Managing diverse personalities

in Managing by Nick Petrovic
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Managing different personalities

From introverts to extroverts, thinkers and feelers, personality can influence how we view the world, interact with others and how we conduct ourselves at work. Understanding the personality of your employees can give you a reliable idea of how to manage them and which projects to assign to them.

Effective management means adjusting your approach and style depending on the staff member in question. However, it’s also important to remember that adjusting does not mean completely changing either yourself or the way you conduct your business. In addition, when you cater to different personalities it is vital that you do not allow yourself to fall into favouritism or discrimination. Remember, the goals remain the same – it’s simply the way of reaching them that changes.

Get to know employee personalities

Before you categorise someone into a certain personality type, ensure you’ve taken the time to get to know them. Find out what drives them, their goals inside and outside the business as well as how they view themselves within the business. People often adjust their behaviour to how they are treated, so if you expect someone to act a certain way they are more likely to do so.

Focus on strengths

While some personalities may lend themselves more to certain tasks, in reality no personality is inherently better than another. It is beneficial therefore to focus on the strengths rather than perceived weaknesses. If an employee is personable and extraverted, have them on the front line dealing with clients; if they are introverted and the thinking type, enlist their help in product development. Again, take assumptions off the table and don’t be afraid to ask what tasks they would feel comfortable doing – their answers may surprise you.

Adapting rewards

Someone’s personality can also give you an indication of what sort of rewards they will be motivated by. For employees who are highly driven, for instance, an increase in responsibility may be useful.

Assigning tasks

While personality types vary widely depending on schools of thought and assessment tools used, in the business environment there are three broad categories that can be useful ways of determining how best to manage an employee:

1.   The worker bees: This employee is a consistent worker, but not overly driven to achieve outside of their role. It’s important to give very clear and simple instructions and minimise the number of tasks at one time. It may be necessary to simplify complex tasks to ensure understanding. Communication is crucial here with both pre- and post-task discussions helpful. The worker bee employee can be a great indicator of areas in which your communication skills need perfecting.

2.   The team players: This employee can be reliable and highly loyal but not geared towards leadership roles as they require ongoing guidance and direction. They benefit from a varied role and are driven by a sense of contribution, so it’s important to acknowledge their value in the business. Team players often enjoy the social aspect of the business. Regular team building and social activities can not only keep them feeling connected, but can also present leadership opportunities to which they may be more suited.

3.   The stars: This employee can pose some difficulties as they may present as leaders or rebels. Some business owners can find it difficult to maximise the star employee’s potential for fear of competition or disruption. However, a star employee can be a great attribute for developing their division. Stars can become bored or restless in their roles, though, so award them as many decision-making responsibilities as possible. Keep an eye on them, as they can sometimes take it upon themselves to alter your instructions or disrupt the dynamics amongst other team members.

Managing different personality types is never an easy task, but knowing what makes your employees tick will help you foster a productive and more enjoyable workplace.

This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.

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Nick Petrovic

Nick Petrovic is a registered psychologist and head of clinic at the Mind Profile Psychology Clinic and has more than 10 years' experience in the allied health and business. Nick has contributed to regular columns in more than a dozen business magazines and newspapers, advising on issues such as mental health, work related stress, strategic planning, business analysis and human resources.

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