How to Maximize the Contributions of 4 Diverse Work Styles

work stylesContributed by Justin M. Deonarine, an industrial organizational psychologist with Psychometrics Canada, which provides psychometric assessments to help businesses hire the right individuals and develop teams and leaders. We asked Deonarine about the benefits of diversity to an organization. Here’s what he shared.  

The business case for diversity is undisputed. However, age, gender and ethnicity aren’t the only areas in which you can create diversity in your organization. Differences in your employees’ work styles can also bring diverse perspectives that benefit and elevate your organization.

To learn why differing work styles might be an invisible amplifier to your company’s diversity efforts, check out Deonarine’s article on EO’s Inc. channel.

A Framework to Understand People

You might be asking, “How can I identify and understand the differences between people, without having years of training?” Don’t worry, I’m asked this question a lot.

I find that it’s easiest to start with a framework, such as the one below. To use it, consider two key features of yourself:

  • What do you focus on more—tasks or people?
  • Do you make plans before taking action, or do you jump in and figure things out as you go?

Characteristics from these two questions are plotted below on the vertical and horizontal axes, creating four distinct work styles.

What Are the Characteristics of Each Work Style?

Now that you’ve identified your basic approach, match it with the characteristics in the chart below. Does it describe you?


+ Organize and structure work, resources, and people to achieve goals.

+ Make decisions quickly and take quick action to implement them.

+ Take clear positions—people know where you stand.

– May decide too quickly and move to action before others are ready.

– May not see the impacts of decisions on others.

+ Seek out, analyze, and organize vast amounts of information.

+ Use a hands-off leadership approach, empowering others to act.

+ Flexible and tolerant of a diversity of workstyles and ideas.

– May not give others enough direction.

– May put off decisions for too long.



+ Strive for consensus and harmony.

+ Motivated by a vision that is based on values and the group’s mission.

+ Solicit information and ideas from others, and include them in decision-making.

– May focus on relationships to the detriment of task completion.

– May put off tough decisions and avoid confronting difficult people.

+ Coach, encourage, involve and energize others.

+ Seek out and gather lots of information.

+ Stay flexible and respond quickly to changing environments.

– May change direction so quickly that they appear inconsistent.

– May resist structure and not appreciate others’ need for systems and processes

Management Techniques to Get the Best From Each Work Style

Not only will you, as a leader, have these individual style preferences, but your employees will also have them. This means that you must adapt to a variety of styles that do not match your own.

You may not understand your employee’s behaviors or choices, and your employees may not understand yours. However, you will need to be able to adapt and lead accordingly.

Below, I’ve outlined some behaviors to be mindful of when engaging with your employees, as well as ways to help them stay engaged with their roles.

  • Allow them time to scope out the challenge in front of them. It will help them orient themselves. They will define the scope by an external measure (e.g. time or money).
  • Much like the Innovators, Managers will ask questions such as “What If?” and “Then what?” Don’t take this as a challenge to your competence, they are just trying to organize their approach to achieve the desired end result.
  • They may prefer to work within established rules and guidelines. It will bring a sense of structure (which will be comfortable to them), but encourage them to step outside of these guidelines if it results in a better solution.
  • Allow them time to think their way through the problem. They are considering all of the critical data and ensuring that all of the bases are covered. They’re not flip-flopping on their stance, they’re gathering insights.
  • “We don’t have to keep doing things this way just because it’s been done this way forever.” Allow them to challenge the rules and processes those that don’t work, but encourage them to stay within the guidelines that are important to the organization.
  • They will focus on the process, rather than the end result. Much like Managers, Innovators will ask “What If?”. Don’t take this personally, they are just trying to create an outline to determine how the decision will be made (while considering all factors).
  • They will look to build relationships with others that they work with. They will try to get to know others personally to build these relationships, so keep in mind that they aren’t just being nosy. They are open to sharing about themselves also, and much like the Coaches, are open to helping others in times of need.
  • When they feel that they have built the foundation for the working relationship, they will be most comfortable expressing differences in opinion. Allow them to build these relationships, as this is when they will be most comfortable expressing opinions or views that can provide a different perspective.
  • They are guided by the values of their group (or the organization). If these values are challenged, they will show signs of stress or resistance. Check in with them to ensure that these conflicts can be resolved before they become a bigger problem.
  • They are guided by their personal values, and will be open about expressing these values. If these values are challenged, they may come across as stubborn (e.g. doubling down on expressing their values). Check in with them to ensure that they are able to express their beliefs sufficiently, without coming off as unbending.
  • They will be insightful to internal disharmony shown by others, and will move to try to help this individual. Similar to the Consensus Builders: They are not being nosy, they are trying to help.
  • They will also value what is universally acceptable (e.g. do no harm to others). If the group’s decision goes against these values, they will become resistant to the decision and the group. During times of change, ask this individual whether or not they feel that these values are being supported.

As an industrial organizational psychologist, Justin M. Deonarine is engaged in data-driven research to develop custom solutions that help individuals and organizations optimize performance. He works with Psychometrics Canada, an EO member–owned company. 



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