You’ve probably heard of The Five Love Languages, a bestselling relationship book by Gary Chapman. In it, he talks about better ways of engaging with your romantic partner based on how you each express yourself romantically and by understanding each other’s needs. It’s probably no surprise that as a company whose primary offering is assessments, we love using these insights to improve our personal lives.
In his book, Gary Chapman highlights how some people like being surprised with a gift or love giving gifts. Others might prefer you show your affection by helping out around the house – nothing says I love you like emptying the dishwasher or folding that pile of laundry! While some need to hear how much they are loved, others want to sit together and enjoy the comfort of being close… while binge-watching The Queen’s Gambit, of course.
Understanding what makes our partners tick and giving them what they want, in a way they will appreciate, helps forge stronger relationships. If you know who your partner is and what they need to thrive, you are better prepared to prevent and resolve conflicts. It’s why the love languages have become so popular over the years and why people keep coming back to those core traits. Much attention is paid to love languages, but figuring out your work language is often ignored.
We spend more time interacting with our co-workers than we do at home with the people we love. Given that we spend most of our waking hours at work, it is essential to understand the people you manage to build a thriving culture.
Much like problems within a relationship, a lot of issues at work come from A) not being able to read minds (we can’t help with that) and B) not understanding the underlying “work language” of your employee. We can help break down that barrier.
A personality assessment, like The Omnia Assessment, interprets that work language. It translates a person’s traits and preferences into a how-to guide on properly incentivizing, communicating, and engaging your employees, telling you what the individual needs to be successful.
The first trait we measure is assertiveness. Individuals can have varying degrees of assertiveness, from the bold and forceful to the meek and mild. Naturally, assertive employees are focused on personal accomplishment. These are the kind of people who excel in commission-based sales positions and are on the lookout for opportunities for advancement. In contrast, cautious employees are team-oriented and look for ways to help other people.
Your employees who possess a high degree of assertiveness will appreciate direct feedback and have no issue taking in constructive feedback. In fact, they thrive on individual goals, dashboards, and transparency to how they’re performing compared to their co-workers. Think stacked rankings – they’ll thrive seeing those every day, month, year. Those with less assertiveness prefer to be in supportive, team-oriented roles. They thrive on private feedback – not being in the limelight whatsoever. They’ll also appreciate hearing that their work is appreciated, that their job is secure, and they are a valued member of the team.
The next trait is often simplified as an Extrovert vs. Introvert, but that only scratches the surface. This trait measures the way a person chooses to communicate and problem solve. Socially reserved employees are analytical and fact-driven; their conversations tend to get to the point and give you just what you need to know. When you want specific information imparted to a customer, clearly and concisely, the analytic is the one to go to every time. Sometimes they can seem aloof to their gregarious counterparts, though.
Socially confident employees are more emotionally based on their responses. It’s about how things make them feel and the connections they make with other people. They are great in positions where you need to network and have a lot of face time to build and maintain relationships. They can come off as being needlessly chatty to an analytic, though. The analytics want to get right to the task, while the socially confident wish to get to know each other better because they build the bonds needed to feel a part of the team. Understanding which style your direct reports prefer helps you determine how to make the most of the time you spend with them and ultimately makes those moments more likely to drive employee engagement, retention, and productivity.
Then there’s pace, which is all about a sense of urgency and patience.
We all know that person who, if they aren’t working on ten things at once, keeping all of the balls in the air, they aren’t happy. Those are the multi-taskers; they tell you they work best under the pressure of a deadline. On the other hand, single-taskers need to have things ordered and deal with them one at a time. They often come off as being overwhelmed in a hectic workplace because they most likely are. They need to be in a job or environment where they can complete one task before moving on to the next. This can be frustrating to someone with a dizzying sense of urgency, who may not understand that everyone is not wired the way they are. They often run into folks who see them as a whirlwind who doesn’t know how to relax and who takes on more than they should. Understanding the degree of pace your team members prefer to work is another crucial way to engage and motivate. Someone who loves to multi-task will look at new projects as a motivating recognition that you believe in them. Allowing someone to set their own time frame to complete projects and work in more routine matters gives those with a slower pace more confidence to finish the task at hand, with growing confidence their leader has trust in them.
The last language clue comes from an employee’s need for structure and attention-to-detail. Look at this as having either “results-oriented” or “procedure-oriented” priorities. An independent, big-picture person is not about, “Is this done perfectly?” but rather, “Is this done?” A structured, meticulous person, on the other hand, is viewed as a perfectionist who wants to make sure every procedure is carefully followed because “That is how things get done right.” Often, they end up with the same result but take different ways to get there.
Structured workers are often annoyed with an independent’s inclination to “wing it” and wonder why they have to go back over procedures with them to correct mistakes. Whereas an independent is more likely to wonder, “Why are we still talking about this?” and if a mistake is made, where possible, correct it and move on.
For the people on your team who want autonomy and decision-making authority, give them projects they can take the lead on to run freely and the space to do it. These are great people to look to for delegating your ever-growing task list. For those who want more structure, make sure they have specific processes to follow and ensure they know you are available to them—offering employee development opportunities by involving these individuals in important projects – such as writing playbooks and drafting procedures. Their attention to detail provides a great benefit to the organization in looking at cross-functional improvements and streamlined processes, and most would value being asked to help.
Employees who get to use their strengths at work every day are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit.
Very few people are completely "off the charts" in any of these four categories, but seeing where each individual is and how that relates to the rest of the team can help a manager better assess where personnel resources are being allocated and how to get the best out of them. It can also help co-workers understand why people do things a certain way and what they can do to assist each other in a way that would be constructive rather than counterproductive. Using hiring assessments can help avoid making costly mistakes. Using these assessments to provide insights into individual work style preferences, motivators and demotivators help drive overall employee satisfaction and engagement.
Much like a love language, it is not just a single component that makes a relationship work. We have to think about how each trait interacts inside the same person. It’s about understanding what motivates each unique member of your team and how to adjust to that to make sure everyone is getting what they need to be the best they can. And while you’re at it, take time to find out how you're wired too. Leaders who take the time to discover their unique leadership personality styles can learn valuable insights about their own preferences.
Knowing your work language and the team dynamics of those you lead and then using that information appropriately strengthens not just individual relationships but also the entire company.
*Article updated 2/01/2021; original article posted 12/19/2017