Can’t We All Just Get Along? Understanding Workplace Personalities

Monday, September 23, 2013 - 07:46

By Leon Gettler

Managers have the difficult task of overseeing diverse teams in the workplace. They have to find ways to make them as productive, creative and efficient as possible. They have to understand the way different office personality types operate, working out ways to motivate them and keep them working together.

Specialists say personality affects behaviour in the workplace. For example, outgoing people are more likely to be cheerleaders in teams while people who are shy are more likely to be followers.

Similarly, people who are naturally focused and organised are usually efficient in managing time and completing tasks on schedule. They tend to do well in leadership roles, but their personalities can potentially conflict with those who have a more laid-back and relaxed approach and aren’t as deadline-driven or motivated.

While these employees are comfortable engaging with colleagues and clients but neurotic personality types might struggle. They often do better in work environments or positions where they have limited contact with clients, customers and co-workers. Steve Faktor at Forbes identifies ways of managing several different personality types.

First, there is Bambi. This describes the new recruits, fresh hard drives ready to be filled with data.

“You can get them to do almost anything. They walk into meetings armed with fresh slides, broad smiles, and a professionalism they’ve practiced in interviews, in school, and in the mirror. They can gleefully present for hours to anyone in the company. They can deliver news about layoffs, quotas or dire forecasts without a hint of irony or empathy. They are eager to please and crave learning, mentorship and new opportunities.”

Then there is the Believer, who carries the torch for the brand who can be used to rally others; the Alphas whose identity, self-worth and status are linked to their corporate conquests and who value tutelage and access to people they respect; the Soldiers who are great at one thing like project management, analysis, process improvement or people development; the Pragmatists who are generally more sceptical, analytical, and idealistic and who are born networkers and build reciprocal relationships. They respond best when the mission aligns with their values and feels right but they get demotivated when success measures are unclear or when rules or rewards seem unfair; the Toilers who represent a large portion of any corporate population. They typically view work as necessary to get to what matters most to them outside of work, like family and travel.

And finally, there are the Heretics, the wild cards who are visionary idealists and innovators. These are the ones who can change the company or the world and there are some who just don’t like rules and who are difficult to work with. They’re not great leaders but they can inspire people. You have to make sure they maintain momentum and stay motivated.

The Management Master Class site says managers have to take each personality type on its merits. “You can’t use a cookie cutter approach with every employee,’’ we’re told. “In most cases, you will need to change your communication approach with each individual. For example, you will not get your point across if you’re too direct and data oriented with a touchy-feely kind of person. In the same token, you would not want to be too touchy-feely with a no-nonsense type of person.”