How to manage different personality types

Adjusting your management style based on the personality of each team member can result in more engaged—and productive—employees.

How to manage different personality types

We all have different personality types. A good leader recognizes that—and doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to management. “It’s critical that a manager adjust his or her style based on each individual employee,” says Todd Davis, Salt Lake City–based chief people officer for FranklinCovey and author of Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work.

Your employees will be happier and more productive as a result, says Shawna Clark, executive coach and founder of Minneapolis-based Clark Executive Coaching.

Here’s how to tailor your management style to four different personality types that are common among employees.

1. The no-nonsense employee

At first glance, this person is a dream employee. “Their strength is they don’t waste anyone’s time, they get to the point, and make it happen,” Davis says. But all business all the time may rub some colleagues the wrong way.

Davis suggests sitting down with the employee and pointing that out. Say, “On the one hand, I couldn’t be more excited to have you be a part of the company because you’re so focused, but you’re alienating people along the way,” he says.

Use that time to explain the importance of social capital, Clark suggests. Offer tips on how to become a bit more personable, such as by kicking off meetings with small talk before getting to the agenda. Clark says to advise this person to set goals that focus on relationship building, and check in regularly on their progress.

2. The hopelessly timid employee

Of all the different personality types you're likely to encounter, the timid employee is most often found among entry-level employees, simply because this work stuff is new to them. If they're not new to the workforce, however, the deep-down issue with needy employees is often a lack of confidence

Take the time to explain processes thoroughly and make sure they grasp the assignment from the start, suggests Roy Cohen, a New York–based career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. 

“Teach them how to ask the right questions of the right people to get what they need,” Clark adds. “And establish agreements around when they need to figure things out for themselves and when to come to you for help.

Make a point to single out something specific he or she recently did well. “When you compliment them using a specific example, that helps to build up their confidence,” Davis says. “Enough of that over time, and they start to become less needy because they know you see their worth and their potential.”

3. The flighty employee

Start by asking yourself if you’re setting clear and manageable due dates. If you are, then it’s time to meet with the employee to figure out what the real problem is. Are they missing the necessary skills? Or are they distracted?

It could be something as simple as problems with time management. “It’s usually not that they’re sitting around being lazy,” Davis says. “It’s that they’re not focused on the right things.”

Davis suggests advising the employee to set aside time at the end of day on Fridays or first thing Monday mornings to map out the top work priorities for the coming week. Then, have them block time in their calendar to complete the necessary tasks. That’ll ensure important tasks don’t get pushed aside.

Have them give you weekly updates on their workload or specific projects. Keeping them on a regular schedule will also keep them on task and on time.

4. The uber-competitive employee

Having a competitive person on your team could be beneficial. “It raises the bar for the whole group,” Cohen says. “But if it creates tension in the group and that tension is damaging to morale, then you need to have a talk with that individual about being more collaborative.” Coach him or her to think more about “we” and less about “me.”

Oftentimes, competitive personalities have a “scarcity mentality,” meaning if someone else gets recognition, they think there’s less for them, Davis says. Try to introduce an “abundant mindset” instead. Let them know there’s plenty to go around, and they shouldn’t feel slighted if a teammate gets recognized at an all-employee meeting.

Finally, be sure to take the time to encourage him or her regularly, Cohen says. These types of employees need to be recognized for doing a good job.

Hone your own management style

Having just one management style is like having just one pair of shoes. It's not exactly optimal to wear work boots when you need to run laps. You need to be flexible in order to guide different personality types. Could you use some additional help with that? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you'll get leadership insights, management trends, and career advice sent directly to your inbox. Let the experts from Monster show you the many varied ways you can inspire your team to bring their best to the job every day.