Managing diverse personalities at work

Good managers know how to deal with different personality types at work. Here's a cheat-sheet.

Managers play a critical role in the overall success of a business, with one of their most important tasks being the motivation, inspiration and leadership of employees. Poor management, on the other hand, can directly impact employee enthusiasm and reduce productivity.

In the UK alone it’s been estimated that over 800 000 management jobs will be created between 2010 and 2017. Considering the impact this role can have on the performance of a company, Instant Offices takes a look at something all good managers have in common: knowing how to deal with different personality types at work.

The importance of people management skills

When it comes to work personality types, the more a manager knows the better, and the easier it becomes to motivate and inspire the people around him or her.

From something as simple as knowing which individuals clash, to a deeper understanding a team members’ aspirations and emotional drivers, an effective manager should aim to know as much as possible about the people on his or her team.

Personality testing

While employers have used personality tests for decades to streamline their hiring process and screen prospective candidates, there’s been criticism on the fairness of using tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the Jung Typology Profiler for Workplace (JPTW), among others, especially if it means the results are used to screen out job applicants.

While these tools may not be ideal for pre-employment, they can be valuable in getting to know existing team members a little better. By learning more about an employee drivers and goals, a manager is in a better position to develop talent within the company.

Understanding people

There are multiple tests that can be used to gain insight into an individual’s personality. According to inspirational speaker Allison Mooney, all humans can be categorised into four personality types.

The playfuls: Innovative, creative and enthusiastic, these are extroverts who are great at networking, socialising and having fun. While they’re forgiving and fast working, they also tend to be unorganised and easily distracted. These personality types need attention, affection and approval.

The peacefuls: Easy-going, patient and calming, these steady individuals remain the same through the highs and lows and are sometimes hard to read. They’ll do everything they can to avoid confrontation. These personality types need harmony, respect and to be valued. 

The powerfuls: Productive, assertive and decisive, these risk-takers are always doing and are determined to perform tasks their way. They can be impatient and often unsatisfied, always searching for the next goal.  These personality types need loyalty, credit and appreciation.

The precises: Meticulous, ordered and lovers of structure, this is a group of perfectionists who abhor making mistakes. They tend to prefer work over play. These personality types need their own space, as well as quiet and sensitivity.

In reality, a team made up of a mixture of all personality types across the spectrum is ideal.

Personality types

Classifying people into four different personality types is simple, so how do we find out more about an individual’s strengths and weaknesses?

Aside from one-on-one sessions and general interactions and observations at work every day, another way to get to know team members a bit better is to incorporate ‘personality type education’ into your management strategy.

Something as simple as giving team members the option of taking a free online test and sending you the results is a great start.

Here’s a great one to try: 16Personalities has combined the philosophies of both Meyers-Briggs and Carl Jung to develop a personality-test model that incorporates the latest in psychometric research with age-old concepts.

They’ve developed five personality aspects that work on a scale system, with neutral in the middle. Each describes a person’s category, as well as how strong their preferences in that category are. By taking the test you can find out more about your team members by looking at:

  • Mind: This includes introverted and extroverted individuals, and shows how we interact with other people.
  • Energy: This determines whether we’re Observant or Intuitive and is all about how we see the world and process information.
  • Nature: This includes Thinking individuals and Feeling individuals, and determines how we make decisions and cope with emotions.
  • Tactics: This determines how we approach work and planning, and includes Judging individuals and Prospecting individuals.
  • Identity: The foundation for all other personality aspects, Identity shows how confident we are in our abilities and decisions, and includes Assertive and Turbulent personality types.

How to cater to different personality types at work

Working with different personality types is a chance to learn, teach and experience life from a different perspective. By engaging with various personality types differently, a manager can form stronger bonds with a team and ultimately fulfil a higher level of potential.  

Ask them how they learn best

Whether visually, through practice, with instruction or on their own, once you determine how an employee becomes most engaged when learning something new, you’ll be able to communicate with them more effectively going forward.

Create a space where different personalities can thrive

Ensure your office space is set up to cater to the needs of different personalities on your team. One size most certainly doesn’t fit all, and some businesses create breakaway areas, entertainment areas and quiet spaces within the office to give individuals a change of pace, while others choose flexible offices which are already set up to accommodate their needs.

Choose a communication technique

By learning how a team member communicates best, you can start to understand how messages are interpreted by them, and work towards developing more effective channels of communication.

When considering how to manage people, there’s no single solution to make the process easy. Different personality types require different types of management to thrive, and understanding a team better is just one of the things a manager can do to make a positive impact.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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