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September 28, 2017

Managing Workplace Personality Types

workplace personalityIn every office, and probably team, you’ll observe a variety of different personality types at play.

Andrew could methodically write lists of tasks to do whilst Annie might hit the phones with bursts of energy. Bob could be great at cracking jokes when a group of guests come in whilst Barbara might prefer waiting to talk with them one-on-one.

Whilst it’s quite natural to accept that “some people are just different” or that “some people will never get along”, there is increasing research into how managers can organise their workforce in a way that yields the greatest possible outcome.

It comes from an understanding of the different personality types that exist in the workplace, and is the focus for this post.

Treating people the right way

The best managers are those who employees want to work for.

From the employee perspective, this comes from a feeling that they are being understood, and are also able to flourish in the workplace.

From the manager perspective, establishing a situation where each team member feels empowered to do their best work, and feels comfortable doing so, generates an optimal output for the organisation.

There are also benefits that arise from appreciating the diversity within a team, improving task allocation, reducing conflict, and recognising that different peoples strengths come in different forms.

Who rules the meeting

A good example of how different workplace personality types react differently is in a team meeting.

The more gregarious team members will feel comfortable speaking up with their ideas of what the best course of action should be.

This will be highly off-putting for the more introverted members who will likely keep quiet, even if they are more qualified to speak on a particular matter.

The quieter members are rarely staying quiet because of embarrassment or shyness, but because in their view of the world it would be impolite to offer an opinion out of place if they were not asked.

This means that, as a manager, you have a huge opportunity to draw out the best ideas and approaches from your team by appreciating how people work best.

If meetings are dictated by only those who speak the loudest then there is a huge missed opportunity from those around the table not inclined to speak up

Testing personalities

A Workplace Personality Test essentially does the job of categorising people.

They typically take the form of a series of multi-choice situational questions with respondents saying which ones they identify with most.

At the end, a “type” is generated, which reflects back the traits of people in this particular category.

These are by no means a pure prescription for everything someone will do, but they do give an indication of the preferences of people, and their likely reaction in particular situations.

There are many variations of test and numbers of categories that people can be allocated to:

Though for the purposes of this post, we’re going to work through an example of the Deloitte categorisation, which has gained currency in many leading organisations.

Pioneers, Guardians, Drivers, Integrators

From an extensive study of how people interact in the workplace, four main personality types have emerged.

An article in the Harvard Business Review, explains these four in depth, giving the following definitions of each type:

  • Pioneers
    • value possibilities, and spark energy and imagination in their teams
    • They believe risks are worth taking and that it’s fine to go with your gut. Their focus is big-picture. They’re drawn to bold new ideas and creative approaches
  • Guardians
    • value stability, and bring order and rigour
    • They’re pragmatic, and they hesitate to embrace risk. Data and facts are baseline requirements for them, and details matter. Guardians think it makes sense to learn from the past
  • Drivers
    • value challenge and generate momentum
    • Getting results and winning count most. Drivers tend to view issues as black-and-white and tackle problems head on, armed with logic and data
  • Integrators
    • value connection and draw teams together
    • Relationships and responsibility to the group are paramount. Integrators tend to believe that most things are relative. They’re diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus

Working together

Things get interesting when considering how best these workplace personality types can work together, and where friction is more likely to exist.

For example, whilst Guardians are generally more reserved than Drivers, they are both very focused, and so can establish common ground when working together.

On the other hand, Guardians and Pioneers are considered as true opposites, as are Integrators and Drivers.

This means that more effort is required in having each person appreciate the other person’s way of approaching work, but also the way in which you manage your team to get the most out of them

Harmonious tactics

For each of the different types there are general tactics which will likely get the most of the team. Some examples of which are:

  • Guardians: give them time and details to prepare for a discussion. Don’t make this preparation compulsory for everyone though, as it will be highly off-putting for Pioneers. Creating a comfortable environment in which Guardians can contribute (perhaps in the written form, rather than in a group discussion) will get the most out of them, as they likely won’t volunteer their opinion
  • Pioneers: will want the ability for discussions to get expansive. Giving whiteboard markers will help this, though the session should be timeboxed as Guardians in particular will struggle to get creative if the setting has a lack of structure
  • Integrators: find it important to establish real relationships, and so have them see how decisions made will affect the greater good. If this can be done before the meeting Drivers will appreciate it, as they’ll feel less time is wasted on niceties
  • Drivers: keep things snappy and always demonstrate how the discussion at hand relates to the overall goal

In general, if you have a shortage of a particular personality type in your team, you could (if the team are versed in these differences) ask people to “think like a […]” to elicit different ways of approaching a problem.

For more information, look to this website: The Business Chemistry Blog.

Power of introverts

Beyond these four personality types, one common line which is often drawn in people’s personality is whether they are introverted, or extraverted.

In the business world, it has been more common for the extraverts to rise through the ranks of the corporate ladder, in part because these organisations have been geared up to promote the types of behaviour that extraverts exhibit.

There has been an increasing amount of research into the potential that exist within those employees who are naturally more introverted, but who don’t have the inclination to act accordingly in an extraverted world.

Whilst this isn’t a charity case for beleaguered introverts, it does demonstrate how the smart manager can look beyond the common proxies of, say, who speaks the loudest in a meeting, to determine who might be up for progression.

Susan Cain’s TED Talk does an excellent job of challenging the assumption of there being just one personality type in the workplace.

Power of ambiverts

Somewhat related is a study by Wharton professor Adam Grant on whether introverts or extraverts performed best in the sphere of sales.

He tested this by plotting sales revenue against an introversion-extraversion score.

Results show that somewhere in the middle performs best which could help dictate your choice of who gets put on the sales team.


There is boundless research in this field, with companies available to run personality tests on the make up of your team, and what is likely to stimulate them most.

At minimum you, as manager in your company, could take time to place your team members personality types and then use the research linked in this post to understand how to get the most out of them.

There are also general rules of thumb in managing teams with a diversity of personality type. Namely:

  • Pull opposites together (but have them communicate openly)
  • Promote the group minority
  • Pay attention to quiet members

What’s more, most people love to find out more about themselves, and so offering a test like this to your team could also spark curiosity and discussion about how different people work, what they feel comfortable doing, and hence bring the notion of personality types in the workplace to conscious of everyone in your company.


We hope that you found this post informative and thought-provoking. If you’d like to be notified of the next post, or learn more about how Inspira UK can help your business grow, then you can sign up to the newsletter and contact us here.

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