How to manage employees with different personality traits
Different personality traits can help to create a diverse, vibrant and productive workplace. But sometimes managing those varied personalities, preferences, personal attributes and ways of working can be complicated.

Research for SEEK reveals three in five New Zealanders (60%) have had a bad experience working with someone with a different personality type.

Employees identify three key challenges as part of this situation:

  • They have different ways of getting things done.
  • They deal with conflict in different ways.
  • It can take a lot of effort to talk to co-workers who aren’t similar.

SEEK’s Resident Psychologist Sabina Read shares how you can help employees tackle each of these challenges.

The impact of personalities on workplaces

“Personality is the characteristics of a person that account for consistent patterns of their feeling, thinking, and behaving,” Read says. Personality can impact workplaces in numerous ways, from team meeting dynamics and employees’ productivity, to work ethics and motivation.

In many workplaces, different personalities can mean great outcomes, but sometimes managers need to get involved and help employees work collaboratively.

Different ways of working

A significant number of employees (46%) found it challenging when they and a colleague had different ways of getting things done. Read suggests taking time to find out what helps your employees perform at their best.

“Managers and employers get the most out of people who feel respected for who they are,” she says. “Knowing your employees’ different personalities and preferences may mean adjusting your processes by offering uninterrupted quiet time, encouraging collaboration, putting requests in writing or explaining the big picture.”

When employees with different working styles and personal attributes need to collaborate, encourage a conversation about how each employee will contribute and how they prefer to work.

Managing conflict

“Conflict is a natural experience when we work with others, but it’s the way we manage conflict that matters,” Read says.

The research shows that almost a third of employees found it challenging when they worked with a colleague who dealt with conflict in a different way to them.

“Conflict often occurs when people care about the work they are doing. Recognising this can help take the heat out of disagreements, and reduce any judgement that someone is difficult or tricky,” Read says.

“Remind yourself and your employees that you’re all on the same team and continue to share organisational and team goals so that everyone has a sense of comradery in the shared purpose of their work.”

If you can get people on the same page, and take the intensity out of a conflict situation, it’s often easier to look at ways of understanding and addressing conflict as a team.

Encouraging communication

For just over a third (34%) of employees, a challenge of working with someone with a different personality was that it takes a lot of effort to talk to them.

“We may fantasise about working with people just like us, but then all our experiences and results would be limited to our narrow lens,” Read says. “Remind your people that it’s the range of varied expertise, thinking, approaches, and beliefs that creates success.”

Open up team meetings to discuss how employees think, feel and act differently. “Ask open-ended questions with different personalities present so individuals can hear each other’s responses and preferences,” Read says.

Instead of focusing on the perceived effort needed to talk to others, pitch questions that invite self-reflection and accountability rather than judgement or blame.

You can ask questions like:

  • What could you do to make things better?

  • What do you need your colleagues to understand about the way you work?

  • What would make it easier for you to initiate conversations with each other?

We all bring different personalities, preferences and ways of getting things done to our workplaces – and it can help to make them more creative and productive. There are many essential elements to workplace wellbeing, and managing and including different personalities is a key part of this.

Managers play a key role in helping employees see the strengths each person has to contribute as part of a team. Being open about the things team members have in common while respecting and supporting their differences can help to foster a positive and healthy workplace.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature on behalf of SEEK. Interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually.