Managing different characters in the office

Best way to manage a team

We know that every office is made up of a variety of different characters, all bringing their strengths and weaknesses in their personality traits. It's these unique differences between people that makes working in an office interesting right?

From a manger's perspective, these different characters can sometimes also create challenges as getting a feel for each character and understanding what makes them tick is one of the keys to effectively growing a successful team. If you're able to harness the capabilities of each individual, you will have a greater chance of building the team culture and building a foundation for success.

The extent to which you can learn about each individual depends on how you go about managing people and how much direct contact time you have. It's much easier to develop intimate knowledge of your team members if there are five of them, rather than 50. But even in larger groups, you should be able to establish roughly who you are dealing with based on their approach and behaviour. This helps in terms of choosing the most suitable management approach - the one that will deliver the most positive outcomes.

You need to be adaptable and willing to manage your team differently, recognising that no two employees are the same adn whether they will work together well It's important to be tolerant of individual personalities and preferences - effectively meeting them halfway - making it easier for you to get your message across and encourage a higher level of performance. Your aim is to keep employees happy and motivated at work, and a little flexibility can make all the difference.

So the question is, who exactly are your employees and what are you dealing with? Your team may comprise of individuals with fairly similar personalities on the surface but as you dig deeper into their character, aspirations and goals, you uncover where their true differences lie. It's your job when managing people to identify who is an underperforming employee and why that might be the case. Similarly, uncovering what makes your best performer so great at their job so you can replicate those characteristics across the wider team. To help, here are the nine most common characters you can expect to come across in the office:

1. The Peaceful

'Peaceful' employees are calm, measured and usually fairly optimistic. They might not always be the best at making decisions, or in fact the quickest workers, but they rarely cause you too many management headaches. The quality of their work tends to be good and they are likely to be popular in the office.

You need to ensure 'the peaceful' receive plenty of encouragement and praise when they produce good work. Spending a little time talking with them about their life outside of work, or other topics they are interested in, may keep their morale up and ensure they enjoy work as much as possible.

2. The Timid

When dealing with quieter members of the workforce, you need to adopt a similar conversational style or tone - otherwise they may go into their shell even more. Very often 'the timid' have great ideas that can add value to the team, but they simply lack the confidence to share them with the rest of the group. Your job of managing people is to boost their ego and encourage them to interact a little more - you can do this by reinforcing their value and worth to the organisation.

3. The Sensitive

You need to take additional care when dealing with 'the sensitive'. They tend to be lovely employees who make a positive contribution to the team, but the problem is their feelings get hurt to easily. So even if you're providing the most constructive of criticism, there's a danger they are going to take it personally and let it affect their performance.

As such, you can't take too direct an approach. Whenever you need to have more difficult conversations, ensure the gist is encouragement rather than criticism.

4. The Playful

There are always going to be social butterflies at work - people who love being at the centre of everything that's going on, inside and outside the office. If you can channel their enthusiasm they can be a real asset to the team, bringing an element of fun and encouraging interaction. They can help boost workplace morale and develop stronger relationships between colleagues and co-workers.

Equally, you may have to bring 'the playful' back down to earth on occasion, particularly if they're spending too much time on matters unrelated to their core workload. Tread carefully as you don't want to dampen their spirits too much - just a quiet hint or word in their ear should suffice.

5. The Precise

Some employees are highly analytical and will constantly look to challenge the established way of doing things. Some of the changes they suggest to systems or processes might generate savings or revenue, but others probably won't. There is a danger that 'the precise' simply criticise anything and everything, just because it isn't as they would have it.

Managing people effectively requires listening to what employees say and take their best suggestions onboard, but you also need to steer them back on course at times. Their analytical, fact-based approach can be a major plus on the right type of projects, so think carefully about the type of work they are given. With the right focus, they can perform at a high level.

6. The Powerful

Every workplace has 'powerful' or 'aggressive' employees, who always look to take charge and make decisions. In most cases they are good at their job and they know this is the case -  to manage your team effectively, you need to rein them in where necessary. You can't have them undermining the leadership team or unsettling other workers.

These types of employees welcome a straightforward, no-nonsense management style, and also the autonomy to get on with their work. You need to show active interest in their career development, as without the right encouragement, these individuals may pose an attrition risk to your organisation. If they feel their talents are not being recognised, they may go elsewhere.

7. The Non-Participant

Some employees have little interest in getting involved with team or company activities, preferring to get on with their workload in peace. As relative loners, they will try to avoid interaction with colleagues and clients - and this can have a negative impact on overall results.

As manager, you need to stress the importance of collaboration and encourage these individuals to work in conjunction with others. This doesn't mean they suddenly have to become everyone's best friend, but they do need to participate more. If employees remain reluctant, it might be worth considering whether they are better-suited to another role within the organisation - one that plays to their strengths and personality traits.

8. The Inflexible

'The inflexible' can often pose management challenges. Typically they are resistant to change and unwilling to accept that a different way of doing things can produce improved results. You need to stress the importance of the bigger picture to such individuals, making them realise they have been given instructions for a certain reason. Sometimes it is necessary to be more direct and forceful in order to overcome their stubbornness.

9. The Difficult

There are steps you can take to avoid making a bad hiring mistake, but occasionally you might hire an employee and find out too late that they don't want to get involved, or buy in to the culture of the organisation at all. It's quite obvious when managing people to identify an employee who would rather be somewhere else, in a different job, but for as long as they remain on the payroll they're your responsibility.

'The difficult' may have a bad attitude towards work, but in order to manage your team you need to get as much out of them as possible. Perhaps give them project work, with clear instructions, delivery timetables and outlined expectations, in order to provide some focus. If you can't encourage them to put in more effort or work to the level expected of them, you need to tell them directly and potentially alert senior members of staff. If they continue to underperform, perhaps it's time to consider what the benefits of a new hire could offer your team.

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*This article was originally published in September 2014 and has been updated to reflect our latest information