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Why Can’t We All Get Along? Leveraging Personalities at Work Will Advance Your Career — and Your Happiness


Why Can’t We All Get Along? Leveraging Personalities at Work Will Advance Your Career — and Your Happiness

Your company asks you to take a personality test, and you cringe. But instead of singling you out because you talk too much -- or too little -- the results could help you own your behavior, figure out how to tap your strengths, and even ease tense moments with the guy in the next cubicle.

These kinds of issues can impact career success, according to Bentley professor Greg Hall, who teaches the course Dynamics of Personality. “Students learn how to assess personality, and how personality develops and changes. We also explore the way that personality inventories are used in the workplace to establish cohesive work teams and improve productivity.”

“We explore the way personality inventories are used to establish cohesive work teams.”


Hall’s insights can benefit people at any stage of their careers. In his course, he challenges students to learn how to balance understanding other people and reflecting on themselves; it’s something that is particularly helpful in finding a work culture (and maybe even a marriage) where you can thrive — happily, he says.

Here are four ways you can leverage personality:

  1. Mix It Up
    When it comes to your team, you want a broad range of personalities in order to create the best work in the least amount of time.

    “If you have a team of all extroverts, for example, they’re going to spend too much time brainstorming instead of getting the work done,” Hall says. “If you have a team of all introverts, they may foreclose on a decision before considering all of the options.”
  2. Suspend Judgments -- of Others and Yourself
    The more managers and colleagues can understand that one kind of personality isn't better than another, says Hall, the more collaboratively they can work. “Judgments adversely affect motivation and work morale, and ultimately productivity."
  3. Replace Judgments With Understanding
    “Personality assessments should be followed up with a discussion about the specific strengths that different personality types bring to the table,” says Hall. “Then you can focus on the ‘why and how’ of your co-workers instead of the little things that annoy you.”

    And you’ll feel better about yourself, too, if you know how and what you contribute to the team instead of thinking that you’re going to get fired because your personality is different than your manager’s.
  4. Encourage Open, Honest Communication when the Issues Are Small
    Even with the best intentions, personality conflicts can’t be completely eliminated. Bringing up issues in a non-confrontational manner typically results in change. Catch minor annoyances before they explode into bigger issues.

    Hall goes back to a simple, but effective example: a tube of toothpaste: “If you neatly squeeze from the bottom, but your roommate twists from the middle and leaves the cap off, that’s annoying the first few times. But after a while it may make you fly off the handle -- just over a tube of toothpaste.”

Time for Change?

It’s only natural that for some people, a personality assessment highlights parts of themselves that they’ve wanted to change. If that happens, Hall advises you to tread lightly, warning against making changes from the standpoint of judgment.

“If you see the fact that you’re an introvert negatively, that’s not a reason to make the change. If, on the other hand, you recognize that your reluctance to speak up means that you’ve had good ideas that have never been put on the table, that’s a good reason to make some change.”

But take baby steps, he adds. “You shouldn’t expect yourself to go from one end of the spectrum to the other. It’s best to make small incremental change -- if you’re comfortable with it.”

Critics of personality testing knock its potential to unfairly group individuals into a “one-size-fits-all” mentality, though hiring managers aren’t dismissing the benefits just yet. In fact, The Wall Street Journal reports that “eight of the top 10 U.S. private employers now administer pre-hire tests in their job applications for some positions. These tests have, in effect, raised the bar for U.S. job seekers: With more companies holding an alleged formula for workplace success, fewer are willing to take a chance on anyone who doesn’t measure up.”

Researchers for Harvard Business Review warrant its place in creating effective teams, going so far as to say: “You can put world-class talent together on a team, and it may still fail to perform as a cohesive unit. In fact, the only way to create a team that’s worth more than the sum of its individual contributors is to select members on the basis of personality, soft skills and values.”

And back to happiness: “Salary, benefits and job responsibilities are usually among the top questions of job seekers,” Hall says, “but most people miss one of the most important connections that they should be looking for: culture.”

To find a good fit, he adds, you need to do some soul-searching, too.

“The more you understand your personality and how important it is to align it with the culture of the place where you’re going to spend eight-plus hours a day, five days a week, the happier and more productive you’re going to be. And that will help you rise in your career.”

Kristen Walsh is a freelance writer.


by Kristen Walsh October 19, 2018

Alison Davis-Blake, the former business school dean at the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota, was inaugurated as the eighth president of Bentley University in a ceremony attended by students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the extended Bentley community.

TOPICS: News, Leadership