Working Styles

Skill level: Basic

Description

Working styles comprise what we can do, what we like to do, and how we like to do it. Understanding the different types of working styles can be beneficial because these styles affect everything we do.

Working styles are the basis of how we organize our work, manage our time, teach and learn, interact with others, contribute to the team, communicate, and even create sentence patterns. Greater awareness can help build on strengths of a style or minimize conflicts and problems. Developing alternative approaches to interacting with others or completing tasks to reach a more successful outcome is possible.

Each working style will typically have benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits

  • Successfully matching work style with career or job requirements can lead to a more positive work experience
  • The more you understand about your working style and those of others, the better you are able to realize how others perceive you and how they react to your personality and style
  • Knowing how to adapt the way you work with others and how you communicate, provide information, and assign tasks can enhance results when managing and motivating a team

How to Use

Personality theories, along with tests or questionnaires, are the most common tools used to classify and compare working styles. There are a wide variety of these available, ranging from very simple online surveys to more comprehensive tests administered by professionals (such as the Myers-Briggs evaluation). They are sometimes used for management, recruitment, selection, training, or teaching.

A system will typically classify several types of working styles with descriptive names and provide definitions of the related traits or behaviors associated with each style. The results of the questionnaire will score an individual in each of the categories, and the total results will be an indicator of that person’s working style. These styles are sometimes paired as opposite ends of a style range, or they can simply be classified in several different style types.

Relevant Definitions

Sample definitions using opposite-type classifications:

  • Controllers vs. independents
    • Controllers want to be sure that everything happens as expected and want to direct the actions of others. Independents see them as autocratic and power-hungry.
    • Independents like to work on their own, understand the goal, and then be left alone to accomplish it. Controllers see them as resistant and uncommunicative.
  • Planners vs. doers
    • Planners want to have well-developed plans for solving a problem or implementing a project. They like to anticipate issues, and they have back-up plans before taking action. Doers see them as slow and overly cautious.
    • Doers want to take immediate action when confronted with a problem or a project. They like to quickly implement solutions, learn from the results, and make corrections as needed. Planners see them as rushed and impulsive.
  • The full test may classify 5 to 10 of these opposite pairs, and the test results indicate an individual’s dominant traits on a numeric scale.

Sample definitions using different style classifications

  • Doers: Like to move around, are action-oriented, work with machinery, and want just to get the job done.
  • Helpers: Social, people-oriented, approachable, tend to like service positions.
  • Problem solvers: Investigative, prefer to think rather than act, like to work behind the scenes.

The full test may classify 5 to 10 of these styles, and the full test results could indicate which of these styles are dominating for an individual.

Examples

  1. The following scenario shows how different personality styles in the workplace can make or break productivity and teamwork within an organization:
    • Pat requested one of his employees, Nicole, to provide a report as soon as possible. After a period of time, Pat grows impatient because the report is still not completed. As his stress level continues to increase, Nicole finally submits the report in the form of a lengthy, highly detailed spreadsheet. Pat’s stress level further increases, since he would have preferred a concise, bulleted format providing a quick read of the information requested.
  2. The following example shows how adapting a work style can result in better interactions.
    • A customer is calling a call center to find out when her order will ship. She does not know the order number or exactly when she placed the order and is communicating in a brief, quick-paced style.
    • Scenario 1: Customer service representative (CS rep) and customer are not aligned in work styles
      • CS rep (in pleasant tone): Good afternoon. Thank you for calling ABC Company. How are you today?
      • Customer: My name is Sally Jones and I want to know when my order will ship. I still have not received it.
      • CS rep: You should have received your order number in an email when you placed the order, and there is a link in the email that will allow you to trace the shipment. But I can look it up for you if you want me to. Do you have the order number and the date you placed the order?
      • Customer (impatiently): No. I’m not near a computer right now. It’s the only order I have placed and I’m in hurry. Can’t you look it up using my name?
      • CS rep: Yes I can. Do you live on Warren Street in Topeka, Kansas?
      • Customer: Yes.
      • CS rep: Ok, I see that the order has already shipped and you can expect to receive it Thursday.
    • Scenario 2: CS rep adapts to customer working style.
      • CS rep (in pleasant tone): Thank you for calling ABC Company. How may I help you today?
      • Customer: My name is Sally Jones and I want to know when my order will ship. I still have not received it.
      • CS rep: I am looking up your order right now. Are you Sally Jones on Warren Street in Topeka, Kansas?
      • Customer: Yes.
      • CS rep: Ok, I see that the order has already shipped and you can expect to receive it Thursday.
      • Customer: Thank you. You have been helpful.

 

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