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What's your working style?

What's your working style?
Are you an energetic 'Hurry Up' or a nurturing 'Please People'? Read Professor Julie Hay's overview of five major working styles.

Have you ever noticed that you work to a pattern? Do you have certain strengths but also behave in characteristic ways that limit your effectiveness? 

Awareness of our own working style, and its advantages and pitfalls, can increase our range of strategies.  We can identify ways to be more productive and a little self-analysis can unlock major benefits that we have overlooked.

Each of the five major working styles have their own strengths and weaknesses.  The weaknesses often result from an overdose of the strengths; we can have too much of a good thing.  

When this happens we stop choosing to behave in a particular way and start feeling compelled to act that way.  It is as if we are driven by our working style. We feel we have no option, that there is no other way to be that would make sense.  For this reason, the working styles are often referred to as our drivers.

Whenever we are under stress, we tend to shift from working style to driver. We apply our working style so much that slip into the weaknesses of the style.  At the same time, we feel under a compulsion to do this even more; our driver seems to take over. 

This in turn creates more stress - so we apply our style even more - and create even more stress! This pattern may lead us into a spiralling effect that actually generates more stress at the same time as we are doing our best to cope. 

Knowledge of this spiral, and of the working styles, can enable us to take more control over our behaviour and particularly our responses to stress.  We can aim to maintain the strengths of our working style whilst avoiding the problems associated with our driver.

1.) Hurry Up

People with Hurry Up characteristics work quickly, respond well to short deadlines, and get a lot done in a short time.   If we are Hurry Up, our motivation is to do things quickly, we feel good if we can complete tasks in the shortest possible time and our energy peaks under pressure.   Our major strength is the amount that we can achieve.  We spend less time preparing than others do, giving us a chance to meet more people and contribute more to the team.

However, give us time to spare and we delay starting until the job becomes urgent - then we start work on it.  This can backfire because in our haste we make mistakes.   Going back to correct the mistakes takes longer than doing the job right first time, so we may miss the deadlines after all.  Our ability to think fast makes us appear impatient.  We speak fast and have a habit of interrupting others.  We may even finish their sentences for them, often misunderstanding and getting involved in needless arguments.  Our meetings get planned too close together, so we rush from one to another, arriving late and leaving early.

2.) Be Perfect

Be Perfect people are as unlike Hurry Up's as can be.   Be Perfect characteristics involve a quest for perfection - no errors, everything must be exactly right, first time.   This working style means we are well organised because we look ahead, plan for potential problems, do our best to make sure everything will run smoothly.   We can be relied on to produce accurate work.   Our strengths are our reputation for accuracy, our attention to detail and our thoroughness.

Unfortunately, we cannot be relied on to produce work on time because we need to check it so carefully for mistakes and we are reluctant to issue a draft rather than the final version. We are also likely to misjudge the level of detail required.  We include too much information and have the effect of confusing the recipient.  We choose our words carefully and may therefore use long, less familiar words or technical terms that others do not understand.

3.) Please People

Please People are the good team members.   We encourage harmony, we are intuitive and considerate of others' feelings.   Our aim is to please other people without asking.  We work out what they would like and then provide it.  

This working style means we are nice to have around because we are tolerant and understanding.  We pay attention to the feelings of those around us and draw the team closer together by ensuring that everyone's views are taken into account. 

Please People are also nurturing and caring.  We show a genuine interest in other people at a personal level.  We are encouraging and reassuring when other people have potentially stressful tasks to undertake.

Unfortunately, we can be too nice!  In our efforts to maintain good relationships we may fail to speak out.  We let other people implement ideas that we know are likely to fail  -  but we don’t say anything in case they ‘take it personally’.  Then we are hurt when they get angry with us for not warning them.

We may also become so anxious about retaining the approval of others that we seem almost paranoid about remaining pleasant at all costs.  We are the ones who apologise when someone steps on our foot.

4.) Try Hard

The Try Hard working style is all about the effort put into the task, so we tackle things enthusiastically. Our energy peaks with something new to do and we like to follow up on all possibilities.

This results in a thorough job in the sense of paying attention to all aspects of the task.  People value our motivation and the way we have of getting things off the ground. Managers appreciate the fact that we often volunteer to take on new tasks.

However, we may be more committed to trying than to succeeding. Our initial interest wears off before we finish the task. Our attention to so many aspects makes the job impossibly large, and even if we complete most of it, we may still think up yet another angle to pursue before we can really agree that the job is done.

5.) Be Strong

Be Strong people are calm under pressure, good at dealing with stress, great to have around in a crisis.   With this working style, we feel energised when we have to cope. 

We have a strong sense of duty and will work steadily even at the unpleasant tasks.  We will also keep on thinking logically when others may be panicking. Because we are so good at staying calm and dealing with all that the job throws at us, we are seen as consistently reliable, steady workers.

Our problem with this style is that we hate admitting weakness - and we regard any failure to cope as a weakness. So we get overloaded rather than asking others for help.  

We may disguise our difficulties by "hiding" work away; often our desk looks tidy but correspondence is filed away in a rather large pending tray. 

We may also find that other staff feel uncomfortable about our lack of emotional responses in situations where most people tend to feel the strain.  It may be hard to get to know us when we seem to have no feelings.

What drives us 

Each working style has a number of benefits but unfortunately, each style also has drawbacks. These drawbacks are known as drivers, so called because they have a 'driven', or compulsive, quality when we are under stress. 

They are subconscious attempts by us to behave in ways that will gain us the recognition we need from others. Drivers are also programmed responses to the messages we carry in our heads from important people in the past.

One important point to note is that drivers occur outside our awareness. We can recognise our working styles when they are described, and even accept that the drivers also occur.

However, at the time that we move into the unhelpful aspects of our working styles, we are not conscious of doing so. We believe that we are still operating within the effective band of the style. 

We need, therefore, to review our behaviour from time to time, especially when we are under stress, so that we can avoid the problems that driver behaviour brings.

Last updated 22/11/2013

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