Each of the members of an organization has his or her behaviors and mannerisms. These differences are known as personality. Additionally, people have different levels of ability. These individual differences, personality and ability, help managers predict how successful an individual will be within an organization. Understanding these differences gives managers the opportunity to improve organizational performance and avoid discord (George & Jones, 2008).
Individual differences has the greatest on performance when there is not a pre-existing standard of behavior. Jim Collins (2001) noted that highly successful organizations in the last half of the 20th Century were built on teams that allowed their individual differences to create positive momentum. These organizations used the individual differences of their team members to encourage creativity. In fact, the management teams of many of these organizations were well known for intense arguments as the team members fought passionately for their ideas. Organizations that enjoyed a short run of success during this time period often had management teams that were stifled by an accepted mode of behavior. These teams were usually led by a single larger-than-life leader, and were expected to follow the direction of the leader or move on (Collins, 2001).
There are times when situational contexts can create positive performance. Teams that deal directly with customers, for example, understand that conforming to the expected behavior of the situation will result in improved customer satisfaction and organizational performance. These situational contexts are not limited to customer interaction, though. Anytime a team is interfacing with an external group, it can be expected that conforming to the situation rather than individual personality will achieve better results. Even if the external group is still part of the organization, this is important (George & Jones, 2008). As Collins (2001) noted, the management team of Nucor treated employees better than they treated themselves. This had the effect of creating intense employee loyalty.
Collins, J. C. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap… and others don’t. New York: HarperCollins.
George, J. M., & Jones G. R. (2008). Understanding and managing organizational behavior. (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.