“What Is Your Work Style?” Recognizing And Managing Different Work Styles

Ever wonder why you instinctively feel a pull towards some colleagues, while butt heads with others? Well, according to Kim Christfort, coauthor of Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships, it all comes down to what is your work style!

Your Work style pertains to the way you go about your day-to-day tasks on the job. We all have our individual working style for optimizing performance while at work. Perhaps you are your most efficient when you’re working independently and can set your own tasks and schedule. Or maybe you are more comfortable working with a team that can help you stay on track, offer support, and give feedback on your ideas. Do you operate on hard-cold facts or bring emotion into the workplace? When it comes to problem-solving, are you more of a big-picture type or pay close attention to details?

It is how it is: Some adhere to rules, others take risks. Some have their eyes on the price, while others may want consensus. These traits are like magnetically charged particles. Some spread apart and repel, while others attract and cluster together. As a manager, recognizing the diverse work patterns of your team members can help you work better together. In fact, “what is your work style” is the most asked question at interviews.

Related: 15 Most Effective Leadership Styles Uncovered; Which One Can You Identify With?

Using a data-based approach, we have identified six working styles that are most commonly seen across workplaces.

What Is Your Work Style? Are You A:


Pioneers spark energy, take risks, value possibilities, and fuel the imagination of their team. You can think of them as big-picture thinkers, who create their own opportunities or jump on existing ones. They are known for making spontaneous decisions and are not so fixated on small details. They thrive on winning, results, and challenging, and are goal-oriented. They tackle problems head on with logic and feel more connected when there is a debate.

Independent Worker

Independent working style best describes people who are happiest when they are working solo. They have to run their own show. They find it quite challenging to collaborate with others and don’t take well to a lot of supervision. Instead of taking orders, they follow their gut and see where their hunch takes them. Entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and visionaries are often characterized by an independent working style. Visualize an engineer focusing intensely on solving a complex equation or a writer burning the midnight oil for a novel. Proponents of the independent working style are disciplined, efficient, and productive.


While independent workers prefer to work on their own, others function best as part of a group. This professional working style is what we call cooperative. These workers enjoy working with others on projects and share responsibility for any task they take on. They thrive on feedback and are generally brilliant communicators. They are highly diplomatic and are often found in relationship-oriented roles such as leadership and human resources roles. Project managers, HR directors, and account executives are often cooperative workers, since they are typically collaborative, organized, and know the ins and outs of strategic learning.


The proximity working style is a hybrid of the above two. People falling in this category like to maintain sole responsibility for a task and yet don’t mind working with others as well. Even though they are in charge, they share responsibility with others. Even while pursuing their own projects, they prefer to maintain social connection with their coworkers. Proximity work style is found across all facets of business. The proponents of this workstyle are adaptable and versatile enough to wear many hats at the same time. They are the ones who can connect the cooperative and independent types, helping to build a team that works.


Guardians fare well with rigor, order, and stability. These people are averse to risk, and are pragmatic, and detail oriented. Unlike Pioneers, these people are thoughtful about everything, look before they leap, and are not so keen to jump into unchartered territories.


If you see employees who are emotionally aware and expressive, they must have a supportive working style. The main goal of these employees is to nurture deep connections with their colleagues and clients. Such employees have a flair for facilitating team interactions and can usually tell if something is amiss with a team member. They work well with collaboration instead of competition and like to celebrate success with their entire team, instead of swelling with self-pride.

Using The Styles At Work

Once you are in tune with your own style and that of your teammates, you can leverage this information to become aware of your own biases and tendencies, as well as improve collaboration. Look around you. No two people are alike, and these work styles are evenly distributed. If you are in the midst of a conflict or feel like someone isn’t on the same page as you, its probably because they have a different working style.

While you may be willing to make accommodations when your boss has a working style that is at odds with yours, the hard nut to crack is to flex when it comes to peers. Flexing comes with the realization that you may not have everything you need to be successful. When you master the art of flexing, you can bounce effortlessly between styles, depending on what is the need of the moment. You learn to value and respect what the other person brings to the table and that together, you can achieve big.

In fact, bringing people with different work styles together yields better output. Alone, you are prone to missing some context and key aspects. While our natural instinct is to work with people who possess a similar working style as ours, know that bringing in an opposite perspective often gets you that elusive solution. This is why leaders should choose people having different work styles for projects to create a more balanced team.

Here is another reason why you should promote diversity in the work styles of your team members. Imagine if everyone in your company followed a highly planned, analytical, and linear approach to completing projects, without the disruption of new ideas, how could your company ever come up with that big, bold idea? On the other hand, if each employee took an intuitive, strategic, and big-picture approach to completing projects, without any consideration for limitations, you would find yourself behind schedule and over budget. Neither of these situations supports sustained business growth over time.

The key here is to diligently analyze your team and decide the bare minimum needed for each type to thrive. For instance, pioneers thrive on opportunity and would need a white board to brainstorm, while a guardian needs an agenda and proper processing time before they can make key decisions. Decide what tasks to delegate to each and when to bring them into the project.

For instance, give guardians some time to prepare before a meeting so that they are caught off guard. Or, allow Pioneers to lead brainstorming sessions. Give an independent worker as much autonomy as you can allow for them to thrive. As research would have it, tapping into different working styles helps coworkers get along and contribute their best work.

What is your work style? Do let us know in the comments below. Next time someone asks you the dreaded question of “what is your work style”, you can always identify from one of the styles above.

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