WORK STYLE DIVERSITY AS A STRENGTH

Workplace culture is like a living organism constantly evolving.  The introduction of a new employee or the departure of an employee can change the dynamic of an office culture.  Too often the leadership of companies overlooks the importance of culture to organizational performance.

Work styles and personal preferences have been studied for ages.  The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality assessment is one of the best know psychometric tools for assessing personal styles.  The MBTI can be an effective tool to provide a window into ones personality.  It can be a very effective tool for team building and diversity work.  All too often diversity work centers upon physical differences age, gender, ethnicity, but if you look deeper into personality type and work style diversity the MBTI tool can be incredibly insightful.

In a senior team meeting the President of an organization asks his creative director and finance leader to set a budget and timeline for the new marketing campaign.  The creative director desires flexibility in the schedule to allow for shifts in direction and the possibility that the team will have a creative breakthrough.  The finance leader on the other hand wants to nail down the schedule, the costs and the projected revenue to be derived from the campaign.  Understanding type one would be able to see that the creative director is a “P” or perceiving type and the finance leader is a “J” or judging type.  This dimension of type J&P refers to the way the person perceives the outer world.  Rather than their styles creating conflict, the collaboration of the creative director and the finance leader yields a realistic and flexible answer to the President’s question.  The partnership of two people with diverse styles doesn’t have to create conflict, quite the opposite it should create harmony.

All too often diverse personality types are seen as in conflict.  I would offer a different perspective.  Diverse personality types and work styles are of real benefit to an organization.  In the case above the finance leader and the creative director have diverse styles, but when they partner their two styles actually compliment each other.  

Organizations need to do a better job of leveraging diverse work styles as a strength rather than trying to homogenize the styles of their employees.  Applying a strength based approach to diversity work can be very powerful and rewarding for an organization.  It our diverse work styles and personality traits that make each of us unique.  The sum of those differences creates a competitive advantage in the marketplace and allows organizations to serve the diverse needs of their customers better.  

Teaching an organization to leverage diverse work styles as a strength is not an easy task.  It requires leadership.  The best way to teach it is to role model the behavior.  If a leader believes in the concept that building a team of employees with diverse work styles will best serve the organization, then he or she must showcase that strength with their own team.  By proving success and showing that a diverse team can accomplish more, that leader will use the power of influence to show the rest of the organization what can be done.

If your personal work style seems unique to your workplace or if someone on your team has a very different work style than yours, adapting the style is not the answer.  Instead embrace the individuality and find a way to showcase it as a strength.