What Are 4 Working Styles? (And How To Learn Yours)
Updated July 31, 2023
In every workplace, there are usually a variety of personalities and working styles. There are times this level of diversity can lead to miscommunication or conflict, but it most often results in the development of solutions that are creative and effective. By learning more about the different types of work styles and discovering your own approach, you can become a better team member and collaborator.
In this article, we explain why understanding working styles is important, provide a list of the different types of working styles and explore how you can determine your own, personal work style.
What are working styles?
A work style is the collection of behaviors and attitudes that you apply to your tasks and relationships in the workplace. Your approach to work dictates how you respond to your environment, solve problems, and manage your interpersonal relationships. Each personality style thrives on working in a specific situation or environment.
By discovering your working style, you can recognize the roles and responsibilities that you excel in, allowing you to maximize your own productivity and, therefore, success. It's also helpful to understand your own biases and tendencies because it allows you to work past them in certain situations.
Why are they important?
When you're aware of the way you work, you can adjust your behavior to maximize your interactions with peers whose style is different from yours. Being aware of how your coworkers approach challenges can provide insight into how best to interact with them. Likewise, being aware of your own biases or habits can help you alter your behavior to become a better employee and team player.
Knowing how you like to work also helps you identify which jobs and career paths are best for you. Knowing that you excel in planning and preparation can help you pursue roles that use those skills to the fullest and allow you to excel by using your natural abilities.
What are the 4 styles of working?
Four broad, yet distinct categories define the main working styles. Each has its strengths, weaknesses and unique approach to overcoming challenges, managing interactions and achieving goals. You may relate to a combination of styles since they aren't always exclusive. The four working styles are:
Individuals with this work style are often known as drivers or doers because they can analyze a problem and tackle it head-on. Those that have this work style are typically data-oriented and love a good challenge. Their linear way of thinking allows them to dedicate an incredible amount of focus toward their goals and get things done.
The amount of concentration these individuals have causes them to sometimes forget to communicate their actions or overlook the importance of planning.
Example: Lauren is a brand manager with a logical approach to work. She is result-driven and evaluates the effectiveness of campaigns based on tangible achievement. She prefers to work quickly and efficiently and execute tasks without delay. Lauren expects her coworkers to waste no time and prefers workflow with the fewest steps possible. She speaks her mind and is always honest with coworkers, especially if she feels something needs improvement.
Sometimes referred to as guardians or learners, those with this working style are sequential, strategic, organized and extremely detail-oriented. These attributes are important in any team because they supply a sense of order and stability. Individuals with this work style are usually extremely pragmatic, meaning they avoid risks and approach situations slowly and thoughtfully.
Though they are an asset to any team, learners can struggle to execute their meticulously constructed plans. When paired with more actionable team members, they create an unstoppable team.
Example: Susan is an accountant with a detail-oriented approach. Her attention to detail means she rarely makes mistakes and is highly reliable. She uses finely-tuned processes to organize her workflow. These may slow down her productivity, but result in error-free reports. Susan stays organized and schedules her tasks daily to keep her workflow on track. She thrives in an environment where her team is as meticulous as she is and can benefit from being motivated by an inspirational leader.
Some people have a more emotionally oriented work style that is deeply expressive and supportive. Sometimes known as integrators or lovers, these individuals typically build relationships and bring teams together to work in harmony. They usually value collaboration above all else. They are sensitive to the feelings of everyone around them, allowing them to successfully facilitate team communications and understand the true context of a situation.
Example: Pablo is a retail assistant in a shoe store and has a supportive attitude in his work. His friendly demeanor and listening skills make him excellent at customer service. When his teammates need help, he's eager to jump in and assist. When customers need help finding the perfect shoes, he is patient and considerate. He thrives in social situations, makes every customer feel welcome in the store and works hard to please his manager.
Often thought of as pioneers, leaders or big-picture thinkers, individuals with this working style are skilled at creating a vision and inspiring others to believe in it. These workers thrive on the endless risks and possibilities, making them an incredible source of energy. These innovators are great at turning obstacles into opportunities, but they can get so wrapped up in the bigger picture that they overlook details or forget to follow up with other members of their team.
Example: Alex is the general manager of a cinema and has an idea-oriented work style. His innovative approach to running the cinema means he's always coming up with ways to bring in new customers. When problems arise, such as staffing shortages, he applies his creativity to adjust employees' schedules to keep the cinema running smoothly. Having detail-oriented people working for him helps Alex focus on the business's overall success without overlooking small, yet essential elements.
How to determine which working style you use
Consider the following to determine your personal working style:
1. Evaluate your preferred mode of communication
It can often be helpful to think about how you choose to communicate to narrow down the type of work style you have. There are certain characteristics that you're likely to notice in specific styles, such as active listening skills in someone with a supportive work style. You might expect someone with a detail-oriented work style to write concise emails and remain stoic in their in-person exchanges, while someone with an idea-oriented working style could use a lot of passionate hand gestures when talking with others.
2. Think about how you like to plan your day
Another key indicator of your work style can be found in how you structure your day. Someone with a detail-oriented style likely has a clear plan for each day and rarely misses deadlines, while someone with another work style may wait until the last minute to complete their work.
Aside from your approach to each day and deadlines, you can also think about whether you prefer time for planning or a fast-paced work environment that allows you to be spontaneous.
3. Determine how you deal with conflict
While someone with a logical working style might welcome a good debate, others might avoid any conflict, even if it is friendly. By determining how you handle conflict, you can get a better idea of your personality in and outside of work. For example, if you have a supportive work style, you might focus on developing a compromise any time a workplace conflict arises.
4. Take a personality test
Personality tests can be an extremely beneficial tool for discovering your personality as well as your work style. Sometimes employers ask candidates to take personality tests during the application or hiring process so that they can get a better idea of their behavior and overall outlook. They use the results to decide if candidates or employees are well-suited for specific teams and roles because they give them a way to assess an individual's approach to relationships and work. There are many different types of personality tests available, but perhaps the most popular are the:
Myers Briggs Type Index (MBTI): The Myers Briggs Type Index is an extremely popular personality test that is based on the theory that people relate to one another in four different psychological areas (sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking). There are 16 different personality types according to this test, and the results can give you valuable insight into your work style.
Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R): This personality test evaluates you based on the belief that there are five major personality traits (neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness). Within each of these traits, six separate subcategories further define how you approach the world.
Winslow Personality Profile: The Winslow Personality Profile uses a decile scale to measure 24 different personality traits. Though this test is popularly used within sports leagues, it can provide useful information for any work environment.
Read more: How To Pass a Personality Test
Frequently asked questions
What are the advantages and disadvantages of collaborating with different work styles?
An advantage is others can have strengths in your weaknesses, and you can complete a task more effectively and efficiently together. A disadvantage is you might not be used to how someone else works and may become frustrated. To help avoid this, discuss your challenges without blaming the other person and find actionable ways to resolve the frustration, such as working on your tasks separately and returning together to discuss when you're finished.
How do you manage or work with individuals with different working styles?
You can discuss how to handle a task or project and focus on each other's strengths when collaborating with various working styles. Encouraging conversations can help motivate all team members to work well together and accomplish a task.
How do you answer interview questions about working styles?
Be direct and concise if you're in an interview and the hiring manager asks about your working style. It's unnecessary to discuss every aspect of your working style, so only mention details that are relevant to the job you want.
For instance, if you're interviewing for a marketing team director position and have a detail-oriented working style, talk about how this benefited you in previous marketing jobs. For example, discuss how you caught errors before a marketing campaign launched in your last job and how your detail-oriented working style can serve your future employer.
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