How to determine different personalities in the workplace (+ Tips to manage them)

Great leadership requires solid communication. But interacting with your team effectively isn’t always easy — especially when it’s full of different personality types.

It takes time to get to know people and understand how they learn and develop. But with a little extra effort and attention, you can adapt your management and communication styles to fit your team members’ needs. Learning how to manage different personalities can help you create a more positive workspace, retain your employees, increase productivity, and run your business more successfully.

That’s why in this article, we’ll explain:

  • What a workplace personality type is
  • Why it’s important to understand people’s personalities in business environments
  • Four of the most common personality tests used in the workplace
  • Some tips for communicating well with different personality types

What is a workplace personality type?

Workplace personality types are psychological classifications of employees that help business managers and owners understand them better, develop more individualized management styles, and build a top-notch team. Not to be confused with personality traits, which are specific characteristics, personality types refer to a broader, more general set of behavioral and thought patterns that result in people acting differently in the workplace.

For example, being introverted, creative, and caring are all personality traits. But classifications like “Type A” or “The Advocate” are personality types that refer to a whole set of traits and inclinations.

Why you should understand personalities in the workplace

Understanding your staff members’ different personality types makes it easier to lean into each of their strengths as superpowers and better equip them to face various work situations and challenges. It can also help you:

  1. Minimize miscommunications
  2. Better manage workplace conflicts
  3. Allocate work based on people’s strengths and weaknesses
  4. Create a healthier work environment

Let’s look at these benefits in more detail.

Minimize miscommunications

When small business managers and owners have a deeper understanding of their employees’ inner workings, they’re better equipped to communicate with them effectively and in a way that reduces misunderstandings. Your staff member’s personality types can also inform how you give feedback.

Better manage workplace conflicts

A barista might have a less detail-oriented personality, which could lead to a messier workstation. This isn’t necessarily a big issue, but it could cause a clash if the other barista on shift likes their surroundings squeaky clean and prefers to have everything organized in a certain way.

Being aware of the why behind your employees’ actions will help you mediate conflicts effectively and come up with solutions or compromises that work for everyone involved. In the example above, you could explain that neither coworker meant to inconvenience the other. Instead, both team members were acting according to their workplace preferences without taking their colleagues into account.

Allocate work based on people’s strengths and weaknesses

Deciding on your employees’ responsibilities based on individual preferences and skill sets can set them up for success. But you can’t do that without being well-acquainted with your staff members’ personalities.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t challenge your employees by encouraging them to complete tasks that take them out of their comfort zone. But only assigning people work that’s particularly difficult for them can reduce their motivation and satisfaction levels and even cause them to quit their job.

Create a healthier work environment

Being aware of your employees’ strengths and weaknesses allows you and your team to build relationships based on empathy and understanding. And appreciating each individual’s unique contributions to your business and recognizing their talents contributes to creating a healthier workplace. This eventually leads to increased employee well-being and higher productivity and retention rates.

Understanding workplace personalities

Now that you’re familiar with the value of understanding workplace personalities, let’s take a look at four of the most common personality tests out there. Keep in mind that these tests should only be used as guides to understanding your employees on a deeper level and not as a hiring or evaluation tool.

1. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test

The Myers-Briggs test is a personality assessment developed by American writer Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers.

This popular test asks questions based on four categories of preferences:

  • Introverted versus extroverted
  • Sensing versus intuiting
  • Thinking versus feeling
  • Judging versus perceiving

The results group people into one of 16 categories based on their answers to approximately 93 questions. The groups are all defined by a four-letter code. There are no right or wrong answers to the MBTI questions, and individuals can use the test inside or outside of the workplace for personal, employee, or team development.

2. DiSC

DiSC is a personal assessment tool that’s used to improve teamwork, communication, productivity, and performance in the workplace. This test measures the dimensions of your personality based on four main personality profiles:

  • Dominance
  • Influence
  • Steadiness
  • Conscientiousness

This personality assessment model groups people into either one or a mixture of two quadrants. This means the test might place people into one of 12 distinct categories. In general, individuals with:

  • D personalities tend to be confident, direct, and decisive.
  • I personalities are typically lively, enthusiastic, fast-paced, and outspoken.
  • S personalities can be dependable, peaceful, and reflective.
  • C personalities generally have a great eye for detail and place emphasis on independence, quality, accuracy, and expertise.

3. CliftonStrengths (formerly Clifton StrengthsFinder)

CliftonStrengths is a web-based talent assessment tool developed by the Gallup organization. This test helps leaders and employees uncover and rank their 34 strengths so they can feel more engaged in their workplace and productive in their roles.

This personality assessment groups each “talent theme” or “strength” under four different domains:

  • Executing
  • Influencing
  • Relationship-building
  • Strategic thinking

According to Gallup, domains “represent a default mode that individuals, partnerships, and full teams naturally lean on to meet their goals and achieve success.” These domains serve as reference points to interpret your strengths. That means the type of activities associated with each domain, like relationship-building, is where the strength will most likely thrive.

For example, “positivity” is a relationship-building theme. That means if you have positivity as your top strength, you should interpret it based on how it can affect your ability to form strong relationships and hold a team together.

4. Enneagram

The Enneagram test categorizes people into nine types based on how they interpret the world around them, manage their emotions, and react to stress. Then, the nine types are divided into three groups based on how individuals deal with strong emotions.

These three categories include:

  • The heart types. They react with their emotions first and connect with people on an empathetic level.
  • The head types. They rely on their intellectual intelligence and prefer to react with analysis first.
  • The body types. They depend on their instinct and gut feeling to navigate threats and opportunities.

When it comes to professional environments, the Enneagram test helps managers understand the inter and intra-personal factors that influence how their team members work. This is particularly helpful when it comes to resolving conflicts between individuals and fostering team bonding.

16 example types of workplace personalities

Now that you’re familiar with some of the most popular personality tests out there, let’s take a look at 16 of the most common workplace personalities, according to the MBTI test.

INTJ: The Architect

Key characteristics: Rational, quick-witted, introverted, independent, thoughtful, tactical.

Strengths: Curious, rational, determined, loves developing evidence-based opinions.

Weaknesses: Arrogant, dismissive of emotions, overly critical.

Pop culture example: Walter White, Gandalf the Grey.

At the workplace: INTJs prefer to work alone and thrive in remote or spread out working environments. They also don’t respond well to micromanaging and prefer meetings that are straight to the point and end with actionable next steps.

INTP: The Logician

Key characteristics: Creative, willing to experiment, curious, dreamy, introverted.

Strengths: Open-minded, analytical, original, objective.

Weaknesses: Impatient, perfectionist, dissatisfied.

Pop culture example: Bruce Banner, Neo from the Matrix.

At the workplace: Logicians crave intellectual stimulation and need the freedom to pursue their ideas. They often work best in collaboration with others and often benefit from working with other team members that are more grounded. It helps to slow them down and figure out how they can implement their ideas in more realistic ways.

ENTJ: The Commander

Key characteristics: Extroverted, charismatic, confident, rational, determined, high-achieving.

Strengths: Energetic, efficient, strong-willed, good at strategic thinking.

Weaknesses: Intolerant, impatient, arrogant, stubborn.

Pop culture example: Doctor Strange, Tony Soprano.

At the workplace: ENTJs are efficient in the workplace and communicate clearly. When giving feedback, use objective, rational statements and present them with clear opportunities for growth to keep them motivated.

ENTP: The Debater

Key characteristics: Extroverted, quick-witted, curious, not afraid of disagreements, rule-breaking.

Strengths: Knowledgeable, quick-thinking, excellent at brainstorming, charismatic.

Weaknesses: Argumentative, can find it difficult to focus, not a fan of planning.

Pop culture example: Captain Jack Sparrow, the Joker, Jim Halpert.

At the workplace: Debaters aren’t afraid of criticism as long as it allows them to enhance their performance. They dislike “doing the dirty work” and implementing plans set out by managers or spending time on monotonous tasks.

INFJ: The Advocate

Key characteristics: Introverted, imaginative, idealistic, principled, approaches life with deep thoughtfulness.

Strengths: Creative, altruistic, passionate, insightful.

Weaknesses: Sensitive to criticism, perfectionist, prone to burnout.

Pop culture example: Jon Snow, Galadriel, Atticus Finch.

At the workplace: INFJs thrive in environments where fairness and equality are highly valued. Managers who are open-minded and willing to consider their ideas help Advocates thrive. They’re sensitive to constructive feedback — especially when unprompted — so make sure to lead with positive feedback first and always communicate the why behind constructive criticism.

INFP: The Mediator

Key characteristics: Creative, imaginative, dreamy, empathetic, introverted.

Strengths: Generous, passionate, idealistic.

Weaknesses: Unrealistic, emotionally vulnerable, self-critical.

Pop culture example: Frodo Baggins, Anne of Green Gables, Lance Sweets.

At the workplace: Mediators need to find a sense of purpose in their work. They’re honest and value doing the right thing in all circumstances. Praise and positive feedback are highly motivating for them. Finally, implementing deadlines and clear expectations keeps this MBTI personality type on track and helps them from getting carried away with their ideas.

ENFJ: The Protagonist

Key characteristics: Warm, value helping others, extroverted, idealistic, charismatic.

Strengths: Receptive, reliable, passionate, altruistic leadership style.

Weaknesses: Idealistic, intense, overly empathetic.

Pop culture example: Daenerys Targaryen, Elizabeth Bennet, Isobel Crawley.

At the workplace: ENFJs are hard workers who don’t shy away from an opportunity to prove themselves. However, they can be taken advantage of by managers who overburden them with too many responsibilities. So keep in mind that while your protagonistic employee might gladly take on work, you should encourage them to take accountability for their bandwidth and not be afraid of saying no.

ENFP: The Campaigner

Key characteristics: Free-spirited, outgoing, open-hearted, adventurous, craves emotional connections with others.

Strengths: Curious, perceptive, enthusiastic, excellent communication skills, good-natured.

Weaknesses: People-pleasing, disorganized, overly optimistic.

Pop culture example: Michael Scott, Spiderman, Peeta Mellark.

At the workplace: Campaigners easily find ways to make their workplace more imaginative, engaging, and fun. They’re happiest when they have the time and space to follow through with their creative ideas. They’re also great listeners who are always eager to listen to different perspectives.

ISTJ: The Logistician

Key characteristics: Practical, factual, reliable, wilful, observant.

Strengths: Honest, direct, responsible, good at finding pragmatic solutions to problems, calm.

Weaknesses: Stubborn, judgmental, always doing things ‘by the book.’

Pop culture example: Hermione Granger, Inspector Lestrade.

At the workplace: ISTJs are hard-working, dutiful, and seek structure and clearly defined rules. They crave responsibility, which might overburden them in the long run if they’re supervised by a manager who’s not respectful of their bandwidth.

ISFJ: The Defender

Key characteristics: Introverted, unassuming, warm, efficient, responsible, detail-oriented, protective.

Strengths: Supportive, reliable, observant, hard-working, good practical skills.

Weaknesses: Overly humble, takes things personally, often over-commits, reluctant to change.

Pop culture example: Dr. Watson, Captain America, Vito Corleone.

At the workplace: Defenders are always looking for practical, clear solutions to day-to-day problems. They’re humbly committed and seek to make other people’s lives easier. However, their radical humility can hold them back from growth opportunities and promotions. So it’s important for managers not to overlook them and encourage them to take credit for their achievements and abilities.

ESTJ: The Executive

Key characteristics: Excellent administrators, lovers of tradition and order, honest, dedicated, pragmatic decision-makers.

Strengths: Direct and straightforward, enjoy making things efficient and organized, loyal, reliable.

Weaknesses: Inflexible, uncomfortable with unconventional situations, reluctant to relax.

Pop culture example: Claire Dunphy, Dwight Schrute, Robb Stark.

At the workplace: ESTJs follow the rules and always want everyone’s work to be up to the highest standards. They’re unlikely to experiment with new ways of doing things and prefer to stick to their stated responsibilities. They’re not afraid of voicing their opinions, especially when they believe something isn’t acceptable.

ESFJ: The Consul

Key characteristics: Caring, social, eager to help, supportive, generous, reliable, places a high value on community.

Strengths: Strong sense of duty, loyal, sensitive, warm.

Weaknesses: Inflexible, vulnerable to criticism, overly selfless.

Pop culture example: Monica Geller, Sansa Stark, Carmela Soprano.

At the workplace: Consuls thrive on social order and harmony and often rely on their charisma to ensure everyone has what they need to complete their responsibilities well. They need clearly defined responsibilities and struggle when they have too much freedom and experimentation. They make excellent project managers and don’t have a problem with routine tasks.

ISTP: The Virtuoso

Key characteristics: Bold, practical, experimental, curious, value first-hand experiences, fair.

Strengths: Optimistic, energetic, creative, practical, spontaneous, knows how to improvise.

Weaknesses: Stubborn, easily bored, dislikes commitment.

Pop culture example: Indiana Jones, James Bond, Jessica Jones.

At the workplace: Virtuosos crave some wiggle room as employees. They’re relaxed and easy-going, but strict rules, guidelines, and agreements tend to make them feel trapped and bored. They thrive with tasks that require them to get their hands dirty and will tackle them with enthusiasm. Managers can keep them motivated by scheduling in-person or online check-ins to keep them on track.

ISFP: The Adventurer

Key characteristics: Open-minded, flexible, artistic, open to experimentation, driven by curiosity.

Strengths: Charming, imaginative, sensitive to others, passionate.

Weaknesses: Fiercely independent, unpredictable, easily stressed.

Pop culture example: Beatrix Kiddo, Edith Crawley, Jesse Pinkman.

At the workplace: ISFPs crave working environments that give them space to do things creatively, as opposed to button-down environments. They don’t like to be controlled and aren’t known for their long-term focus. However, if managed successfully, their passionate approach to problem-solving can prove highly valuable.

ESTP: The Entrepreneur

Key characteristics: Extroverted, energetic, perceptive, a tendency to ‘leap before they look.’

Strengths: Bold, rational, practical, original, perceptive, direct, sociable.

Weaknesses: Impatient, risk-prone, may miss the big picture.

Pop culture example: Antman, Jaime Lannister.

At the workplace: Entrepreneurs are known for their spontaneity and quick thinking, which can cause problems when they’re obliged to check in with their supervisor for every little detail. They’re risk-takers and would much rather tackle an exciting challenge than carry out similar tasks over and over again. Fast-paced and fun workplaces are where ESTPs shine.

ESFP: The Entertainer

Key characteristics: Enthusiastic, spontaneous, energetic, fun, social, loves group activities.

Strengths: Bold, original, excellent showmanship and people skills, observant, practical.

Weaknesses: Sensitive, poor long-term planning, conflict-averse, unfocused.

Pop culture example: Captain Marvel, Dandelion, Jack Dawson.

At the workplace: Entertainers are a great personality type to have around in dynamic, hectic workplaces. They bring fun to everything they do and try to make their team’s day-to-day work as enjoyable as possible. They thrive on change and new ideas. As a manager, you can count on them to brainstorm creative ideas and solutions and put them into action.

How to communicate with different personalities in the workplace

As discussed above, there are many different types of personalities in the workplace, and each has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Forward-thinking managers and business owners can set themselves and their employees up for success by learning about their team members’ personalities and communicating with them accordingly. To make that easier for you, we’ve prepared a list of best practices that can help get you started!

Ask employees how they prefer to communicate

Exploring how team members prefer to interact with their workplace team as soon as they start their job helps you avoid miscommunications and misunderstandings from the get-go. So when you’re onboarding new employees, make sure to ask them how they prefer to communicate and exchange feedback. You can even ask them to share their MBTI personality type with you and the rest of the team to learn more about them.

Tailor your communication methods

It’s no surprise that different people and personality types thrive with different methods of communication. What might motivate an Advocate might leave a Logician feeling frustrated and bored. In order to make your messages resonate with specific employees, be flexible and learn how to talk to them on their level.

So once you’ve asked your team members about their preferences, make sure to approach them with the communication method that works best for them.

Looking for more resources to help you identify and communicate effectively with the different personality types in your business? We’ve got you covered:

Understand and respect everyone’s boundaries

Being your team’s cheerleader and respecting their boundaries is the holy grail of effective management. For example, if an employee has an easier time explaining their point of view with expressive, conceptual, and visual language, don’t try to push them to be specific, straightforward, and practical instead.

Accept their strengths and learn to encourage your team members to lean into them and use them as their superpower. Because great teams are made up of a mixture of personalities, and trying to create forced uniformity only leads to a toxic work environment.

Be an impartial mediator when workplace disputes come up

When solving workplace conflict, it’s important to remain objective and listen to both sides of the story actively. Because when clashes arise due to differences in personality types, there’s rarely a ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Just different ways of approaching the same situation.

Sit down with all the parties involved, ask them to share their points of view honestly and openly, and try to find a compromise that works for everyone. Remember that it’s not about ‘winning’ or ‘losing,’ but about finding practical solutions that make your business a better, fairer, and more pleasant workplace.

Ask for feedback

Successful communication with any person takes practice and adaptation. But being able to receive and give feedback is how you create and grow a great team, become a better manager, and retain your employees in the long run. So once you’ve tried out different communication methods and management styles, ask individual team members for feedback on what they like and how you can improve.

Use Homebase to build a cohesive team

Having a healthy mix of different personality types is essential to creating a well-balanced team. That’s because different coworkers can complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses and make your business more successful.

For example, if all your people are big dreamers who don’t like sticking to strict instructions, you’ll have a hard time meeting deadlines and completing projects. But having a few more action-oriented people around could have a grounding effect on the other members and make it easier to overcome challenges.

However, managing a team full of different types can be hard work and lead to frequent miscommunications and workplace tensions. That’s why it’s important to take the time to understand the different personalities and learn how to best communicate with each one.

Using a team communication app can streamline this process and boost communication across your team. For example, Homebase’s messaging app lets you message custom groups and individual team members, ask for shift feedback and reports, and keep everyone up to speed. (And best of all, it’s free!)

FAQs about workplace personalities

homebase customer photo homebase customer photo

How to deal with difficult personalities in the workplace?

The key to handling difficult personalities in the workplace is opening lines of communication between team members and encouraging them not to take things personally. You can also:

  1. Remain objective and look at the facts surrounding the employee’s behavior 
  2. Understand the employee’s perspective and intentions 
  3. Examine your own actions in the situation 
  4. Practice empathy 
  5. Offer constructive criticism about the employee’s behavior in a way that resonates with them

What are the advantages and disadvantages of different personalities in the workplace?

The benefit of having different personalities in the workplace is that it leads to a more creative, dynamic team that can overcome challenges more effectively. A combination of different personality types also creates a more balanced working environment that promotes diversity and improves decision-making. On the other hand, it can lead to stressful conflicts and misunderstandings due to personality clashes and miscommunications. 

Remember: This is not legal advice. If you have questions about your particular situation, please consult a lawyer, CPA, or other appropriate professional advisor or agency.

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