From detectives to networkers: five work personality types and who is most likely to be a manager or CEO

Workplace personality tests highlight the importance of adapting management styles to suit individual needs, psychologists say

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Slack has identified five workplace personality types that are common to most offices, with employers encouraged to understand the role emotional intelligence plays in employees’ performance.

According to the communication platform’s Workplace Personality Report, which studied more than 2,000 UK employees, they include the detective, the networker, the road warrior, the problem solver and the expressionist. 

Detectives are characterised by their eagerness to seek out and share knowledge. They were the most common personality type in UK workplaces, making up a third (34 per cent) of workers, followed by networkers (27 per cent), who stand out for their extroversion and ability to form workplace relationships. 

Road warriors, who make up a fifth (21 per cent) of UK workers, value flexible working and working in various locations and consequently are strong at forming connections with colleagues online. 

The least common were the problem solvers (11 per cent of the UK workforce), who are drawn to tools that will help them and their colleagues be more efficient, followed by expressionists (7 per cent), who prefer less formal engagement and enjoy creating engaging and happy working environments.

Speaking at a roundtable on the different personality types, business psychologist Lynda Shaw said there was an “array of distinct personality types”. “It’s important for both individuals and businesses to be open minded to different working styles and to create a culture where each personality can thrive,” she added.

Businesses must understand the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace if they want to get the best out of workers, and workplaces need to better tailor their approach to workers to capitalise on talent, said Shaw.

“Often managers are promoted because they’re good at their job,” she said, rather than because of their people skills. “We need to be very mindful of why we promote people and whether it’s actually the best thing for them.”

In terms of workers who might be talented in their roles, but be less confident with people and soft skills, Shaw said: “Just let them be geniuses.”

Consequently, she said the best managers perform highly on soft skills, but ultimately “have a bit of every personality type”.

“You can’t separate them, they’ve got to be a bit of everything,” Shaw continued. “But nevertheless, they will major on people skills. That’s part of being a manager; you need people skills.

“People work best when they are able to express themselves freely and build genuine workplace connections. Being more human and bringing a sense of fun to work will become increasingly valuable in a world where automation and AI become more commonplace.” 

Similarly, she noted that CEOs were more likely to be personality types like ‘the networker’ because of their ability to form relationships within the workplace. 

Chris Mills, head of customer success for EMEA at Slack, added that tech and the use of AI in the workplace can help workers get the most out of their abilities. “For people to be effective in a modern work environment they need tools that are multidimensional, which allow workers to express themselves and work in a way that is most natural to them.

“For some that might be through emojis, others will need channels where information is open by default and some personalities will lean towards tools that allow them to work asynchronously. 

“AI also gives businesses the opportunity to give employees the right tools they need, whether it's supporting in gathering and communicating information, or being used to automate repetitive tasks.

“When employees feel they can communicate and process information in a way that best suits their strengths, they will ultimately feel happier and be more productive.” 

Ryne Sherman, chief science officer at Hogan Assessment, which also conducts workplace personality tests, said such tests can improve management styles as they can help create an environment where individuals and different ways of working are put at the forefront of workplace culture. 

“Surveys show that managers get little training in the aspects of managing others and often adopt management styles based on stereotypes or as reactions to their own fears about bad management. In addition, managers are rarely taught how to differentiate between the different needs and working styles of their employees,” he told People Management.

“Organisations using personality assessments benefit not only from maximising the productivity of their talent, but also by creating a workplace where people feel alignment between their attitudes, behaviours and their work. This alignment creates engagement, reduces turnover and increases workplace satisfaction.”