Do companies have personalities?

Corporate Personhood by Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t

I guess this corporation has a split personality.

When clients talk about the kind of organisations they would like to work for, what words do they use?











The list could go on and on. However, according to one group of researchers, when we evaluate an organisation we tend to use four main dimensions to categorise them.

Otto, Chater & Scott (2011) used a number of methods to generate adjectives that people apply to companies. They started out with a small group of people using the repertory grid technique (used in another interesting piece of research and in the ‘Two against one’ exercise). Later, they expanded the study to include more people and more adjectives. They used statistical analysis to weed out the ones that were not particularly helpful in distinguishing organisations and to group them together by theme.

They ended up with four distinct groups or dimensions

  • Honesty – including: fair, helpful, supportive, cooperative, socially responsible
  • Prestige – including: luxurious, high status, formal, good quality, intelligent
  • Innovation – including: fresh, energetic, fashionable, creative, global
  • Power – including: dominant, established, popular, active, essential

Obviously, these categories represent the perceptions of particular brands by potential customers rather than by potential employees, but I suspect that most people think of working for an organisation when they have already developed an awareness of it through market exposure.

It would be interesting to find out if the people within the organisations studied would use the same dimensions to describe the company they work for and whether internal and external perceptions matched up.

What do you look for in an organisation?

Do you think that there are more helpful ways to categorise potential employers?

How would you rate your company on each of these dimensions?


Further reading

Otto, P., Chater, N. & Stott, H. (2011). The psychological representation of corporate ‘personality’ Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25(4), 605-614. DOI: 10.1002/acp.1729

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