Ever wonder why you get along swimmingly with some colleagues and clash with others? It all comes down to your working style. Identifying everyone’s pattern can help you work better with others.

Before we dive in, check out Matter's communication guide! 🥳 Here's a master guide of great communicators, the do’s and don'ts, and professionals (like you!) who can benefit from understanding  and leveraging their work style to collaborate with your team.

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What is a work style?

Your work style is how you do your best work in the most efficient way. This includes your ability and preferences with regards to working with others, attitude, and work ethic.

According to a Princeton University Press study on psychological types, we see that personality traits influence individual working styles, team dynamics, and even preferences for remote work. When you understand your own unique work style, it can led you to work productively and collaborate with team members effectively.

What are the different work styles?

According to a 2014 Oxford Handbook of Organizational Climate and Culture and a 2010 University of Iaşi study on work style development, there are seven categories of important work styles to consider when exploring what fits best for you.

  • Adaptive vs. Innovative
  • Independent vs. Interdependent
  • Planned vs. Spontaneous
  • Engaged vs. Compartmentalized
  • Analytical vs. Intuitive
  • Implementer vs. Visionary
While all our processes and work styles look different, embracing the differences of our teammates make a stronger team. (Illustration by Michael Glen Celliers)

Adaptive vs. innovative work style

You have an adaptive work style if you thrive under specificity and excel at assimilating to an existing style (whether it be a style of coding, designing, or writing) and being consistent. Constraints don't hinder your work. You prefer gradual changes over drastic changes and know your current workflow backwards and forwards.

You have an innovative work style if you enjoy thinking of new ways to solve problems and adapt. You thrive in flexible environments and see change as a new opportunity where others might see uncertainty. Others trust you to contribute meaningful feedback in brainstorming sessions.

🙌 These two different types of workers can benefit from discussing new ideas, uncovering constraints, and finding consensus on how ideas can be realistically put into practice.

Independent vs. interdependent work style

You may be an independent worker if you prefer to work on your own and quietly. You may struggle with seeking feedback from your team which results in a preference to fly solo. Independent workers have a lot of heads-down time built into their daily schedules.

But if you're an interdependent worker, you prioritize your team’s opinions when making decisions. You prefer (and thrive) to work with others in a collaborative environment and often share ideas, opinions, and feedback.

👏 While both styles have their distinct approach to working, they both will benefit from receiving consistent status updates to ensure they're headed in the right direction.

Planned vs. spontaneous work style

You have a planned approach to work if you find yourself organizing your time in advance and easily adhering to your self-imposed schedules. You have a good grasp of how long a project or task will take you or others to accomplish.

For those who are a bit more spontaneous, you're flexible and comfortable with taking on last-minute tasks. You don't mind moving or shifting tasks and projects around. Spontaneous workers usually prioritize flexibility into their calendars.

💪 People from both ends of these two work styles will benefit from find a balance between structured time-bound projects and projects that allow for spontaneity.

Engaged vs. compartmentalized work style

You have an engaged work style if you're personally and emotionally invested in your projects which may lead to work-life balance issues. If you are someone who always goes above and beyond, and stays late to complete tasks, perhaps it would be wise to think about incorporating time to decompress.

You have a more compartmentalized work style if you draw a distinct line between work and play. You are no less invested in your work, but you're skilled in balancing both time and space between personal and professional life.

👋 People from both ends of these two work styles will benefit from an open discussion on boundaries and communication expectations. Once the boundaries are clear, these work styles can work symbiotically with each other.

Analytical vs. intuitive work style

You're more analytical if you carefully analyze and examine all available information and details before coming to a conclusion. You don't make project decisions based on a hunch or a feeling. When you're unsure you seek more data. Analytical thinkers find that their team members depend on them as a second pair of eyes to check their work.

You're more intuitive if you excel at distilling large amounts of data to find key patterns. And you're comfortable with making quick decisions based on past experiences or processes. Intuitive workers find team members asking for their input when it comes to making a decisions when there's no available data.

🤝 People from both ends of these two work styles will benefit from candid discussions when faced with pitfalls or roadblocks. A challenging task for someone with an analytical work style may come very intuitively for others.

Implementer vs. visionary work style

An implementer is detail-oriented. They crosses their t’s and dots their i’s. You're a good implementor if you are able to bring ideas to life. For example, if someone wants to have a holiday party, you pull the strings to make it that happen.

A visionary is great at seeing the big picture and coming up with new solutions to problems that have been otherwise overlooked. More like a bird's-eye view. You will benefit from inspirational discussions with the doers on your team in order to make ideas come into fruition.

✍️ People from both ends of these two work styles will benefit from focusing on effective project handoffs. A visionary brings an implementor into the room to discuss the finer points. These two different work styles can make the dream team!

Styles of work may differ across the team, but rest easy in knowing no one style is better than the next. (Illustration by Louis Wes)

Which is the best work style?

There is no "best" work style as there are tradeoffs to every single style. For example, if you choose to be more analytical as opposed to intuitive, you may take longer to gather data and come to a conclusion. Focus instead on on matching your skillset and preferences to a work style that just comes to you naturally. What kind of flow do you gravitate towards?

There is no hard line between style preferences. It is not an either-or. Rather it is a spectrum that serves to help work more efficiently with others. It's possible to be both engaged and compartmentalized in different collaborative efforts or work contexts. Remember: You don't have to box yourself into a specific type of work style.


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