Personnel Psychology, 1973, 26, 61-73.

(With a post-publication addendum following the original article)



University of New South Wales

To most employers the desirability of task orientation in his employees would be hard to overstate. Selection of employees with high levels of task orientation is, therefore, a most relevant goal. The present paper is concerned to look at some of the foundations upon which such selection might be built.

Two major lines of work bearing on the measurement of task versus interaction orientation are by Bales (1958) and Bass (1967). The Bales work provides a system for scoring actual behaviour whereas Bass has constructed an ipsatively scored personality cum attitude inventory. The Bass inventory is known as "Ori" and provides, in all, three choices -- the third being "self-orientation." It is desired in this paper to question the validity of Bass' measure and provide alternatives to it.

In his review of work with 'Ori', Bass (1967) concludes: "With a few interesting exceptions, in small groups and large organizations, the task-oriented person is upgraded by observers, peers and superiors. He is more tolerant of deviant opinion, conflicting ideas and directive supervision, although he does better himself as a permissive supervisor. . . . The interaction-oriented person is downgraded generally..."

One would think that the task-oriented person would place less value on, and give less attention to, interpersonal relations and hence be more isolated and less popular. One would expect him to be a direct supervisor --little tolerant of individual peculiarities: and yet the opposite is said to be true.

Of all things, one would most expect the task-oriented person to have a high need for achievement -- and yet Bass reports that there is in general no relationship. Bass, too, is disturbed by this point and endeavours to explain it by saying that the Classical n-Ach measures only tap fantasized achievement, not devotion to real achievement. To say this to ignore the range of validity studies that have supported the n Ach measures as indices of actual behaviour (see Brown, 1965).

Being careless of the individual and concentrating only on getting things done, we might also expect the task-oriented person to be perceived as authoritarian -- and yet again Bass reports that this is not so. One would expect the interaction oriented person to be most characterized by humanitarianism-radicalism and be tolerant of deviance in others -- and yet Bass reports that these things are more true of the task-oriented person.

How has all this come about? It could possibly be attributed to the ipsative scoring. To present oneself as self-oriented is strongly discouraged by our culture. To say a person is selfish is very pejorative indeed. Interaction-orientation too appears flabby and weak, indicative of insecurity and uncertainty. Our culture glorifies achievement -- competition and success. Even if one is interaction-oriented, one does not acknowledge this as a primary goal. Given this situation, the normal well adjusted person would express the values of his society and his milieu -- by choosing the task-oriented response and avoiding the socially undesirable self and interaction-oriented responses. Thus, by forcing a normal person to make a choice we prevent him from expressing the degree of preference that he may also have for interaction-orientation. Only the really dependent and ineffectual people choose this alternative, while only the maladjusted and egotistical choose the self-oriented alternative.

If the foregoing is true a great deal of the validity defect could be cured by "de-ipsatizing" the scale, i.e., each of the alternatives could be made into an independent item as follows:

1. I like my friends to want to help others wherever possible.
2. I like my friends to be loyal at all times.
3. I like my friends to be intelligent and interested in a number of things.

The above is only an illustration. The change needs to be done with rather more subtlety than this. As they stand, the above three would not be very good items simply because nobody could be expected to disagree with them. Who does not like helpful, loyal and intelligent friends? A better rewording might be:

1. It is important to me that my friends should want to help others wherever possible.
2. It is important to me that my friends should be loyal at all times.
3. It is important to me that my friends should be intelligent and interested in a number of things.

The above then, represents a challenge to the validity of "Ori" as a measure of task- orientation. It is contended that Bass' inventory purports to tell you what "type" of person the subject is. He must be a task-oriented type, an interaction-oriented type or a self-oriented type. The scoring system prevents him from being high on all three orientations or low on all three orientations. This means that if a person dislikes the self -orientation or interaction-orientations he is forced to present himself as a task-oriented person even though he may in fact be simply indifferent to it. Ipsative scores also have the defect that they cannot meaningfully be correlated with one another. That is, although Bass presents two different types of "opposites" to task-orientation ("self-" and "interaction-"), we have no way, using his scale, of telling how opposite the two actually are.

A second major problem with the Bass inventory centers around the reliability of "Ori." For all three scales Bass (1967) reports levels far below the figure of .75 advanced by Shaw and Wright (1967) as minimal even in a research instrument.

In the work to be presented below therefore, an attempt is made to present measures of task- and interaction-orientation that are hopefully more reliable and more valid than those that have been available heretofore.

In detail, we will endeavour to do two things: (1) De-ipsatize "Ori"; (2) Write two sets of new items which we would expect the task-oriented and interaction-oriented person respectively, as usually conceived, to agree with. We will ignore self-orientation in this project as being most clearly socio-pathological and least likely to be of importance. If the two new scales turn out to be highly negatively correlated, we might in fact combine them into one balanced scale. We cannot know in advance whether this will happen. There is no a priori reason why it should not. Even if the mean score on task items is high and the mean score on interaction items is low, the two may still intercorrelate highly! The important thing is that the Likert procedure does not put a person in the position of having to make a choice -- one alternative of which, may be more socially desirable than the other.

The definitions of task- and interaction-orientation adopted were as follows. They are largely due to Bass:

"Task-orientation: Reflects the extent to which a person is concerned about completing a job, solving problems, working persistently and doing the best job possible. Interaction-orientation: Reflects the extent of concern with maintaining happy, harmonious personal relationships --- interest in group activities is high; Summary: "Getting the job done" vs. "Having a happy time with others."

Study 1


The foregoing considerations were presented to a group of third year students in a course on attitudes conducted at Macquarie University. New items and de-ipsatized versions of "Ori" items were then produced in two "brainstorming" sessions of two hours each. From the resulting pool, 52 "task" items and 52 "interaction" items were selected. The resulting protoscale was presented to four groups of subjects. These were: (1) 104 subjects contacted as acquaintances of students in the attitude course; (2) 53 fourth form students in a Catholic boys' school; (3) 65 students at a metropolitan technical college; (4) 61 students in hobby type courses conducted in an evening college of the Department of Education.

Groups 1, 3 and 4 were also given an "attitude to authority" (AA) scale. See Ray (1971a) for details of this. The subjects in group 1 were also rated by the students contacting them on each of five characteristics.

These were:
1. How highly do you regard this person?
2. How tolerant do you think he would be of deviant opinion and ideas that conflicted with his own?
3, How authoritarian would you say this person is?
4. How task-oriented would you say this person is?
5. How interaction-oriented would you say this person is?

The peer ratings above were intended as a validity check. This method is the one championed by Hollander (1957) and Titus (1968). The Catholic school students were also rated by their teachers, even though the brothers were not very familiar with the concepts being used.

It was expected, that the differences between the technical college and the evening college students could also be used as a "criterion groups" validity check. It was argued that the technical college class would attract task-oriented people and the pottery (etc.) classes would attract people more concerned with interaction and making social contacts.

Reliability Results

When an attempt was made to produce a single bipolar scale on the results of all 283 subjects by the usual method of item to total correlations, it was found that a disproportionate number of task-oriented items showed up as weak. As groups of weak items were dropped and totals recomputed, more and more task-oriented items dropped out until, at the 50 item length, only 10 were task-orientation items. This comes about when a set of items fall into two unrelated clusters, one of which is less internally consistent than the other. This being so, the attempt to construct a single scale was abandoned and two separate scales were produced. The task-orientation scale in its final form had 27 items and a reliability ("alpha") of .80. The interaction-oriented scale had 35 items and a reliability of .84. The two scales are presented as Tables 1 and 2.

Validity Results

The t for the difference between the means of the criterion groups was 1.97 for task-orientation and 2.68 for interaction-orientation. As N was 126, both were fully significant at the <.05 level. The differences were in the expected direction.

The high scorers on the interaction-orientation (IO) scale were independently rated by their peers as more tolerant of conflicting ideas (r = .216) and as more interaction-oriented (r = .252). Both these correlations are significant < .05. High scores on the task-oriented (TO) scale were also seen by their peers as more task-oriented (r = .207), more authoritarian (r = .396) and less tolerant of conflicting ideas (r = -.201). In fact, scores on the TO scale predicted authoritarian ratings better than did scores on the attitude to authority (AA) scale (r = .286). The TO scale was related to the AA scale (r =. .352) but the IO scale was not (r = --.171). After incomplete data sets were discarded, the final N for the first sample was 74. The complete results are given in Table 3.


All the hypotheses of the introduction section of this report were clearly confirmed. So far from IO and TO scores being negatively correlated, on some samples they were in fact positively correlated! This being so, Bass' procedure is clearly inappropriate. Interaction- and task-orientation are not opposed. A person may be high on both.

The new scales have greatly superior reliability characteristics and clearly demonstrated validity. As predicted, the validity properties of the new scales are the reverse of Bass -- in other words, they are what one on theory would always have expected. This work then showed that it was interaction-oriented people who were tolerant of deviance. Task-oriented people were intolerant. Bass claimed the opposite. This work showed task-orientation was related to authoritarianism. Bass said it was not. Bass claimed the task-oriented person was politically radical. This work showed he was not. All this then, shows vividly how distorting Bass' ipsatization procedure in fact would appear to have been. By way of a caution, however, it must be recognized that relationships between variables may not be quite the same within groups of subjects as diverse as those used in the present and the Bass studies. Even so, however, the Bass findings were a convergence across so many quite different studies as to make the "Ori" validity characteristics quite uncontroversially specifiable. That the present scales show overall opposite characteristics on four different samples cannot plausibly, therefore, be entirely or even substantially attributed to sampling variations.

As a point for the prospective user, it should be observed that because the new scales were standardized on a rather heterogeneous sample, they might also be expected to be fairly resistant to reliability collapse when applied to non-university subjects.


The items of the Task-orientation scale

1. As a youngster I sought the feeling of accomplishment that comes only after doing something well.
2. Schools should place more emphasis on teaching children to follow through on a job.
3. Ambition is essential in leadership.
4. If I had more time I would like to work at my hobby or learn something new and interesting.
5. Outdated methods must be eliminated in spite of people's feelings.
6. The sacred cows in India should be slaughtered for food regardless of opposition from the peasants.
7. The first task of leaders is to get the job done.
8. If at first you don't succeed try, try again.
9. At least with working mothers you know they don't waste all their time.
10. Knowhow and initiative are the most important qualities a person can have.
11. Sentiment should not stand in the way of progress.
12. Workers should concentrate on getting the job done.
13. The best hobby is one that produces tangible results.
14. I am happiest when I am getting things done.
15. The satisfaction I get from my performance is the main thing for me in anything I undertake.
16. What gets done is more important than how pleasantly it gets done.
17. A foreman does a more important job than a social worker.
18. Getting things done is more important than keeping people happy.
19. The newspapers never give enough space to people who complete worthwhile projects.
20. My primary aim in life is to reach the top of the heap.
21. If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
22. Teachers who spend a lot of time keeping people happy seldom get anything taught.
23. People should keep themselves busy with some hobby during their leisure time.
24. The most important part of a party is the work that goes into it.
25. The greatest satisfaction in life for me is the feeling of a job well done.
26. The best friends are people who help you get things done.
27. We should always persevere until we accomplish what we set out to do.


The Items of the Interaction-Orientation (IO) Scale

1. You can't be efficient unless you're friendly.
2. I would not like to be known as a person who puts his work before his friends.
3. Meeting people is the only reason I like my job.
4. As a youngster I enjoyed just being with the gang.
5. Schools should put less emphasis on competition and more on getting along with others.
6. Any extra spare time I got I would like to use in making more friends.
7. Teachers should encourage discussion among their students.
8. Schools should be places where one learns to mix with others.
9. The best student at school is not necessarily the brightest.
10. It is important to me that my friends should want to help others wherever possible.
11. The best friends are people who are easy to get along with.
12. I would take a day off work to help my friends.
13. Leaders should be more friendly.
14. I like a leader who makes himself easy to talk to.
15. Useless people can still be lovable.
16. Even though you can't get a job done it's worth talking about.
17. Friendship is the most important thing in life.
18. Your best friends are those who understand your problems.
19. Nothing is worse than losing your friends.
20. You can get a new job but you can't get new friends.
21. If you've got friends and neighbours, you're the richest man on earth.
22. Leaders should put the welfare and satisfaction of the people in the group first. 23. Employers should subsidize social clubs for their workers.
24. Workers should be allowed to spend more time discussing what they do.
25. Part of the working day in every factory should be set aside for group discussion.
26. I learn best when I can discuss the subject with others.
27. Supervisors should give more attention to interpersonal relations.
28. It is important for musicians to be able to teach others as well as play themselves.
29. Parties are good fun.
30. The best part of a job is tea break with one's mates.
31. The only reason I take up hobbies is in order to meet other people.
32. The best form of relaxation is conversation with friends.
33. People who need people are the happiest people in the world.
34. Friends are more important than ambition in life
35. I prefer team sports.


Means, SDs and Correlations for Four Groups of Subjects. Political Party Preference is Scored from Five (DLP), Most conservative, to One (Communist), Most Radical. Sex is Scored 1 for Male, 2 for Female. Age was Scored in 6 categories

...................IO........TO....AA......AGE....POL..Sex.. Rat 1..Rat 2...Rat 3 Rat 4 Rat 5

Sample: Friends of students. N = 74

IO correls..1.00.....08....-17.......-35*...-13....-02........-01......22*.......-06......01.......25*
TO correls....03..1.00.....35*......11......17....-03.........04.....-26*........39*.....21*.....08

Sample: School students. N =53

IO correls..1.00.....21....................................................08....-04.......-09.......13.....-17
TO correls....21..1.00..................................................-09.....01.......-08.......-03.....-22

Sample: Technical College students. N = 65

IO correls..1.00......25*....-01.......-17....-00...-01
TO correls....25*..1.00......31*.......16....-09...10

Sample: Evening College students. N = 61

IO correls..1.00....-.00...-.08.......-29*...-14....20
TO correls..-.00...1.00.....43*......17......04....05

*Significant < .05 correlations are marked with an asterisk.

One doubt about the new scales presented in this article is a consequence of the fact that the IO and TO items failed to correlate. This failure leaves two one-way worded scales. The doubts about effects of acquiescence on one-way worded Likert scales are well known (see Brown, 1965, pp 510-514). Thus a person inclined to use the TO scale (or a derivative of it) for personnel selection would have to reconcile himself to the possibility that he may be selecting not merely task-oriented people but rather acquiescent task-oriented people.

Since acquiescence causes items whose meanings are really opposed to be responded to as if they were alike, Ray (1972) has pointed out that, where acquiescence is present, it tends to deflate the true correlation between positive and negative items. It might then be asked whether the failure to correlate negatively of the TO and IO scales could be due to some such effect. As has been argued by Ray (1972) however, acquiescence might cause us to accept lower negative correlations than the overall coefficient "alpha" would lead us to expect (the predicted correlation between any two halves of a Likert scale can be found by a "reversed" Spearman-Brown formula, to wit: rij = alpha/(2 - alpha) ) but it can scarcely lead us to accept correlations which are not at least significantly negative. Acquiescence certainly then seems an unlikely explanation for the occasional positive correlations in the present results.

Nonetheless, given the extent of the furore over acquiescent set, it seemed that an attempt to produce a balanced version of the TO scale should be made at least for the purposes of providing a comparison with the one-way worded scale. Such an attempt is reported below.

Study II


Once again the work so far was described to a class of advanced students and the possible opposites of task-orientation canvassed. The nearest opposite was decided to be "leisure orientation" and a pool of items to express this were written by members of the class (Sociology IV, University of New South Wales, 197I). These were made up into a questionnaire together with the original pool of task-orientation items. This questionnaire was then administered by the class to people they knew -- under the constraint that half the final sample were to be in manual occupations and half in non-manual occupations. It was thus hoped to encompass a wide spread of attitudes and make the resulting scale applicable to both types of worker. The students also completed ratings of their subjects as before. Other scales to measure achievement-orientation (Ray, 1970) and attitude to authority (Ray, 1971a) were also included in the battery.


The final N for this sample was 70. The pool of items was item-analysed by the usual method of item-to-total correIations and a 40 item scale with 20 task-oriented and 20 leisure-oriented items was produced. The reliability was .85 (coefficient "alpha" -- see Cronbach, 1951). This shows that high reliabilities were not simply a product of one-way wording (as could perhaps be urged against the first study in isolation). The items of this scale are presented in Table 4. The correlations between the two halves of this scale were --.426. Since the inferred correlation between any two halves of the scale would be .74 [.85/(2 - .85)] it is clear that acquiescent set was operating. (The post reversal observed correlation, i.e. with the minus sign removed, must be used for this comparison.) There is no doubt, however, that this is still an eminently satisfactory result. The correlation of the balanced scale with the same attitude to authority scale that was used in Study 1 was .465. The correlation with the Ray (1970) achievement-orientation scale was .615. These two results represent substantial concurrent validation for the new scale. Occupational status was scored 1 for manual and 2 for non-manual (See Ray, 197Ib) and the resulting correlation of .234 showed hence that upper class people tended to be more task-oriented. That people who are task-oriented should tend to get ahead in life is of course hardly disputable as an overall generalization. This result, then, shows the long-term predictive power (predictive validity) of the balanced scale. The correlation with age was not significant (r = .191) but, as was expected on the theoretical considerations presented earlier, the correlation with conservatism of political party preference was highly significant at .372. The subjects were also rated (using a 7-point scale) on three relevant attributes: "Task-oriented," "Lackadaisical" and "Leisure-oriented." The correlations with the balanced scale were .133, --.229 and --.274. All are in the expected direction but only the latter two are significant. The correlation with the "Task- orientation" rating is disappointing but becomes more understandable when it is realized that we have here not supervisors rating workers but students rating friends. Presumably one knows one's friends best in a leisure context and it is the rating of leisure orientation that we would expect to be most accurate. That the correlation of the scale with this rating is -.274 is thus very clear evidence that the scale is predictively valid. The failure of the Task orientation rating can be seen as simply due to lack of data on the part of the raters. This interpretation is supported by the fact that the more general (but negatively phrased) rating of "Lackadaisical" is also significantly related to scores on the scale.


The Balanced Task-Orientation Scale

Positive Items Scored from Five ("Strongly Agree") to One ("Strongly Disagree"). A Midpoint Scored Three ("Not Sure") is Allowed. Negative Items (marked R) are reverse-scored. Reliability ("Alpha") was .85

1. I don't like having to take time off work.
2. You can't succeed in business without really trying.
3. If I won the lottery I would never work again. R
4. This country should introduce a four-day working week. R
5. Schools should place more emphasis on teaching children to follow through on a job.
6. Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow. R
7. I am happiest when I am doing nothing. R
8. Ambition is essential in leadership.
9. Work is the root of all evil. R
10. Hard work takes the enjoyment out of life. R
11. The camel looks like an animal designed by a committee.
12. There should be more public holidays. R
13. If I had more time I would like to work at my hobby or learn something new and interesting.
14. Work is a bore. R
15. Outdated methods must be eliminated in spite of people's feelings.
16. I have no motivation for accomplishment. R
17. If at first you don't succeed try, try again.
18. I generally drift with the crowd. R
19. Ambition is a stain on the human spirit. R
20. Knowhow and initiative are the most important qualities a person
can have.
21. I don't want to get on in life. R
22. Sentiment should not stand in the way of progress.
23. The best instructors make their pupils work harder by stimulating their curiosity about the subject.
24. I don't do any more work than I can get out of. R
25. The best thing about work is the knock-off whistle. R
26. Workers should concentrate on getting the job done.
27. The best hobby is one that produces tangible results.
28. I am happiest when I am getting things done.
29. The satisfaction I get from my performance is the main thing for me in anything I undertake.
30. Work is always something that is best avoided if you can. R
31. Overwork is the cause of a lot of ill-health today. R
32. The newspapers never give enough space to people who complete worthwhile projects.
33. If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
34. Starting things is much more enjoyable than finishing them. R
35. Washing the car is generally a waste of energy. R
36. I look forward to the day when all work will be done by robots. R
37. People should keep themselves busy with some hobby during their leisure time.
38. I never enjoy anything I have to do in order to earn my living. R
39. The greatest satisfaction in life for me is the feeling of a job well done.
40. We should always persevere until we accomplish what we set out to do.


Both the one-way worded and the balanced scales have shown similar validity properties. Since this is so and since the one-way worded scale is much shorter, one might recommend the one-way worded scale for general use.

The important thing, however, is that over five samples, the Likert scales have shown validity properties which are by and large the reverse of what is found with Bass' ipsatized scales. It has also been demonstrated that "Leisure Orientation" is a more suitable "opposite" to Task orientation than either of the alternatives Bass considers.

For all that has been said above, it is perhaps incautious to assert that the Likert scales presented here are "more valid" than the Bass scales (they are however certainly more reliable). Given that the validity properties of the two have at least been demonstrated to be different, it is perhaps most appropriate to leave to the reader the judgment on which set of properties go to make up the most valid scale.


Bales, R.F. Task roles and social roles in problem-solving groups. In E. E. Maccoby, T. M. Newcomb, and E. I. Hartley (Eds.), Readings in social psychology. (3rd ed.) New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1958.

Bass, B. M. Social behaviour and the orientation inventory: A review. Psychological Bulletin, 1967, 68, 260-292.

Cronbach, L. J. Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests. Psychometrika, 1951, 13, 297-334.

Hollander, E. P. The reliability, of peer nominations under various conditions i of administration. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1957,11, 85-90.

Ray, J.J. (1970) Christianism.... The Protestant ethic among unbelievers. J. Christian Education, 13, 169-176.

Ray, J.J. (1971) An "Attitude to Authority" scale. Australian Psychologist, 6, 31-50. (a)

Ray, J.J. (1971) The questionnaire measurement of social class. Australian & New Zealand J. Sociology 7(April), 58-64.

Ray, J.J. (1972) Are conservatism scales irreversible? British J. Social & Clinical Psychology 11, 346-352.

Shaw, M. E. and Wright, J. M. Scales for the measurement of attitudes. New York; McGraw-Hill, 1967.

Titus, H. E. F Scale validity considered against peer nomination criteria. Psychological Record, 1968, 18, 395-403.


The finding that Task-orientation is both politically relevant and a predictor of authoritarianism has not subsequently been explored but several studies of achievement motivation may be relevant. The correlation between authoritarianism as measured by a behaviour inventory and achievement motivation as measured by a behaviour inventory appears to be both strong and highly replicable. The correlation between achievement motivation and vote, however, appears to be weak and unreliable.

Ray, J.J. (1980) Achievement motivation as an explanation of authoritarian behaviour: Data from Australia, South Africa California, England and Scotland. Chapter in: P.C.L. Heaven (Ed.) Authoritarianism: South African studies Bloemfontein: De Villiers.

Ray, J.J. (1981) The politics of achievement motivation. J. Social Psychology, 115, 137-138.

Ray, J.J. (1984) Achievement motivation as a source of racism, conservatism and authoritarianism. Journal of Social Psychology 123, 21-28

Ray, J.J. & Kiefl, W. (1984) Authoritarianism and achievement motivation in contemporary West Germany. Journal of Social Psychology, 122, 3-19.

Ray, J.J. & Najman, J.M. (1988) Capitalism and compassion: A test of Milbrath's environmental theory. Personality & Individual Differences 9, 431-433.

Ray, J.J. (Unpublished) Perceptions of the authoritarian as achievement motivated.

For convenience, the Abstract of Ray (1980) is presented hereunder:

Previous work on the relationship between need for achievement and authoritarianism was found on balance slightly to favour such a relationship but to be inconclusive because of defects in the measuring instruments. A conceptual analysis led to a simplified definition of each of the two concepts as a necessary prelude to examination of their relationship. The simplified definitions were operationalized in personality scales. These were the Ray-Lynn "AO" scale and the Ray (1976) Directiveness scale. Using door-to-door cluster samples of 95 Australians, 100 Englishmen, 100 Scotsmen, 100 South Africans and 101 Californians, correlations of .331, .395, .489, .305 and .465 between the two scales were observed. In five separate studies using more traditional attitude-type measures of authoritarianisnn, the relationship with achievement motivation was found to be present in two samples only. It was concluded that achievement motivation rather than the need to vent hostility to one's father was the better supported explanation for observed authoritarian behaviour - particularly in South Africa.

In questionnaire research it has been my observation that the results are fairly robust as to questionnaire format. It is the content of the question that matters rather than how the question is presented (But see here and here). It is nonetheless obviously desirable for an attempted replication to follow the original procedure as closely as possible so I have given here samples of how I presented my questionnaires in most of the research I did. On all occasions, respondents were asked to circle a number to indicate their response.

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