How To Manage Different Personality Types in the Workplace
CoAdvantage- In any organization, it’s critical to ensure that the people you hire can work seamlessly as a team, even (or especially) when they have very different personalities from each other. But how can organizations achieve that? It starts with understanding different personality types and what role, if any, they play in the workplace. “It’s something of a misconception in how we use personality in the workplace: figuring out which personalities make for an amazing employee,” Sandra Matz, an associate professor at Columbia Business School in New York, told the BBC.
Understand the types and their limitations.
Here are some ways to classify personality:
1: The Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator, for example, assesses people according to many attributes and assigns one of sixteen different personality types.
2: A simpler system, the Type A/Type B split, refers to the individuals who are either more focused, organized, and achieving (Type A) versus those who are more relaxed, laid-back, and patient (Type B).
3: An even simpler way of looking at personality is extroversion (less social, more solitary) versus introversion (more social, more interactive).
However, it’s equally important to understand the limitations of the different types. For example, most people have a mixture of Type A and Type B personality traits. People can’t be reliably flattened into simplistic, reductive “types.” Instead, workplace success usually has a lot more to do with groupings of personality traits rather than singular personality types. Further, skills can be more important than traits in the workplace. After all, a lot of how a person behaves is be driven by what they’re capable of doing in a given situation.
Understand the relationship between personality and business results.
Personality can affect productivity, profit, company value, and more. But the relationships are complicated and often counterintuitive. One nine-year study of U.S. CEOs found that companies with the most extroverted CEOs had 20% lower valuations. That’s the opposite of what most people would probably expect. Wouldn’t extroverted traits strengthen the CEO’s ability to form partnerships and lead effectively? But the study’s authors speculate that extroversion may be correlated with other traits, like excessive risk-taking, that can damage valuation.
Similarly, an older study found that retail stores led by extroverts had 16% higher than average profits – but only if employees were “passive.” If workers were more “proactive” go-getters, they fared better under leadership with more introverted traits. Similarly, a team led by a Type A personality might flounder if they find their boss overbearing and instead need the hands-off support and empathy provided by a Type B personality. In short, personality and performance don’t always mix the way we might expect.
How should this affect recruitment?
In general, it’s inadvisable to reduce people to “types” in recruiting. Don’t necessarily ignore their personality – cultural fit is important – but look for a combination of the right demeanor, skills, and experience that fit the open role. Some functions might benefit from an extrovert with strong communication skills (like sales) while other roles might benefit from introverted and organized self-starters who won’t need as much social interaction (programming and coding). Ultimately, Matz argues that employers need to focus on finding “the best match for this specific job”.
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