The Challenges of Personality at Work

Understanding human behavior at work is a challenge for managers and non-managers as it impacts interpersonal relationships, team work, communication, productivity, and employee satisfaction. Increasing our understanding of personality can help us increase our insights into a range of behaviors and conflicts at work and improve work quality and productivity.

There are five major personality traits that we all have in varying degrees:

  • Neuroticism
  • Extraversion
  • Openness to Experience
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness

The fact that everyone has a unique combination of these factors is one reason the workplace is so diverse and challenging. You should not place any value judgement on any of these traits. A person high in neuroticism is not necessarily a more talented professional than a person low on neuroticism. A person low on agreeableness might be a healthy challenger to group thinking. And, a person high on openness to experience might get easily bored if work doesn’t frequently change.

Myers-Briggs has defined personality types based on the work of Carl Jung who focused on extroverted and introverted personalities, archetypes, and the collective unconscious. All 16 personality types defined by Myers-Briggs start with introversion or extroversion and include three other factors. The other factors can include sensing or intuition; thinking or feeling; and judging or perceiving. Many individuals define themselves by their four-letter Myers-Briggs personality type. Considering the wealth of information on personality, I suggest this is limiting.

I challenge you to think more broadly than the Myers-Briggs personality types. Using the five major personality factors might help you better understand the people you work with. Listening to and observing your co-workers can provide important insights into how to increase productivity, achieve excellence, and resolve conflicts.

Personality types are an important consideration but we should always remember that our personalities are impacted by our life history, daily life challenges, illness and loss, and other life circumstances. Regardless of personality type, all people respond well to empathy and respect.

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