There is Personality in our Differences

Friday, August 2 2019



One of the reasons big Canadian cities are such fun to live and work in is that they are filled with people of different languages, ethnicities, beliefs and perspectives; a vast variety of personalities that contribute to a vibrant culture. After all, the ability of diverse individuals to co-exist despite their differences is a good indicator of a thriving community.

The same can be said about a business that is able to incorporate its member’s personalities, ways of thinking and working. Although it sounds great, it is often easier said than done due to misunderstandings and conflict. Unfortunately, we don’t always get along with members of our team.

In the 1960s, David Merrill and Roger Reid, industrial psychologists, began to create The Social Styles Theory, a model widely used to explain how people learn and work. Their objective was to facilitate teamwork and conflict management. It is based on four building blocks, which they termed a set of Social Styles. Over time this has been adapted to include: the driver, the influencer, the supporter and the critical thinker[1].

These are all useful when used appropriately with the right people.

The Driver is more oriented toward working with objects than people. This person is an action-oriented “just do it” type of colleague. Their weakness is that they tend to be forceful when expressing their feelings and opinions, which leaves little or no room for others.

The Influencer prefers people to objects. They tend to express their emotions more freely. Their weakness is that they tend to have poor listening skills and sometimes seek too much attention.

The Supporter is the type of colleague who is relationship-oriented. They pride themselves on being personable, warm and friendly. However, they can have trouble negotiating.

The Critical Thinker is analytical, focusing on facts, stats, details, references and numbers. They have a strong need to be right and they will often use their logic to coerce others into agreement. Their tendency to perfectionism can make them slow to act.

So why is this important to you personally and professionally? Because our workplaces are invariably an assembly of different personalities. Leaders who are able to help different personality types co-exist in the workplace will minimize misunderstandings and interpersonal conflicts. Achieving success depends on embracing differences and learning to work together collaboratively and effectively.


[1] Wayne Vanwyck, Pure Selling (1992)