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Do You Know Your Work-Style?
by Rhoberta Shaler, PhD

We each have a preferred 'working-style'. It is reflected in what we need to find satisfaction in our jobs and which positions fit us well. Often, though, we may have entered a field or particular work environment that simply does not match our style.

How would you know if this is true for you? There are many indicators. Foremost among them is that you go home from work each day...EACH day...feeling frustrated. You may not even be able to pinpoint what it is about your work that leaves you with this feeling but, it's there...and it's mounting.

A close second to frustration is the reluctance to go to work in the morning. Sounds simple, doesn't it? This is more than your garden variety reluctance. It persists. Sunday nights a cloud seems to be gathering over your head as you consider Monday morning. You may feel tension rising in your body. You know, your shoulders making their way persistently towards your ear lobes.

You feel misunderstood or undervalued at work. Although you bring excellent skills and experience to the company, you are asked to do things that do not allow you to shine...repeatedly. Certainly, you know that you must continuously develop and adapt your style to fit changing economic, legal and workplace cultures. If you are asked to change, your style, though, you may very well be in the wrong place for your success and well-being.

Sometimes, you may need to shift your style to meet the needs of certain situations. Though uncomfortable, everyone needs to be somewhat flexible most of the time. The good news about generally retaining your flexibility is that when you do need to remain firm, folks know you are very serious. This is a good thing.

What needs do you want met by your work? Of course, each style has its challenges and 'stretches'. Let's look at four major styles.

Do you prefer to be the visionary? You like to have a new idea, think it through until you know that it can be accomplished and, then, pass it on to someone else to do. If so, it is likely that you are also intolerant of excuses or reasons why deadlines for its completion are not met. True?

Do you really like to sink your teeth into an issue and wrestle it to the ground? You like to gather facts and parameters and create solutions to difficult problems. If so, it is also likely that you are also a bit of a perfectionist, unwilling to say that you are finished with your solution. Why? Because, with just a few more facts, you could find a more perfect solution.

Are you at your best when you are establishing and nurturing relationships? You consider yourself a real 'people person' and you will go out of your way to find solutions that keep the most people happy. You are very uncomfortable if folks around you are not kept happy. If so, it is likely, too, that you find it difficult to make tough decisions regarding client's and co-worker's needs and wants.

Do you like to be the one who collects and conserves the facts, the research, the background for a project or department? Folks have to come to you for answers, and, they can depend on you to have them at hand. If so, it is likely that you would prefer there to be no one else who could provide them but you. Your power can be exercised then by withholding information.

Each of these styles is important, unique and necessary. We need folks who keep others happy. We need folks who love to solve problems. We need folks who hold the vision. We need folks who conserve the information. These are styles. Meeting these needs drives us to do our best work. Great! So, what's the problem?

Problems arise when a person whose main concern is happy relationships is asked to move into a position where they will have little interaction with others. Or, a person who prefers searching for facts is required to move into sales. Sometimes, folks are asked to move into managerial positions when they are far happier being employees. Consider this scenario. Kevin was a ten-year employee with a manufacturing firm. Everyone loved Kevin. He was personable, friendly and easy to get along with in his positions as both an employee and a project leader.

After he was promoted to project manager, Kevin found that he was feeling anxious more often and folks seemed to be a little less friendly towards him. He thought it might improve with time, but it did not. Kevin was concerned and felt great internal conflict while trying to keep everyone happy: his boss, his leaders, his customers and his staff. The more managerial decisions required of him, the greater the conflict he felt. His health was suffering and his disappointment was growing. Here he thought that he had been rewarded with this promotion and yet he began to dread going to work each morning.

What was happening? Kevin's greatest driver at work was his relationships. Being able to see needs and fill them, to nurture relationships, to keep his finger on the 'people pulse' of the organization was fulfilling to him. He did it very well and it had its own rewards. As a manager, he was asked to be more oriented to deadlines and bottom lines than to interpersonal relationships. Sometimes he had to make unpopular decisions. He hated that. It flew in the face of his great need to maintain and retain healthy relationships. Kevin was simply in the wrong position.

Kevin suffered from an internal work-style war. He may have wanted and deserved the promotion, however, it was the wrong one for him. To be effective as a manager in that situation, he would have to stretch his style greater than his comfort zone. He could well be an effective manager in another situation.

In my consulting and training work, I have an excellent, new instrument that quickly assesses work-style. It is so efficient that it is taken online in seven minutes with immediate feedback by email. This has made a great difference to many work groups. A great feature is that the instrument* was developed in the workplace by consultants working to turn around over two hundred companies on the brink of bankruptcy. It is practical and proven to make a positive impact on the ways people work...and, work together.

As you think about your needs and motivators, what comes to mind? When you clearly know what those needs are you can assess your current career path. Take the time to investigate. You could be happier, healthier, more effective and productive. Know and honor your preferred work-style.

* If you would like to take this instrument or bring it into your company, please contact me at

© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, Founder & Director, The Optimize! Institute, Escondido, CA All rights reserved.

Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, a noted international speaker and author, is the founder of the Optimize! Institute, and Your Spiritual Home, a worldwide center for Practical Spirituality & Everyday Myth. Her mission is "To uplift, inspire and motivate people worldwide to find joy, peace and success on their own terms". She is the author of Optimize Your Day: Practical Wisdom for Optimal Living and Wrestling Rhinos: Conquering Conflict in the Wilds of Work, as well as many other books and audio programs. Rhoberta Shaler, PhD may be contacted at or


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