In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Personality Theory and Organizational Performance

  • Introduction
  • Books
  • General Reviews
  • Personality Structure
  • Construct Specificity
  • Trait-Situation Interactions
  • Career Choice
  • Leadership and Management
  • Teams
  • Faking

Management Personality Theory and Organizational Performance
Robert Tett, Jennifer Ragsdale, Daniel Simonet
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 March 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0122


Personality is the set of characteristics in the individual that account for recurring patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings. It has often been a focus of study in work settings because organizations seek to capitalize on individuals’ unique habits and propensities as distinct from their knowledge, skills, and abilities toward improving organizational success. Workers are key to that success, and personality offers organizations a target for assessing individuals in personnel selection, work motivation, leadership, teamwork, and other key aspects of organizational functioning. Personality theory and organizational performance are broad domains, each capturing over a century of generative scientific thinking and research. We encapsulate the intersection between those domains, highlighting selected works as a foundation for further development and vetting of personality theory in organizations. Personality has a rich and evolving theoretic literature outside the workplace, as does personality assessment. Here, we target personality theories designed especially for organizations. Full-fledged theories of personality at work are relatively few, but theoretical concepts involving personality in organizations are fairly common, and relevant sources are included. At the simplest level are theoretically relevant linkages between personality constructs (typically traits) and organization-relevant outcomes (typically job performance). More complex are person-situation interactions, which, in the workplace, inform situational specificity of personality-outcome linkages. Two further theoretic issues are personality structure and construct specificity, focusing on the meaning and merits of broad versus narrow personality and criterion domains. Theories on response distortion (e.g., faking) are included, given strong incentives for making a good impression during personnel screening. We also consider sources describing broad psychological processes (e.g., person-organization fit) in which personality is one of several main concepts, and sources theorizing about personality in a variety of processes serving organizational performance (career choice, personnel selection, work motivation, teamwork, and leadership). We narrowed the large number of relevant works to those with one or more of the following features: a major focus on personality theory in work settings; evidence of notable impact on the personality-in-organizations literature; among empirical papers, evaluation of a clearly identified personality theory in a work setting; and, among sources from the same author(s), the more seminal and/or representative contributions. Within sections, sources are presented in chronological order to capture trends over time.


The resurgence of personality in the workplace is evident in the relatively recent publication of a number of texts devoted specifically to this topic. We focus on six academic volumes, all of which offer rich descriptions and analysis of contemporary personality theory especially relevant to workers and organizations.

  • Roberts, Brent W., and Robert Hogan. Personality Psychology in the Workplace. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1037/10434-000

    This edited volume includes thirteen chapters by top personality scholars on assorted issues involving personality in organizations, including theory-focused contributions on personality and citizenship, core self-evaluations, personality assessment (e.g., response distortion) and structure, person-organization fit, moral integrity, and the self.

  • Schneider, Benjamin, and D. Brent Smith. Personality and Organizations. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004.

    An edited volume covering relevant theory and empirical findings concerning personality at work. Includes thoughtful and generative expositions on socioanalytic theory (compared to trait theory), interactionism, person-organization (PO) fit, faking, vocational choice, job attitudes, stress, and assorted organizational processes and outcomes (e.g., leadership, citizenship behaviors, organizational culture). It closes with a critique of the five-factor model (FFM) and calls for process models of personality at work.

  • Barrick, Murray R., and Ann Marie Ryan. Personality and Work: Reconsidering the Role of Personality in Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004.

    Select issues are covered by leading scholars in this edited work. Topics include personality structure, positive affect, interactionism, personality and job performance, emotions, counterproductive work behavior, teams, training, and PO fit. Two concluding chapters urge continued development of work-related personality theory.

  • Christiansen, Neil D., and Robert P. Tett. Handbook of Personality at Work. New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2013.

    Offering uniquely comprehensive coverage of personality in organizations, this edited volume, authored by recognized experts, targets work-focused personality theories (e.g., socioanalytic, trait activation, implicit personality), history, assessment issues (e.g., faking), legal issues, and applications (personnel selection, training, work attitudes, teams, stress, leadership, personality change). Also included is a chapter challenging the value of personality in the workplace. Most other chapters include personality theory as a key focus.

  • Furnham, Adrian. Personality at Work: The Role of Individual Differences in the Workplace. London: Routledge, 2004.

    Originally published in 1992, this text was first to focus exclusively on the role of personality in organizational behavior. Major personality theories are summarized and evaluated. Applications to career choice, performance, motivation, work satisfaction, and leadership, among other topics, are described in detail. Separate chapters cover personality assessment and non-personality variables (e.g., ability).

  • James, Lawrence R., and Michelle D. Mazerolle. Personality in Work Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2002.

    Extending work by the lead author on conditional reasoning measures, a unique social-cognitive approach to understanding personality at work is advanced. Need/trait perspectives are described for comparison purposes. Personality “coherence” is emphasized, denoting deep, cognitively mediated stability of behavior across situations.

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