Your manager asks you to conduct a survey and you suggest a colourful questionnaire, professional but light-hearted in tone. The boss, however, insists on a sombre set of formal questions. You try to comply, but despite all your efforts, the survey doesn’t seem to take shape. You feel frustrated and de-motivated. You may even feel worthless and not suited to your job.
What you’ve just experienced, is a typical example of mismatched working styles: your working style was not compatible with your boss’s. Barbara Prashnig, a leading world expert in the field, defines working style as the way in which people concentrate, work, make decisions and solve problems.
“Some people are analytical in their thinking and perform tasks step-by-step,” she explains. “Those are the ones who like formal questionnaires. Others prefer to approach problems holistically, with colour, humour and thinking outside the box.”
And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to human diversity in the workplace. Some people fidget and pace the room when pondering the next sentence in the report. Others need to chew or nibble when working on a project, and if a snack is not around, they will bite on pencils, fingernails, hair or ties.
And then there’s the timing. The proverbial owls and the dawn-driven larks. Somebody who leaps out of bed at five in the morning, completely refreshed and ready to tackle the day’s workload, will never understand a colleague who arrives in the office at nine, yawning and demanding coffee.
What about noise levels? If Paul from accounts finds it impossible to work in a room full of people, it doesn’t mean he’s anti-social. It may be that his working style is stifled unless he has absolute silence. The secretary, on the other hand, might need the reassuring buzz of traffic outside.
Do you prefer working in a darkish room or one filled with bright electric light? Do you think better when your bare arms tingle from the cold, or when you’re wrapped up in a big woolen jersey? Is your desk tidy and your paperwork in neatly labelled files; or do you use your in-tray to store your lunch and the floor around your desk for piles of work ‘to be done’?
So much to find out. Start today.