Have you ever considered how your personality shows up at work? If the answer is no, it’s time you did. Regular reflection on which aspects of your persona are working well for you, and which you would do well to improve, is absolutely necessary if you want to be successful in the workplace. Because whether or not you are aware of it, your personality affects where you work, why you work and how you work. But you aren’t the only person affected by your personality traits. They play a large role in the way you think about others and act toward them, and because your behaviors precede your intentions, there’s a lot of room for misinterpretation. The art of communication is a perfect example. It is arguably one of the most important skills you can develop but if you don’t understand how others are perceiving you, you might create significant snags in office productivity as well as damage important relationships. In the following fictitious scenario we’ll look at how easily this situation could unfold.
Differences in Personality
Personality A is outgoing and has a lot of energy and enthusiasm. He is a great idea person but also a compulsive talker, moderately unorganized, easily distracted and wants to be the center of attention all the time. Personality Z is serious, purposeful, and sensitive. However, he is also somewhat moody, not very people-oriented, spends too much time in the planning phase, and can be antagonistic. Let’s say these two personality types have been asked to partner on a project that will enable their department to meet the end of quarter goals. Is this a recipe for success or disaster? If there had been no training in understanding other personality types or conflict resolution, the situation might look something like this:
Personality A and Z have agreed to meet for an hour to discuss how to successfully complete their assigned project by the deadline date. Personality A knows how to talk a good game, so he immediately begins to throw out ideas. He has a rather engaging personality that makes the ideas sound like they could work. Personality Z listens, but he has an idea of his own that he believes will work better. He’d like the opportunity to share his idea but he’s not sure where or when to interject because A is sucking all of the oxygen out of the room. Z begins to jot down notes on his idea while A is talking. At the end of the hour, A begins to wrap up the meeting by saying, “I think we should take the rest of the day to consider these ideas, and come back tomorrow to choose the best one.” He says this confidently and with a smile. He feels like a lot has been accomplished. He is happy with the ideas he’s generated, and knows that whichever one they choose will be a winner. He has heard that Z is great at planning, and assumes he’ll take A’s thoughts and organize them into a workable plan. He was a little surprised that Z didn’t talk much during the meeting, but he noticed that he was taking notes, so he’s sure that Z has already started mapping a plan in his head. Personality A leaves the meeting feeling confident and satisfied with the outcome. After all, this was a brainstorming session and he came up with all of the ideas!
Personality Z agrees with A in the moment because being talked at for an hour has left him exhausted. All he wants to do is go home to some peace and quiet. He wants to finish organizing his thoughts about his own idea, and plan out the best way to implement it. He will present the idea tomorrow because he believes that it is truly better than any of the ones that A has shared. Besides, A gets on his nerves. He always has to be the center of attention, and today was no exception. Z doesn’t want A get his way just because he’s a charmer. He’s hoping that if he presents a well thought out plan, A will agree to it.
Miscommunication & Misunderstanding
When A arrives at the meeting the next day, he is ten minutes late. He laughs it off explaining how crazy his day has been, then immediately jumps in by asking Personality Z which of yesterday’s ideas he would like to pursue for the project. Z, who arrived ten minutes early and is now irritated at having to wait for 20 minutes, begins to explain his idea. He is nowhere near finished planning how it will all turn out though. He’ll plan some more tonight!
A is confused and laughingly says, ‘Whoa, wait. I was talking about the ideas that we came up with yesterday.” To which Z responds by saying, “You came up with all the ideas yesterday and it was a”brainstorming” session, so nothing was decided on because I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.” Personality A, feeling attacked, yells, “What in the world are you talking about?! We agreed yesterday that all of the ideas were really good, and that we would decide today which one was best!” Z thinks to himself, “Um, you decided that, and I was so exhausted by your talking that I would have agreed to do anything to leave that room!” What he actually says is “I came up with an idea yesterday that I think is a better fit for the project.” Feeling frustrated at how Z is trying to steal the show after all the hard work he put in the day before, Personality A throws his hands up in the air and says, “Are you crazy?!” We had almost everything mapped out yesterday with perfectly good ideas, and now you want to completely reinvent the wheel? We don’t have time for this.” Personality Z, not wanting to engage in conflict, says dejectedly, “Well, maybe you’re right. I can just hold onto this idea for some future project. A jumps in saying, “That’s the spirit! I knew you were a good team player.” Ok, from the ideas that we came up with yesterday, I think I like #2. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s really pretty perfect for this situation. Z says that he agrees but gives a noncommittal shrug of the shoulders as he slowly tucks his plan back into his folder.
This fictitious account of what might occur between these two personality types highlights that even the simplest interactions between different personality types can lead to miscommunication, hurt feelings and conflict. If left unresolved these are exactly the types of things that will erode an organization’s culture. Which makes understanding personality and its effect on how people show up at work a crucial function of individual and organizational success. However, understanding the dynamics of personality in the workplace is just the first step in solving the problem. Learning to maximize personality strengths and minimize the weaknesses are the key to long term success.
Company culture is one of the most important aspects of a successful organization. It’s what attracts and retains both employees and customers. So stop waiting for your culture to magically turn itself around. Develop the skills necessary to understand your own personality and those of your co-workers now. Give us a call. We specialize in the Diversity of PersonalityTM.
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