Personality in the workplace is a hot topic in business, with an array of titles for the “top business personalities” headlined across the financial sections of publications time and again. All of these “energiser” and “stabiliser” pop psych terms are attempting to capture three major personality concepts that psychologists have studied for years.
Effective leaders understand that a diverse workforce will include a multitude of personalities, each with their own unique pros and cons.
The most obvious personality trait that stands out is the level of comfort the individual feels when interacting with others. Extroverts tend to be open and comfortable in crowds. They often excel in team work and take on either formal or informal leadership roles. The extroverts in the office may have a tendency to socialise, and if not carefully managed may become office gossips and prove to be a disrupting force. Introverts are on the opposite end of the spectrum and tend to prefer their own company, and may be difficult to engage in team work and public speaking engagements. These employees often preform at their best with detail-oriented project work that lends itself well to individual work.
The next easily discernible employee personality trait is the level of “buy in” to the organisational culture. One of the easiest personalities to work with in the office is the eager to please and impress type. Often, these individuals are college interns or new hires in the midst of their first years in the workplace. These employees are the first to volunteer for overtime and additional projects, and are great team players. The biggest challenge to managing these eager individuals is in keeping them from overdoing it to the point of burnout.
Every now and then, this new enthusiasm turns into an over-zealous and complete buy-in to corporate culture. It may seem great to have an employee so engaged in their work life that they sometimes appear to be a walking advertisement, but these personalities can quickly become tiring to others. Furthermore, these employees may struggle to find a balance between work and life, which has the potential to lead to exhaustion and a loss of productivity.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the types of employees who are simply content with following the status quo. These employees are less likely to take risks, and are also less likely to take on extra tasks, help their colleagues, and engage in a team environment. While it may seem like these employees would be hard to work with, they typically respond well to clearly communicated expectations and deadlines, and can be an excellent stabilising force in the office.
The last major personality trait that impacts employees in the workplace is the way individuals respond to stress, changes in plans, and tight deadlines. These traits are aspects of an individuals’ temperament, which is the biological basis of personality. The majority of individuals are easy going, and respond well to sudden shifts in priority or deadline changes. However, approximately 15% of the population requires warning before major changes. These employees do best with deadlines that are planned well in advance, and may experience significant stress when asked to suddenly shift from one project to another. Leaders who recognise a slow-to-warm-up temperament in their office will see a noticeable increase in their productivity and engagement if they are given the long-term, stable projects, and tasks with short deadlines or a high likelihood of regular changes should be reserved for easy-going personalities.
Regardless of the mix of personalities found in the office, managers with innate leadership capabilities should be able to quickly identify the personality traits that impact workplace performance. Working to assign projects that fit well with the temperament of the individual and adjusting management strategies to account for employees’ social skills and organisational engagement will ensure that offices with a diverse array of personalities continue to run smoothly.
Head of Training and Development
Originally published: 8 October, 2014
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