Individual differences (IDs)Individual differences (IDs)are the many attributes, such as traits and behaviors, that describe each of us as a person.IDs are a big part of what gives each of us our unique identities, and they are fundamental to the understanding and application of OB. So, what is it that makes us different? Is it our genetics or our environment? The answer is both.2And while the way you are raised, along with your experiences and opportunities, indeed helps shape who you are, a large volume of research on twins suggests that genetics matters more. But what is more important at work is recognizing the many attributes that make us unique individuals, regardless of whether they are due to nature or nurture.A broad category used to collectively describe the vast number of attributes (for example, traits and behaviors) that describe you as a person, 81–82
FIGURE 3.2Relative Stability of Individual DifferencesOn the left-hand side of Figure 3.2we arrange individual differences on a continuum. At the top of the continuum are intelligence and cognitive abilities, which are relatively fixed. This means they are stable over time and across situations and are difficult to change. At the bottom are attitudes (which we discussed in Chapter 2) and emotions, which are relatively flexible. Emotions change over time and from situation to situation, and they can be altered more easily. To elaborate, you aren't more or less intelligent at school than you are at work or home, although your emotions commonly change within and between all of these places. Of course both your
intelligence and emotions, as well as many other individual characteristics influence the many outcomes included in the right side of Figure 3.2.The distinction between relatively fixed and flexible individual differences has great practical value. Wise managers know they have little or no impact on fixed IDs. You can’t change an employee’s level of intelligence or remake an employee’s personality.3But you can help employees manage their attitudes and emotions. For instance, many effective managers (and their employers) select employees based on positive, job-relevant, butPage 82relatively stable IDs. This hiring strategy enables managers to capitalize on the personal strengths that someone brings to a job because these stable strengths affect behavior and performance in most every work situation.4Intelligence and analytical abilities, for example, are beneficial in front of customers, in teams with coworkers, and when working alone on a project.In contrast, managers can have more influence on relatively flexible IDs that influence individual-level work outcomes, like performance and job satisfaction. They can do this by implementing policies that raise employees’ core self-evaluations, attitudes, and emotions. For example, as a manager you’ll likely see better results from assigning work with new products and new markets to employees who are open to experience than to employees with low levels of this attribute.