Work style is how you communicate in your professional life, structure workflow, and complete tasks. There are many benefits to knowing your communication style in the workplace; it helps you know your weaknesses, find the right roles and companies that align with your skills, and improve working relationships. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘best’ work style; this knowledge is like knowing your MBTI personality type, which can help you direct your energy in your career.
What is a work style?
In short, work styles are ways of understanding individuals’ behaviour in work environments to create more effective top-down and sideways collaboration. Working style has been studied and given various definitions since the 1980s. Studies have resulted in different work style models, but the most common categories are: idea-oriented, detail-oriented, doer, and supportive; we’re adding to this list the leader.
Why is it important to know your work style?
When you know your work style in the office, you can position yourself into new roles that utilise your strengths and have you doing things you enjoy in your day-to-day. In an ongoing role, it’s important to know your work type, because you can:
● Advocate for doing things that you like to do
● Identify weak points which you can then proactively work on
● Be a more effective communicator
● Enter the ‘flow’ state easier, where you do your deep work, because you feel comfortable and confident about your work tasks
Being aware of your and your colleagues’ work style is essential for effective workplace communication and collaboration, because multi-pronged solutions require multi-pronged ways of thinking. Having a mix of various work style types in a team allows potential gaps to be filled. A study published in the Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science found that having a variety of different personality traits in a group helps with coming up with more creative solutions to problems.
6 Common Work Styles
Doers (also called the logical type) are the ones involved in the groundwork. These data-oriented individuals know what needs to be done to bring the ideas of the dreamers into fruition. Once the group brainstorm is complete and tasks have been assigned, doers feel the most comfortable with concrete next steps. Employees who fall under the doer work style in the office are strategic, sequential thinkers. They are timeframe-oriented, keeping track of even others’ tasks to make sure deadlines are met. They are motivated by to-do lists and put their heads down until they’re completed.
Doers can be so focused on their own lane that they fail to communicate their progress, and don’t even desire to. These individuals may not be as concerned about bringing up potential concerns, but they are adept at finding effective solutions when issues arise.
The idea-oriented work type is the entrepreneur. Often the big dog of the company, they are big picture thinkers with strong communication skills, especially verbal communication. Like leaders, they inspire others to help turn their visions into realities.
Idea-oriented workers are optimistic and unfazed by obstacles, rather seeing them as opportunities to prove themselves. They enjoy spending time thinking and gathering inspiration for new ideas in the world around them.
This work style type needs support in paying attention to organisation. For them, the end goal is more important than how it gets done. Idea-oriented people require supportive and doer types surrounding and checking them, making sure goals are met in a clean and realistic way.
The leader work style shares similar qualities with the idea-oriented type. They are also competitive, conceptual thinkers, and often the drivers of projects.
However, leaders are distinct in that they are characteristically empathetic and want to inspire a group of people to pull in the same direction. Sometimes, the downfall of leaders is a lack of attention to organisation and detail work. They need the help of other people monitoring to make sure the moving parts are oiled and functioning well.
If the doers are the ones climbing up the ladder, borrowing from the analogy of author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey, leaders are the ones making sure the ladder is leaning against the right wall and rallying everyone together to remind them why they should keep climbing when morale is low.
If you require a final check on a report before sending it to a client, the detail-oriented worker is your go-to. They never miss a typo, have already run through details that could become problems down the road in their head, and prioritise accuracy first and foremost. Detail-oriented employees are thoughtful, provide stability and keep teammates in order. This work style can become bogged down in minor aspects like grammar, but this attention can offer a lot of value if it aligns with the right project or client who appreciates it.
On the other hand, this standard of perfection can cause deadlines to be overrun. Detail-oriented individuals are also more likely to experience burnout and imposter syndrome because they find it difficult to settle for less than perfect presentation.
The supportive colleague is the glue of the team. They are the encouragers, naturally seeing the potential in people and drawing it out by offering help when a deadline is looming or a workload has been miscalculated. This particular work style is good at understanding blocking points in a project and proposing tangible solutions. Even when nothing is burning down, supportive team members are great at seeing loose ends and assist with details to make the whole operation work.
A logical person thinks and resorts to problem solving in a systematic and rational way. They are analytical and objective in their mindset. Logical thinkers tend to be interested in systems and how things work in the grand scheme of things, they are critical of ideas that don’t make logical sense to them. Characteristically, logical thinkers can be quite stubborn when it comes to changing their minds. According to D.Q. McInerny, a philosophy professor, there are habits that logical thinkers tend to adopt to help them think clearly and effectively. These habits include being attentive, getting the facts straight, ensuring that their ideas are clear, being mindful of the origins of ideas, matching ideas to facts just to name a few. Logical thinkers can decipher incomplete information and ascertain what is missing and needs to be clarified. Logical thinkers are also great at asking the relevant questions that lead to fruitful answers, they also have the ability to formulate a cohesive and sound argument to back their opinions and views, and ultimately, practically put that information to great use in their decision-making processes.
How to determine your work style and maximise it?
It’s normal to recognise elements of yourself in multiple work style behaviours, but you’ll have a primary work style. It’s also normal for different aspects of your personality to stand out more throughout your career as your roles change.
Track daily or weekly tasks
Take a note when you’re doing an activity or working on a project that gives you the most amount of joy; after a week or few weeks, you’ll notice patterns about why that particular task or project made you happy. You can also note down the positions in your career that you felt most healthily challenged and stimulated by, as well as the characteristics of companies that you’ve liked.
Written vs. spoken communication
Do you form thoughts better in written or spoken form? Detail-oriented types usually express themselves better through email while idea-oriented types usually think better out loud. You can even think about weaknesses. What type of activity makes you feel out of your water and like you need more training? What drains you more?
Another effective way to understand your work style type is how you approach problems in the office. Do you write down pros and cons? Do you brainstorm and weigh the advantages of a few different solutions? Or do you prefer to talk it out with a colleague?
Finally, ask personal mentors, managers, and co-workers for feedback about projects you’ve shone in, specific ways that you’ve provided support to teammates, and areas you could improve to understand which skills naturally come to you and which do not.
Best ways to leverage the different work styles
Here are a few tips, courtesy of personality science, for managing the different work styles to earn genuine respect and buy-in from your staff.
There’s no formula for what mix of work style behaviours makes the most productive team, but it’s important for managers to give direction. The manager’s role is to create employee relations harmony in a team of diverse priorities, temperaments and skills.
● Assign tasks according to strength.
● Communicate areas of growth you want to see in your team (in combination with providing training and resources).
● It’s natural to be drawn to those and want to work with similar work styles, but it’s critical for managers to look past this and intentionally create a multi-faceted team.
● Empower your staff to self-manage; rather than micromanaging, focus on giving them the confidence and tools to self-direct.
There is no ‘better’ communication style in the workplace, and this guide isn’t meant to point out flaws of the various work styles. Understanding your own and your team’s work styles can make you more productive as a whole, improve company culture, and even boost career satisfaction as you start to be more conscious about shortcomings and get yourself in roles that allow you to thrive.