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  • Writer's pictureDr. CK Bray

Unlocking the Potential of Different Personality Types in the Workplace

Heather’s boss called me and asked if I could help her with what he considered a career-limiting attribute, she was an introvert. When I asked him to describe Heather’s introverted behavior he responded, “She listens quite a bit in meetings and usually only speaks up once or twice. She also can hibernate in her office all day working away without coming out and interacting with her counterparts. I am worried about her work relationships.” I responded, “that sounds like someone I would want to hire! She works hard, gets things done, and listens in meetings.” But I understood his concern and agreed to work with Heather, as long as I could have an hour each month with him as well. Heather’s boss was a 100% extrovert and I could see he was struggling with managing different personality types.

The personality type of the people you work with or manage has an impact on every aspect of their lives: how they live, how they make decisions, how they interact with others, and how they work. It is imperative that as a colleague or a manager you understand how to create an environment that maximizes the different personalities you work with.

Here are some suggestions on how to best manage and work with all types of personalities.

First, be sure and educate yourself on how different personalities approach work and social interactions. Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, said, “Extroverts, for instance, tend to tackle their assigned work promptly; they’re quick, sometimes rash decision-makers. They’re comfortable with risk-taking and multitasking. On the other hand, introverts work more deliberately and slowly. They prefer to concentrate on a single task at a given time.” Extroverts gravitate toward groups and they tend to think out loud. They are energized by social gatherings and shared ideas. In contrast, introverts typically dislike noise and big group settings, they may enjoy business meetings and some parties, but after a moment they wish they were at home.” (HBR, How to Be Good at Managing Both Introverts and Extroverts, Rebecca Knight, November 16, 2015)

Second, it is important to understand each individual’s personality type. There is no need to give everyone on your team a personality assessment. It is pretty easy to figure out where on the spectrum your employees or counterparts reside. The key is to know their personality type so you can better interact, manage and understand them.

Third, encourage different personality types to behave differently in the workplace. If you have introverts, encourage them to speak up more in meetings so the extroverts can hear their thoughts and suggestions. Encourage your extroverts to listen more in meetings and think about what they are hearing, rather than immediately talking.

Finally, think about how the workday is structured and when meetings are scheduled. Introverts like some time in the morning to get work done before having a meeting. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking said, “Introverts need private space to get work done, think of small design changes you might make to create nooks and crannies for people to go and be alone.”

The more you understand the personality types of those you work with and manage them better and more successful your team will be.


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