The organizer and the improviser. The risk-taker and the voice of caution. It takes all kinds to get the job done. But a range of personalities can also lead to clashes in the workplace. One study found that 40 percent of workers report difficulties with conflicting personalities. But this is no reason to start dividing by disposition or hiring only certain kinds of employees. In fact, a team with a diversity of work styles usually gets better results. The key is knowing how to cultivate a spectrum of types.
Here are three ways to accentuate the varied talents on your team while helping everyone get along.
1. Appreciate each team member’s strengths
The process begins with a solid understanding of the talents each person brings to a team. If it’s not already clear, look for clues. Pay close attention to how someone prepares for and participates in meetings. Do they arrive early with notes and only speak when called upon? Or are they more spontaneous and outgoing?
Kim Christfort and Suzanne Vickberg, a pair of researchers who wrote a book about creating productive relationships in the workplace, call these two types the Guardian and the Pioneer. True opposites in terms of work-styles, but both invaluable to any successful project.
Guardians tend to like order and stability. They are good at creating a plan but may be intimidated in group settings. Pioneers feed off collaborative energy. They dream big but get frustrated when confronted with too many details. True opposites in terms of work-styles, but both invaluable to any successful project.
While they may not be attracted to joining forces at first, the two can actually be ideal partners for tackling ambitious goals. The trick is to allow them each to play to their strengths.
2. Make room for the shy ones
Outgoing employees can dominate a workplace. Psychologists have found that introverted and more sensitive people struggle in modern offices, which may have open floor plans and emphasize a highly collaborative working environment. These set-ups often end up excluding the contributions of crucial members of a team.
But quieter employees are invaluable: They can focus for long periods of time, catch potential risks or blind spots, and are excellent listeners. They respond best when engaged on an individual level. Look out for opportunities to ask them to do more reflective tasks that can be done in solitude. And make sure to give them enough time to prepare their thoughts before a meeting.
Finally, don’t mistake introversion for apathy. You might not be able to get as good a read on a quiet or reserved colleague, but they may be the smartest person in the room. Just ask famous introverts like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Better yet, don’t bother them—they’re getting real work done!
3. Create a flexible work environment
Everyone responds differently to stimulation and activity. Some need to get away from the thrum of office sounds – the constant chatter or the sporadic phone calls. While others thrive amidst the buzz. Ideally, a work space will provide a place for both types.
Try to carve out designated quiet spaces where people can choose to do their work with fewer distractions. Similarly, confining people to desks may not be conducive to those whose creativity is galvanized by freewheeling conversations that spawn into brainstorming sessions and ambitious new ideas.
Rather than creating a single office space that tries to be a little bit of everything all the time, try to create a flexible workplace where each type of personality can find a niche.