Why do people do what they do?
Dr. Murray Barrick, Paul M. and Rosalie Robertson Chair in Business, Mays Business School, Texas A & M University
Theory of Purposeful Behavior, Why do People do What They do?The following is taken from Dr. Barrick’s research and information presented at the Beebe Institute event.
Explaining why people do what they do at work has been the goal of behavioral scientists for nearly 100 years. Although there are many different ways to address this complex question, ultimately, any answer includes a discussion of individual characteristics such as motivation and ability and situational factors such as job characteristics. This research focuses on the motivational processes resulting from the joint effects of personality traits and tasks or social characteristics in explaining work behavior. The Theory of Purposeful Work Behavior integrates principles derived from the Five-factor Model (FFM) of personality and the expanded job characteristics model to explain how traits and job characteristics jointly and interactively influence work outcomes. The theory posits that when the motivational forces associated with personality traits and job characteristics act in concert, individuals experience the psychological state of meaningfulness; in turn, experienced meaningfulness leads to purposeful, goal-directed task-specific motivational processes that influence work outcomes.
The FFM Structure of Personality is based on five factors:
- Extraversion – Sociability and Surgency
- Agreeableness – Cooperativeness and Consideration
- Conscientiousness – Dependability, Planful, Hardworking, Achievement Striving
- Emotional Stability – Calm, Resilient, Self-Confident
- Openness to Experience – Cultured and Creative
The Theory of Purposeful Work Behavior could also be used to improve career planning and even performance management systems. For example, individuals may use self-assessments of personality and these fundamental goals to help them identify which occupations may be most rewarding for them to pursue, or given a choice between two organizations with a position with the same specific job title, which job to choose. That is, an applicant who is highly conscientious would likely be happier and more productive as an engineer in the company that allows current engineers more feedback from the job and greater task identity.
Information for this article was taken from a paper Dr. Barrick co-authored with Michael K. Mount and Ning Li and is titled, The Theory of Purposeful Work Behavior. This paper was presented by Dr. Barrick at the Beebe-sponsored speaker event.