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How to Manage the Many Different Personalities in Your Workplace

People brainstorming at table graphic

June 30, 2016

By: Ann Marie Kimble

Camaraderie is a key element to success for any team, particularly in a customer service-driven industry like hospitality. It’s a beautiful thing when a team gels and understands each other, but that doesn’t always happen on its own. As a leader, it’s your job to set a common goal that everyone can work toward, because a common goal builds common interest, and common interest bridges the gaps between different personalities.

Identifying Personality Types: Who’s Who on Your Team?

No two personalities are exactly alike, but there are general personality types that you will find in every workplace. Using the list below, see if you can identify who’s who on your team. There might be more than one (or none) of each.

The Strong-Willed

Strong-willed personalities will not hold back in sharing their opinions. They have a strong sense of identity and show signs of leadership ability.

The Timid

Timid people range from slightly introverted to extremely shy. Regardless of where they land on the spectrum, they are generally agreeable and adaptable in the workplace.

The Outgoing

Contrary to the strong-willed and timid, your outgoing workers are the “bubbly” ones. They are talkative, upbeat, and like to keep everybody happy.

The Focused

While hopefully everyone on your team takes some degree of pride in their work, the focused personality spends most of their day immersed in their responsibilities and projects.

The Emotional

Emotional team members can either absorb or dictate the energy of the room. Through body language alone, they leave no doubt as to whether they are happy, mad, sad, or annoyed.

Tips for Managing All of the Above

Personality management is an entire science discussed in books, studies, and seminars. This article is meant simply to provide an easy, actionable starting point for managing your team more effectively. Here are a few leadership tips that apply to every personality type:


The number one thing you must do is listen to every team member, individually and as a part of the group. Each person will give you an opening into their personality; the only way to see that opening and truly understand what motivates them is to listen to their ideas, concerns, and general input.


Listening and understanding are two different things. Listening is the prerequisite, while understanding is a matter of putting yourself in a given employee’s thought process. When you truly understand someone’s personality, you can define their role accordingly and put them in a position to succeed.

Facilitate Mutual Respect

Obviously, gaining and keeping respect is a big part of being a leader, but respect between colleagues is just as important. When you facilitate mutual respect between different personalities, even polar opposites can work harmoniously.

Work to Strengths

Someone whom you have identified as strong-willed will likely struggle in a project where their input carries little weight. Meanwhile, a timid personality will feel comfortable and thrive in this same situation. While overcoming weaknesses will always be a part of everyone’s workday, you want to work to each individual’s strengths as much and as often as possible.

You might hear motivational speakers talk about turning a weakness into a strength. It’s indeed possible but often unrealistic when managing a team. You work to strengths and improve upon weaknesses “off the record.” When you force someone to expose their weaknesses in a team environment, they feel defeated and alienated.

Give Recognition

As humans, we all desire recognition for our accomplishments—it keeps us connected and reminds us that our daily efforts mean something. In managing personalities, the key is to recognize how people like to be recognized. Some personalities prefer group recognition, while others respond better to a note or conversation.

Hire for Culture

You can avoid personality conflicts before they ever arise by hiring “culture fits”—people who mesh with your team and objectives from the start. Fellow SDSU HTM Master’s proponent Jackie Reed offers the 7 Most Important Things You Need to Know About Shaping a Company Culture.

Develop Your Leadership Skills

Are you looking to make an investment in yourself and your career beyond the finite scope that an article or book provides? SDSU’s HTM Master’s Program develops managers into leaders over a span of 18 months in a collaborative, supportive environment. Apply now and you could be learning alongside these esteemed professionals in Fall 2016!

ann marie kimball Author: Ann Marie Kimble, Hotel Operations at Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines (LinkedIn)

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