Where’s the Limit on Appeasing Different Personality Types in the Workplace?

The obvious function of any behavioral assessment during the recruiting process is to see if a candidate fits the soft skills side of the job they are interviewing for. Recruiters or hiring managers can take results from a behavioral assessment and tailor interview questions to dig into any red flags they might see. One often overlooked use for behavioral assessments comes after the candidate is hired and in their new position: managers can alter the way they approach conflict, communication, and coaching with their employees based on the behavioral assessment results from back when that employee was a candidate.

At Kinetix, we use a behavioral assessment called Talent DNA, and we heavily weigh the results for both how to interview candidates and how to approach working with employees. One of the behavioral factors outlined by Talent DNA that affects how managers approach employees and team members approach each other is sensitivity. Candidates and employees who are low sensitivity take feedback with no sweat on their back; candidates and employees who are high sensitivity will have a mini panic attack every time you offer feedback, no matter how small. With that background, you can see how it would be incredibly helpful to know where someone falls on the scale before offering feedback‚Äîfor an employee on one end of the scale you‚Äôll need time to plan and prepare how to approach it; for the other, you can dive in and get out with no worries.

However, a recent meeting I had with various team members in our company made me take a step back and question, just how much should managers and coworkers be working around others‚Äô behavioral assessment results?

To set the scene behind the question, here‚Äôs a short and sweet background story: in an effort to increase overall social media use, two employees got together and created a task force to help audit where employees in the company were in terms of using social media and coach the employees after an audit about how they can improve their social media use. The first round of audits were given to the other task force members themselves, and the following meeting with everyone was an open dialogue as to what could be improved during the audit process for the rest of our employees.

That’s when a statement along these lines was made:

I think a lot of employees on the higher end of the sensitivity scale will see a low score on their audits and freeze up. Instead of ranking them, giving them a 0-100 score about how they‚Äôre doing, maybe just give tips based on what you see as you audit their social media. They get the feedback about their social media use but don‚Äôt feel like they‚Äôve failed.

When the comment was made, others in the group who had been audited chimed in with their agreement‚Äîeveryone wanted to soften the idea of grading employees‚Äô social media use and replace it with a more general advice system.

There was just one problem that was obvious to me: doing so would have completely changed the point of the exercise.

The point of an audit in any form is to:

  • Show where things are currently going right and wrong
  • Giving some sort of value to rate or grade the current state of things
  • Setting forth a plan of action as to how current things can improve

By playing into the idea that more sensitive team members might not appreciate criticisms of their current work, you‚Äôre nixing the first two concepts behind an audit, taking away from the overall effect of seeing where things are going wrong. So, once again, the question for me became: how much should we accommodate personality traits when looking at changing things around in the workplace?

Short answer—change the approach, not the system.

Sure, seeing a numerical rating of your work can be jarring, especially for those of us on the higher end of sensitivity, but with the right introduction of what you‚Äôre being given feedback on there‚Äôs no reason to overhaul an entire process. After all, you wouldn‚Äôt stop giving performance reviews to all employees because your high sensitivity employees might get the wrong vibe. Instead, you‚Äôd change how you give the same performance review you may have just needed to sling at your low sensitivity employees.

When you start trying to take every personality trait into account at the base levels of workplace operations, you get into the messy realm of attempting to make everyone happy, and that‚Äôs just never going to happen.

Rather than trying to accommodate processes and workflows to each personality type in an office, focus instead on making those processes and workflows as broadly effective as possible. Once you have them set, explain to employees (with each individuals‚Äô behavioral assessment results in mind) about what is going on and why. You‚Äôll keep your objectives in place but still be accommodating to those employees who might need to be talked off a ledge.

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