7 Basic Styles of Workplace Behavior

From the shrinking violet "avoider" to the flamboyant "performer," a business consultant says that employees fall into seven categories. Which one are you?

In the workplace, we behave in seven "classic" ways, says a recent Fabricating and Metalworking article. According to author Francie Dalton, who is founder and president of Dalton Alliances, Inc., a Maryland-based business consulting firm specializing in communication, management, and the behavioral sciences, these general categories may not encapsulate all the actions of your co-workers, but they will give you insight into how to better deal with them:


Curt and controlling, commanders don't waste time on niceties. While they don't mean to offend, they often forsake tact to get their point across. As bosses, commanders often fail to delegate important assignments. In response, you should strive to earn their trust and demonstrate that you also prioritize structure and results. As subordinates, commanders could seem overly aggressive. In response, you should clearly communicate the results you expect and leave it up to commanders to execute. Says Dalton, "value and validate commanders for their ability to overcome obstacles, to implement, and to achieve results."


Averse to structure, drifters often have trouble with rules, work hours and deadlines. They lose track of details and can neglect to see a project through to completion. While they're warm and affable, their disorganization can be off-putting. As superiors, drifters often fail to provide structure. In response, you must take it upon yourself to establish procedures and objectives. As subordinates, drifters may make their managers seem ineffective. In response, you should give them shorter assignments and more flexible hours. Writes Dalton, "value and validate drifters for their innovation and creativity, their ability to improvise on a moment's notice, and their out-of-the-box thinking."


Ill-tempered and contemptuous, attackers can have a dampening effect on workplace morale. They tend to criticize others in public, believing themselves to be superior. As managers, they can push subordinates to the breaking point. In response, you should keep interactions as short and affect-free as possible. As subordinates, attackers can demoralize your entire staff. In response, you should provide guidance to others on how to deal with this type of behavior and weigh the pros and cons of keeping such a person on the team. Writes Dalton, "value and validate attackers for their ability to take on the ugly, unpopular assignments no one else has the mettle to do, and for their ability to make unemotional decisions."


Considerate, sociable and friendly, pleasers rarely deny the requests of others and think of colleagues as extended family members. They have trouble coping with conflict, avoiding it as much as they can. As superiors, pleasers may fail to provide constructive criticism. In response, you should try to get critical feedback from other colleagues. As subordinates, pleasers can place greater emphasis on relationships than on the company, keeping silent about others' wrongdoings in order to protect them. To counter this, you should continually emphasize the importance of the "greater good." Says Dalton, "value and validate pleasers for the way they humanize the workplace, and for their helpful, collaborative work style."


Witty, charismatic and outspoken, performers engage and entertain others in the workplace. They are skillful at promoting themselves, taking credit--even when it's not due--for successful projects and appearing to be in a rush to get important things done. As superiors, performers may not recognize subordinates' achievements and deflect accountability to them for failures. In response, you should carefully document instructions and accomplishments. As subordinates, performers may exaggerate their contributions. To handle this, you should doublecheck their statements and reward teamwork with incentives. Writes Dalton, "value and validate performers for their ability to establish new relationships, and for their persuasive and public speaking skills."


Clinging to the status quo, avoiders shy away from increased responsibility because they fear it will make them more visible and accountable. Reticent and reserved, they thrive when working alone and establishing safe, closed-off environments. They do as they're told and do not take initiative. As superiors, avoiders may hamper subordinates' advancement by turning down new projects. In response, you should try to join selected teams in the company or help others with special assignments. As subordinates, avoiders could prove exasperating because of their lack of initiative. In response, you should always give detailed instructions and should be sensitive to the avoider's fear of greater responsibility. Says Dalton, "value and validate avoiders for their reliability, for their meticulous attention to your instructions, and for getting the job done right the first time, every time."


Meticulous, thorough and cautious, analyticals can get mired in details. When presented with a new idea, they tend to focus on the reasons why it will fail and should not be pursued. They feel compelled to check, doublecheck and triplecheck their work for any inaccuracies. As bosses, analyticals can nitpick and stymie creativity. In response, you should consistently submit error-free work in order to gain trust and be able to work with a measure of independence. As subordinates, analyticals can present too much information to their managers. To deal with this, you should ask big-picture questions and focus on actionable data. Writes Dalton, "value and validate analyticals for their commitment to accuracy, and for their ability to anticipate and evaluate risk far enough in advance to allow risks to be reduced."

What do you think? Is Dalton on to something? Do these basic categories help describe your behavior or that of others in the workplace?


The Seven Classic Types of Workplace Behavior

Francie Dalton, Dalton Alliances, Inc.

Fabricating & Metalworking, January 12, 2005


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