What Color is Your Work Style?

A new study assigns four colors to employees' work styles based on behavioral characteristics. What is your work style, and how does it affect your approach to collaboration?

One thing you can count on in any workplace is that no two people are completely alike. That is what makes interacting with colleagues very difficult sometimes.

Fortunately, there are behavioral traits that certain personalities tend to share, and understanding them can help you work with your coworkers more effectively, according to OfficeTeam.

In a new study, titled Your Work Style in Color, the staffing firm, along with the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) and Insights Learning and Development, identifies four sets of work preferences, each of which is represented by a particular "color energy." Each color is associated with a number of specific characteristics, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Professionals who lead with the following color energies tend to exhibit the subsequent behavioral traits:

  • Cool Blue — Cautious, precise, deliberate, questioning and formal;
  • Earth Green — Caring, encouraging, sharing, patient and relaxed;
  • Sunshine Yellow — Sociable, dynamic, demonstrative, enthusiastic and persuasive; and
  • Fiery Red — Competitive, demanding, determined, strong-willed and purposeful.

Of course, not all personalities encountered in the workplace can be pigeonholed so neatly into just four personality types, which the report openly acknowledges.

"We all have a mix of traits from these areas, but a dominant color energy emerges for each of us," the research guide states.

Yet, as with any generalization, there is truth behind it. And the report, which provides details about the work preferences by each color energy, does provide some helpful insight into distinguishing between personality types.

Our day-to-day interactions with colleagues might be easier if everyone had the same work style — but that doesn't mean it would be better. Armed with an understanding of your behavioral differences and exerting a little effort to understand the other side, you can gain a more comprehensive picture your team, overcome conflicting work styles and improve your overall ability to collaborate.

"At work, employees who have differing perspectives and approaches bring fresh ideas to projects," OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking said in an announcement of the findings. "You can improve team collaboration by taking advantage of complementary strengths and adapting your own work style to suit the situation."

When working with someone who clearly leads with one of the color energies, consider the following Dos and Don'ts the OfficeTeam guide provides:

Cool Blue


  • Be well prepared and thorough;
  • Put things in writing; and
  • Let them consider all the details.


  • Be overly emotional or casual with important issues;
  • Keep changing things without good reason; or
  • Answer questions vaguely.

Earth Green


  • Be patient and supportive;
  • Work at their pace; and
  • Ask for their opinions and give them time to answer.


  • Take advantage of their good nature;
  • Push them to make quick decisions; or
  • Spring last-minute surprises on them.

Sunshine Yellow


  • Be friendly and sociable;
  • Be entertaining and stimulating; and
  • Be open and flexible.


  • Tie them down with routine;
  • Ask them to work alone; or
  • Bore them with details.

Fiery Red


  • Be direct and to the point;
  • Focus on results and objectives; and
  • Be confident and assertive.


  • Be hesitant or wordy;
  • Focus on feelings; or
  • Try to take over.

Successfully interacting with others requires a little give and take. However, according to OfficeTeam's corresponding survey of 3,249 administrative professionals in the United States and Canada, support staff are doing more of the bending.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they make a strong effort to adapt to their manager's work style, while the majority indicated that their supervisor only adjusts "somewhat" to their preferences. Approximately 14 percent said their managers don't adjust to their style at all.


7 Basic Styles of Workplace Behavior

How to Build and Motivate a Team

Mediating Employee Conflict

Don't Let Squabbling Ruin Your Team's Performance


Your Work Style in Color: A Colorful Approach to Working Relationships (free download)

OfficeTeam (Robert Half International), April 2011

Different Strokes for Different Folks

OfficeTeam (Robert Half International), April 5, 2011

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