How to manage these 5 common workplace personalities

“What motivates one employee is not the same as what will motivate another. The trick is to figure out how to manage each individual and then tie them back into the group.”


Managing different personalities at work can be challenging, especially during team meetings where everyone’s quirks are magnified. There’s the chatty employee with a million ideas, the reserved worker who has great suggestions but never shares them, the employee who feels excluded from the group so he never says a word unless it’s to complain, the worker who believes she bears the brunt of the busy work, and the employee who always looks busy but never seems to accomplish anything substantial.

“What motivates one employee is not the same as what will motivate another,” says Nancy Halpern, leadership coach and founder of Political IQ, a consulting firm focused on diagnosing political dysfunction in organizations. “The trick is to figure out how to manage each individual and then tie them back into the group.” Here are tips from leadership coaches on how to manage five common workplace personalities.

When you have an employee who constantly interrupts and offers so many suggestions that no one else has a chance to speak, it’s important to rein him in without discouraging him. Before each meeting, take the employee aside and remind him that you want to hear everyone’s ideas, not just his, says Jennifer Quasha Deinard, founder of Jot Coaching and Consulting LLC.

Explain to him that presenting so many ideas at one time can overwhelm the group, making it difficult to decide which idea is the best one to pursue, Halpern says. Suggest that he curate his list and bring his top three suggestions to the meeting so that the team can consider each one more deeply and possibly implement one of his suggestions, she says.

An employee who hesitates to share her ideas might lack confidence or be nervous about speaking up in a meeting. In addition to reassuring her that her ideas are worthy and should be discussed by the team, you could offer several options for sharing her ideas, Deinard says. Suggest that she write the idea out and then read it aloud rather than trying to memorize it, or encourage her to share an idea with you prior to the meeting. Then, with her permission, you could share her idea at the meeting and give her credit for it.

You might also encourage team members to work together. For instance, Danielle Beauparlant Moser, executive talent management consultant with Right Management–ManpowerGroup, suggests pairing the reluctant team member with the idea generator, asking them to further develop the ideas presented in the team meeting. “This will encourage the chatty person to listen more and the quieter person to share more,” she says. However, it’s important to make it optional for them to work together, rather than mandatory, she adds.

If you notice a team member is being excluded, Moser recommends examining your own feelings about that employee and your behavior toward her. “As a leader, it’s your job to model inclusion and demonstrate an appreciation for every team member,” she says. “It’s not enough to simply say it.”

You could host a monthly team meeting with free pizza to try to get everyone together, but ultimately your goal is to integrate the excluded employee into the team. Encourage the excluded member to make small changes that would help ease her relationship with the rest of the group. For instance, says Halpern, ask her what group activities she participates in outside of work, and help her bring the social skills she uses to participate in that activity to the work environment.

When an employee believes he’s doing the heavy lifting for the team, ask about his expectations for workload and invite him to share his vision for how work would be divided among team members, Dienard says. Then tell him whether his proposal is feasible. “Sometimes there’s an easy fix,” she says. “Sometimes it’s an employee’s lack of ability to say no to another assignment.” And sometimes it turns out the “busy work” the employee is complaining about is a requirement of the job, she adds.

Some employees aren’t good at turning down new assignments, or they volunteer for work even when their plate is already full. Map out departmental priorities, deliverables, and deadlines in a central place that everyone can access so team members can see each other’s workload and understand everyone’s goals and deadlines. “Sometimes, at the heart of that discontented team member, is a misunderstanding of expectations and deliverables,” Moser says.

Sharing department priorities, deliverables, and deadlines in a central location can also help an underachiever meet his deadlines. Meet with an underperforming employee regularly to help prioritize work. Acknowledge that he’s working hard, says Halpern, and offer to review his workload to ensure his priorities are aligned with yours. “Focus on holding [an underachiever] responsible for doing their job rather than focusing on their behavior,” Halpern says.

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