Working with Different Personality Types: Three Tools for Decoding and Accommodating Work Styles

Posted by on August 11, 2015

One of the beautiful things about our office is the diversity of our team. Young. Old(er). Black. White. Male. Female. Type As, Bs and Cs. You get the picture—we have a mix of backgrounds: a team of experienced marketers, communicators, designers, writers, business developers and strategists.

With our eclectic team comes a multitude of work styles to manage and adapt to. While we tend to hire for cultural fit, we also ask new team members to take a DISC personality test to help us better understand how to communicate and work more effectively with each other. As I continue to work with new employees and new clients, I find that it helps to be able to identify their work style and accommodate it accordingly. I’ve also found that my own DISC results have shifted a bit over the years.

Three Personality Assessment Tools

While these assessments have their limitations, generally they emphasize tolerance for individual differences and taking others’ perspectives into account. Ultimately, in doing this we build stronger teams, learn more about each other and ourselves, retain employees and clients, and develop mutual respect. Imagine if we were all the same: What sort of progress would we make? How would we innovate?

Three of the most popular assessments include:

  1. DISCDISC refers to the four behavior types the test assesses: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientious. Designed to gain insights to build better, stronger, and more fulfilling relationships, DISC focuses more on behaviors than preferences. It’s fast and free (10 minutes or less). With our cheat sheet from Talent Tools (a four-quadrant, laminated piece that quickly defines each type and offers suggestions for the best way to work with them), I can quickly identify someone’s type and adjust my style to connect more effectively and improve interpersonal communications.
  2. MBTI – Perhaps the most popular personality test ever designed, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator(MBTI) is based on Carl Jung’s psychology theory and the typology of Isabel Briggs Myers, along with her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs. Four indexes are used to categorize individuals into one of 16 personality types. Within the four modes of engagement, you fall into one of two poles: You’re either primarily Introverted or Extroverted (I/E), Intuitive or Sensing (N/S), Thinking or Feeling (T/F), and Perceiving or Judging (P/J).
  3. Kolbe Index – This instrument gives you a greater understanding of your own natural instincts to help you maximize your potential. According to their website, this index measures what you will or won’t do.

Before you reduce yourself to an acronym, consider the work styles and personalities on your team and the best way to work with them. Whether you use them for leadership, staff development, team-building or career counseling, these tools can help you forge stronger, more productive relationships.

But, Do People Change?

Some experts recommend retaking these tests since life changes can impact our work styles—marriages, divorces and babies to name a few. Gayle Laakman McDowell, author of “Cracking the Coding Interview,” believes your personality type can easily change in a span of weeks, or even minutes or hours. When people were tested just weeks apart on the MBTI, 50 percent of them saw a shift in their personality type.

Others believe our personalities are more ingrained. According to researchers behind the MBTI, people scored the same on a subsequent administration of the test about 75 percent of the time. When change does occur, it’s more likely on those scales where the original preferences score was slight.

What’s your personality type? And, has it changed over the years? What do you think about DISC, MBTI or the Kolbe Index?


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