In all the talk about workplace diversity, there’s one type that often gets overlooked – that of work styles. Just as there are different styles of leadership, there are different ways in which people work. Being aware of and understanding these differences is the key to building better workplace relationships and accomplishing team goals.

Grasping different work styles

Research suggests there are four types of work styles we are likely to encounter in organizations:

  1. Pioneers: they focus on the big picture, value possibilities; take risks and are spontaneous and adaptable.
  2. Guardians: prefer stability, order, and rigour. They are detail-oriented and methodical.
  3. Drivers: tackle problems head-on to get results; logic and data form their key tools. They are competitive and experimental.
  4. Integrators: diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus, they tend to draw teams together; are emotionally oriented.

Once these traits are identified, it’s easy to understand how people can work with each other and create stronger teams. Here are some thumb rules to keep in mind to make the most of this diversity.

  • If working with peers

Having a boss with a different work style might mean adapting and accommodating but working with peers with diverse traits could be rewarding and inspiring. You could even complement and add value to each other’s approaches, provided you are willing to flex.

    • Go back and forth, bounce between styles. Engage with those whose styles differ from yours.
    • Respect and value what co-workers bring to the table – their own approaches to a question or problem.
    • Remember, it is not about one against the other; it is about being open and inclusive.
  • If managing a team

    • Bring opposites together, generate productive friction. 40% of employees feel that opposites are challenging to work with but it’s all about giving it time and bringing a balance. Get people to collaborate on small projects and then take on bigger ones – it can demonstrate the power of complementary partnerships.
    • Elevate the minority. If a majority of team members have common work styles, promote the styles of the minority members. Ensure their approaches and thoughts get represented at meetings, and their concerns, heard. This prevents group think, allowing room for creativity and divergence.

A diversity of views brings a range of benefits, including careful processing of information, improved problem solving, and innovation. Why not encourage it from people who differ with each other not just in terms of age, gender, or education, but also work styles?

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