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5 tips for handling different work styles among employees


We’re all familiar with assessments that show your employees’ strengths and where they fall on a work style or behavior chart. Regardless of the model you’re using, know that people typically don’t have just one style. There are many different work styles out there.

And, whether you have tenured employees or new hires, also realize that people’s work styles can change over time. The work style of someone on your team before the pandemic could be completely different than how they prefer to work today, in our commonly adopted hybrid workplaces.

Managing your employees’ different work styles isn’t an easy task. But one thing’s for sure: There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all leadership.

Here are five tips for handling different work styles in the world of hybrid and remote work.

1. Meet them where they are

As a leader, your job is to adapt your style to get the most out of the people around you. What are your employees’ strengths, and how do you use those to get the best from them?

People tend to respond well to others whose work style reflects their own. For example:

  1. Work style: Go-getter John
    Value: He has the ability to see the full picture and make things happen quickly and on point.
    How to respond:  The key here would be to give John the latitude to get things done within a framework (no micromanaging for him!), while still working toward the business’s mission and vision.
  2. Work style: Fact-checker Jill
    Value: She will work meticulously to not just get work done, but to get work right.
    How to respond:  When you’re working with someone like Jill, who relies on facts to make decisions, you should provide information that supports why something needs to be done. And you should expect that Jill will do her own research to verify your information. She’s not questioning you or your research skills – she just needs to find her own proof before moving forward. She’s more about getting it right, than just getting it done.
  3. Work style: Social Mark
    Value: He is a team player who enjoys collaboration and thrives on bigger group projects.
    How to respond: You can expect to spend 10 to 15 minutes talking about family, football and his biking group before getting down to business. Meeting Mark on his social plane will help build trust and camaraderie with him.

2. Put the right person in the right job

It’s your job as a leader to understand what motivates your people. Putting them in the right position and giving them an environment where they can succeed is crucial to their success – and yours.

When you’re hiring, part of the interview process should include determining whether your job candidate has the work style to fit the job. Just because someone has the skills doesn’t mean they’re the right hire. An analytical person may have skills and experience as a salesperson, but it may not be their passion. Finding the right person goes beyond finding someone whose credentials match your job description.

If you have a “steady Eddie” on your team who’s a bit reserved and doesn’t like conflict, then try not to put him in situations that make him uncomfortable. If you have to put him in an uncomfortable situation, make it a safe environment where there’s no threat of repercussions. Give him projects where he works independently or one-on-one, and where there are defined processes and objectives.

Now, if you have someone like John, the dynamo, on your team – don’t put him on a project working alone in the back room. He’s not going to be productive or happy. Note, though, that giving him room to run doesn’t mean a license to run amok. Results-oriented people like John sometimes don’t realize the collateral damage they might leave in their wake.

3. Set a clear vision for the team

Managing challenging behaviors – such as steamrolling or overanalyzing – takes planning and communication on your part. It’s important to play to your people’s strengths and direct their energy toward common goals.

The tone of your workplace has a lot to do with setting expectations – and that’s what your team looks for you to do.

When beginning a project, gather the right team members together to talk about objectives and goals. How does the project support the company’s values and vision? How does each person’s role support the goals? Everyone should be on the same page, working toward the same outcome.

How the team arrives at the final goal may look different to each person because of their individual work style. So, it’s up to you to focus their strengths, make sure they understand their roles, give feedback along the way, and give them the support or independence they need to do great things.

A lot of times, the team dynamic gets mired in different work styles or personality misunderstandings. If that’s the case, get everyone in a room and hash things out. If you’ve hired well and you have a good team, it probably won’t take too long for everyone to remember they’re working toward the same goal and it’s only a matter of understanding others’ perspectives.

4. It’s not wrong, it’s just different

Some people wonder if it’s good to have a mix of work styles on the same team. Absolutely!

If you have different work styles on your team, it means work gets done, it gets done right, and you all might have some fun in the process.

For example, if you have all go-getters like John, a lot of stuff will get done, but details might get missed. Whereas, if you have all analytical types like Jill, the work will get done right, but it may take longer than anticipated. And a roomful of social Marks will be a lot of fun, but it may turn into a lot of talking, and not much getting done.

You don’t want to surround yourself with employees whose style is just like yours. Welcome other perspectives and styles – it’ll likely improve your quality of work.

The key throughout all of it is that you, as the leader, must focus your energy into uncovering people’s strengths and putting them in the right situations. This is especially important if you have a remote team, where people’s work styles can be especially unique based on work environments as well.

5. Start understanding your employees’ different work styles

Certainly offering a behavior assessment such as DiSC, Myers-Briggs or StrengthsFinder is a great place to start in figuring out what motivates your team.

As beneficial as work style assessments are, remember that it’s not about putting people into buckets. It’s about finding out what motivates them and where their passions lie and using their strengths to build a better workforce.

Keep in mind:

  • You don’t have to guess what your people need to succeed. Ask them.
  • Let them know you’re there to support them.
  • You hired them to do a job – give them the tools and the support they need to do it. You might open the dialogue like this: “What can I do to help you do your job most effectively?”
  • Don’t forget to listen. If it will make them more successful – and therefore you and your company more successful – give it consideration.

You may not be able to provide everything they desire, but knowing what they need and assuring them you’re trying to help them succeed can lead to higher employee satisfaction and engagement.

For more information about how to be a better leader and help your employees succeed, check out our e-book, How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.