Personality, Ability, and Cultural Values

In many occasions, I have found myself wondering why certain individuals do shine exceptionally in their careers while others perform poorly. More interestingly, others do well when they venture into different disciplines or just shift careers. I never related this phenomenon to personal traits and individual abilities till I went through the slides. Reading the textbook also helped me have a better understanding of the role personality plays in determining performance, even in the workplace.

The way one thinks and their general behavior coupled with emotions make up their personality. Does this affect one’s performance in the workplace? The answer is in the affirmative, because personality will determine how one relates with others. Relations with others will be dictated mainly by personal traits, since one’s behavior either draws people to them, or just repels them away. This affects team work and individual commitment to one’s duties and any tasks assigned. One’s actions are interpreted according to how others understand their personality. For instance, an employee who is known to be time conscious, disciplined, and committed in his work will be easily excused and forgiven if he turns up late for work one day. However, one who is known to be less committed and generally sluggish in his duties may not easily get off the hook. It should be noted that, in the same breath are factors like extraversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness, and openness to experience. All these influence relations to a great extent at work. Performance is directly proportional to such relations.

What else apart from personality defines an individual? It is normal to describe people with adjectives like sharp, smart, intelligent, dopey, goosy, and jerky, but what is this really about? It has everything to do with the way they are perceived, as regards their abilities, intellectual or otherwise. These abilities are either cognitive or emotional, and they dictate one’s capabilities to perform given activities. In elementary school, I remember some friends who were not particularly good in mathematics, a subject some regarded as their favorite. Those who could not shine in mathematics did well in arts-related disciplines while the ‘mathematicians’ performed dismally in this area. How can this disparity be explained? This is largely attributed to differences in cognitive abilities of individuals. Some have a superior quantitative ability as opposed to others who, for instance, might be gifted with an outstanding verbal ability, making them good orators. This example can be illustrated best by a case where one finds a student of excellent mathematical ability who, interestingly, cannot express himself or pass on his ideas to others.

Perhaps this explains best why parents are advised to let their children venture into fields they feel most comfortable in. It is rare to find one aspiring to be an accountant when he or she is poor in Mathematics. In the same way, a student who is good in History and poor in Physical Sciences is less likely to dream of being a pilot. This shows the central role one’s abilities play in determining what they can or cannot do best. I now understand why my mum is an accountant, and my father a History teacher.

An individual’s general conduct is also dictated by cultural values. These are still very relevant in professional life since the way one handles situations and their perception depends on any cultural values they may be holding onto. This may also affect performance. For example, one who was brought up and made to understand that women should not speak before men may not be comfortable holding certain positions. Their personal commitment in their duties may also be determined by such values.

The slides have given me insight into a lot of factors at play in both professional and personal life. I believe am now better informed to make better decisions in future based on this knowledge. For instance, I shall give my kids the freedom to choose their careers for themselves. I now understand that besides being driven by mere passion, personal abilities play a cardinal role in key decision-making.

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