Whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time, looking to change careers, or in a leadership position, one of the most important factors to consider is the culture of your workplace. In fact, according to research from Deloitte, “94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.” It’s easy to understand why.
A positive workplace culture boosts morale, prevents burnout, decreases conflicts, and improves collaboration. It also keeps everyone engaged and inspired. As a result, productivity soars, and turnover is less likely to occur.
While there are several ways to build a more positive culture, it ultimately comes down to the personalities of the people within the office. Just take a moment to think about the people you’ve worked with. Did you ever have the honor of working with a micromanager, a bully, or a critic? How about someone who’s always negative or unable to control his emotions? I doubt you were effective in that role. Even worse, I bet you dreaded working with these types of individuals — meaning that showing up to work each day took real effort.
Understanding the various personality types within your organization is key to improving its culture. Better yet, it can make you a stronger teammate.
Recognizing Personality Types
I feel TypeFinder has a clear definition of what personality types are: “Personality typing is a framework designed to describe individuals according to their unique personality styles: their approach to managing energy, processing information, interacting with others, and organizing their lives.”
Personality typing can be traced back to the studies of psychologist Carl Jung. The theory of personality was later continued by Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Myers. The goal of personality typing is to highlight people’s differences while showcasing their individual strengths and tendencies.
If you want to learn what your personality type is or have your co-workers join you in a typing exercise, there are more than enough personality tests available. The most well-known are Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, Big Five, DiSC, and StrengthsFinder. Some of these may charge you for an assessment, but many sites offer free options as well. Many offer team assessments to bring together the different types under one roof.
Will these assessments always be 100% accurate? No — in fact, some experts recommend that you consider the result you were given, as well as other high-scoring options, to determine which one most closely reflects your outlook and habits. Nonetheless, these assessments can concretely help you identify your and your teammates’ strengths, preferences, and behaviors. Knowing these things will help you better collaborate with others; if you’re a leader, this knowledge can assist in motivating and managing your team.
I would like to add one final note here: I suggest you don’t use personality testing when hiring. Besides prolonging the hiring process, some candidates may be able to “trick” the test to give the result they think you want. More concerning may be some legal concerns, such as violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Instead, you could have new hires take a personality test as part of the onboarding process, which is something I’ve done in the past.
Beyond onboarding, you could also take personality tests as a part of a career development effort or use them for a team-building activity. Our team, for example, took an Enneagram assessment before our biannual meeting and discussed the results and how we could help address each other’s needs.
Taking the test is just the first step. Here’s what you should do next to become a better and stronger teammate.
1. Develop your own self-awareness.
I’ll be honest: It’s not always easy to admit and embrace your shortcomings. But self-awareness should be the first move you make when it comes to working with teams because it gives you a chance to know yourself better. If you can’t understand your own motivations, how can you possibly embrace others’?
For example, according to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, my type is ENTP. This type is often referred to as the debater because we have a tendency to be curious and innovative. Not bad for an entrepreneur, right? The problem with ENTPs is that we often love playing devil’s advocate. As a result, others might perceive us as pushy, rude, or dismissive of their ideas.
Knowing this, I’ve had to work on my tone and body language to let others know that I’m not hating on their ideas or feedback. I just want to challenge them and their ideas so we can find the best solution possible.
2. Prioritize time with your teammates.
Granted, taking a personality test won’t make you an expert. But it can let you know the most common types of personalities that exist within your organization. Those dominant tendencies and outlooks naturally shape your culture.
Of course, the only way you can match these personality types with your colleagues is by actually getting to know them. I get that time can be an issue, but it can also serve as an excuse. There are always opportunities to prioritize time with each of your teammates, like inviting a co-worker to lunch or having a quick chat during a break.
When you get to know your teammates better, you can identify their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their preferences. These one-on-one interactions also give you a chance to ask what their needs are and exchange feedback.
For example, if you have an employee who’s an introvert, don’t put her on the spot during a brainstorming session. A better alternative would be to conduct a brainwriting session so her voice can be heard while respecting her habits and preferences. It’s how you’ll get the best work out of her — and build the best camaraderie among your teammates.
3. Use individual strengths and preferences to your advantage — but don’t be afraid to shake things up.
In school, English was not my forte. That meant I had to work my tail off in college to ensure I got a good grade. One way I achieved that was by working with my classmates who excelled in English, partnering with them on projects and studying with them before an essay-writing exam.
At the same time, I had no problem speaking in front of a crowd, which carried over nicely into my public speaking career. If one of my quieter writing buddies had to work on a group presentation, he would team up with me. He would structure the argument, based on our research, and I would present it to the class.
The same idea can be applied to the workplace. Whether you’re assigning tasks or collaborating on a project, people want to play to their strengths and preferences. Do you have a coder who works best at home? Grant him the autonomy to work from home as often as possible. Do you have a salesperson who loves talking to others? Find opportunities to let her spread her wings at conferences.
At the same time, shake things up to prevent getting in a rut. Consider rotating positions or asking your teammates to take on new responsibilities. It can help everyone develop new skills, show off previously hidden talents, and gain insight into the diversity of the entire team.
Understanding personality types isn’t a magic bullet, but it can help you discover more about yourself and your teammates. Better understanding your teammates’ preferences and motivations can strengthen your communication with them and help you avoid conflicts. Personality typing can ensure that a diverse group of people not only is productive and successful, but also respectful — and that’s exactly the culture you want.