderio, K.P., 2013. The Role of Demographics as Predictors of Successful Performance of Sales Professionals in Business-to-Business Sales Organizations. International Society for Performance Improvement, 25(4), 7-21.

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