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Natalia Rossingol

4 Different Work Styles & How to Find Yours

How do you approach your tasks, interact with your colleagues, and fix problems? Most likely, you represent a specific work style.

Some of us hate writing long reports or making plans because there is no room for creativity – while for others, these are the most satisfactory assignments, as they let you organize things and calm an unsettled mind. Some of us like being around people all the time, to exchange and share energy, - but for others, excessive communication is a nightmare, because they are solitary individuals who need their personal “cave” to be productive.

We are all different, and that’s okay. And like we all have our preferences in movies and literature, we all work in a particular way, which forms our specific work style. But do we really know which style we usually stick to? 

Let's discuss the 4 basic working styles to help you understand your own habits better.

What is a work style?

A work style is a specific type of behavior that affects the way you work – how you approach your tasks, fix problems, and interact with people. They come from your innate traits and reflect your personality, which means you cannot really control them, as they’re a part of your subconscious mind.  

Why knowing your work style is important

While it’s impossible to change what’s natural to you, you can still learn to use your inclinations and tendencies to your advantage. Knowing your personal work style can help you work more efficiently, as you will pick the tasks that are best for you, based on your skills and abilities.

It can also let you see how to adapt your behavior while working with people whose styles are different from yours. You may realize that it’s easier to avoid or solve conflicts and complete a project if you know the needs and abilities of other team members, as well as your own.  

4 different types of work styles

Logical (Drivers or Doers)

People who fall into this category have an analytical mind, which lets them see a problem from various angles. A challenge doesn’t frighten them – on the contrary, they find it exciting, seeing it as a concealed opportunity.

These people can be described as goal-oriented, rational, and very focused, and, thanks to these features, they are good at problem-solving. They actually get things done, setting goals and methodologically moving towards them.

Team members with a logical work style are very independent. To do their job, they need space where they would be able to concentrate on the issue.

Areas of strength:    

Drivers/doers are hard-working and determined. They produce actual results, adding value.

Areas to improve:

Since they prefer working autonomously, logical employees often lack communication skills. For them, the necessity to collaborate, which is an inherent component of teamwork, is a huge distracting factor. This may both reduce their productivity and cause tension.

Doers are not the best planners either. Planning requires patience, while they are full of energy and ready to do work right now, without preparation. Naturally, such a hasty behavior may lead to the wrong decisions and numerous mistakes.

Finally, people with this work style get easily frustrated when they’re not challenged enough. They need action. However, any process is a cycle where periods of intense activity are continuously replaced by periods of relative calm.

Best applied when:

  • Time is limited.
  • A problem to solve is complex.

Detail-oriented (Guardians or Learners)

Team members who prefer the detail-oriented work style create order out of chaos. As it’s clear from the name, they pay attention to detail – they dig deep, they notice little things, and, very often, find mistakes where you least expect to see them.

These people prevent risks and bring stability. They approach everything meticulously, thinking carefully and making pragmatic decisions, based on facts. They are organized, diligent, and reliable.

Areas of strength:

Detailed-oriented people are masters of time management and never miss deadlines – because the mere thought of it gives them anxiety. They rarely make mistakes, because they always, always double-check, and because they’ve got a strong sense of responsibility. They get to the true essence of things, make great plans, and set logical rules.

Areas to improve:

A natural tendency to stay attentive and over-responsible at all times can be exhausting. It takes much longer to make a decision. These people work slower but still strive for perfection, so no wonder they are prone to burnout and workload paralysis, which is often the result of their perfectionism.

This tendency has negative implications for the other team members, too. A person who can’t stand disorder will naturally try to impose order (often subjective) on others. In the workplace context, this means micromanagement, which is a source of conflict and one of the features of a toxic environment.   

Attention to detail has one more disadvantage – it doesn’t let you see the bigger picture. Detail-oriented employees often don’t see the forest behind the trees, lacking a wider view.

Best applied:

  • At project management.
  • When something needs to be edited or double-checked.
  • When someone needs to be trained, they will explain every little step in many details.

Supportive (Integrators or Lovers)

Supportive work style describes a behavior that is aimed at cooperation and creating a healthy psychological environment and team cohesion. The main concern of those who stick to this style is interpersonal relationships.

These people are diplomatic, helpful, and social. It is them who are best at building mutual support, trust, and respect in a team.

Areas of strength:

The main strong suit of supportive team members is emotional intelligence. Thanks to it, they immediately notice a change of mood and can easily read your psychological state. They’re first to notice something is different, or wrong, and they’re always ready to help. Such people are great mediators and resolve interpersonal conflicts without much effort.       

Communication, as one of the key pillars of teamwork, is often provided and maintained by employees with a supportive work style. Since they constantly talk to people, such employees are well aware what is happening in the company. They typically have information about work processes, personal ambitions, and any office drama, as well as its roots.

Areas to improve:

Team members with a supportive work style may struggle with decision-making – they worry about other people, so they always think how others will react to their decision, or how they will be influenced by it.

Emotionality at work can be disruptive, too. Such people aren’t very productive when something is bothering them, no matter if that's a work-related problem or a personal one. And they simply can’t collaborate with people around whom they feel uncomfortable.

Besides, the people-centric approach does not work well for formal environments, where it’s impossible to establish a trusting interpersonal relationship. 

Best applied:

  • To put a team together and maintain collaboration.
  • When there is a conflict to resolve.
  • To establish and maintain communication with customers.

Idea-oriented (Leaders or Big-picture Thinkers)

These are people with a strategic type of thinking. They look into the future and develop a vision – an image of something they want to achieve or build. They’re creative and full of passion, and they transmit it to everyone else. They see opportunities for growth and lead people towards these opportunities, giving them faith, motivating and inspiring them.

Idea-oriented employees are ambitious, charismatic, and influential. They know how to persuade and unite others.

Areas of strength:

People who prefer the idea-oriented work style can generate creative ideas and lead others through insecurity and doubt.

Areas to improve:

The idea-oriented work style is opposite to the detail-oriented one. This means that while idea-oriented employees can think big and out of the box, their approach lacks structure. They cannot make sound plans, as they are not the most organized people.

Best applied:

  • In artistic roles, like design
  • In senior leadership
  • In change management. Idea-oriented people see how to fit in a changing environment, making the best use of the change.     

How to find your working style

Like it often happens with psychological types, people who represent pure working styles are rather an exception. Most probably, you find yourself at the intersection of at least 2 working styles.

If you are not sure which group, or groups, you belong to, we prepared some tips for you:

Think about how you communicate with people

Communication encompasses many aspects of human interaction, like its frequency, emotional involvement, reaction to conflict, the amount of detail provided, and many others. Analyzing them, you can learn more about yourself:

  • How often do you talk to your colleagues, and what mode of communication you prefer? Do you feel emotionally drained when work assignments require more communication than you naturally can handle (doers/learners)? Or does communication inspire you (integrators/leaders)?
  • Are you ready to step in when someone needs help (integrators/leaders) or you'd rather focus on your own part of the work (doers/learners)?
  • How do you respond to conflict? If you get triggered by misunderstandings in the group, and try to resolve it as soon as possible, it may mean that you are more collaborative than independent – and, most probably, an integrator.
  • How much detail do you usually provide? Do you write concise (logical) or long, detailed emails (detailed-oriented)? Do you use colorful language (idea-oriented) or underline the importance of team spirit (supportive)?
  • Finally, how do you act while communicating? If you like talking to people one-on-one, then you’re probably a supportive type. If you use a lot of gestures and speak loudly, then chances are you’re a charismatic idea-oriented team member. And if you are more introverted, then you’re probably either a logical or a detail-oriented type.   

Analyze how you plan and use your own time

Trying to fit yourself into a specific category, you may be too subjective and involuntarily make a mistake. Analyzing your actions can help you see if what you think coincides with what you really do:

  • Do you plan your day? A thorough plan with many steps and sub-steps may indicate you’re detail-oriented, or logical, while the absence of a plan may point that you’re more creative and a spur-of-the-moment person, whose actions depend on their emotional state (supportive) or motivation (idea-oriented.)
  • How much time you spend on a specific assignment? If more than necessary (but without procrastination), then you might be a detailed-oriented type. 

Know thyself

If you decide to take a more advanced approach to self-analysis, you can take various personality tests, like Myers Briggs Type Index, Winslow Personality Profile, or Revised NEO Personality Inventory.

However, you can also just sit and think what excites you. Do you like research and order, finding pleasure in the process (detail-oriented)? Or do you want actual results, setting goals and consistently moving to them (logical)? Are you a dreamer who inspires (idea-oriented), or an amicable person who values human relationships over everything else (supportive)?

These simple questions can help you understand your nature.      

How to collaborate with people considering their work styles

The chances that you will work with people of the same style are incredibly low. In a typical workplace, you will be surrounded by representatives of different working styles – and you will have to learn how to collaborate with them.

We should say that it’s not a bad thing – actually, the more diverse your team is, the better. Complex problems require a complex approach, and this is when skills of all the 4 types come in handy, complementing each other.

What is important, though, is how exactly a manager organizes the interaction of the people who follow different work styles, as it will define the success of the management process. Here are some tips for you:  

Identify your employees' work style

This is the obvious one. All it takes is to talk to people and ask them about their preferences. You can also ask them to take a test, or just observe how they behave in the work environment.

Assign the tasks properly

How we tackle tasks depends on our natural inclinations. If a task fits your skills and working style, you will need much less time to finish it – and you will probably enjoy doing it. At the same time, doing something that is incompatible with your nature will give you more stress and frustration. Learners may hate giving a speech, while leaders may be tortured by making a plan.

Also, while assigning tasks, it’s important to pair team members with those people who would leverage their strengths and weaknesses. For example, people with a detail-oriented work style, who usually struggle with new ideas, can be paired with idea-oriented team members – together, they can create both a new idea and a plan of how to make it a reality. This leveraging can be especially useful for organizing your team and deciding on the team size.

Or if your team mostly includes people who like independent work, you could hire a person with a collaborative working style who would act like the team glue.

Give the right feedback

While supportive employees are willing to discuss issues, independent logical team members will probably prefer a short but full comment. Detailed-oriented people, naturally, will be happy to know the details. Idea-oriented ones will need space to be creative.

To conclude, knowing your own work style, as well as the style of your coworkers, can significantly improve both the quality of work and the psychological ambiance in your workplace. Allowing people to be themselves releases inner resources and is very motivational. However, carefully challenging them with unusual assignments will get them out of their comfort zone and, eventually, let them grow.

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