Personalities in the Workplace

Have you ever worked with someone who seems to question everything and everyone? Or what about that team member who seems to avoid tasks or procrastinates.

Understanding our personality tendencies provides important context in the work place (and at home). It helps us get on with our colleagues, form more effective teams and improve the organisational culture.

Well known author and blogger Gretchen Rubin developed The Four Tendencies framework to better understand happiness, and this work can be directly applied to the workplace:

  • Upholders respond readily to both expectations placed on them by others as well as expectations they place on themselves. These guys are all about discipline, structure and are self-motivated.

  • Questioners question all expectations. They will meet an expectation if they believe it’s justified – they retain information and learn new skills by understanding the thinking behind the information.

  • Obligers respond to external expectations – those set by others, but struggle with internal expectations or goals. These guys will prioritise work over play and find balance difficult.

  • Rebels dislike all expectations – they are rule breakers, innovators, and prefer to work without structure.


Most people can identify their primary tendency but may also have elements of secondary tendencies. As a leader it is important that you:

  • Match team members to roles and teams based on both skills and personality tendencies

  • Develop appropriate accountability structures to motivate, encourage and inspire team members

  • Upskill customer-facing team members to recognise these tendencies in your most valuable customers / clients

“We don’t see things the way they are. We see things the way we are.” Unknown