HR & Management

Five worker archetypes and effectively managing them

8 min read

06 June 2016

Former deputy editor

They say you can choose your friends, not your family – and the same applies to the workplace. Given the choice, most of us would choose different colleagues to the ones we’re lumbered with for eight hours a day. And yet, working with a diverse hodgepodge of individuals is strangely satisfying, and par for the course in a tight-knit office environment.

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The trouble with working alongside such a medley of unique characters is finding ways to manage them effectively. From a managerial perspective, employing such dissimilar individuals has its pros and cons, and the secret to success is to find the strengths and weaknesses within each member of the team.

No matter what the business, most offices across the country attract a handful of characters that adhere to archetypal office stereotypes. But who are they, and how can you manage them effectively?

Here, we look at five business archetypes, and offer advice on how to get the most from your workforce – however unique they may be.

(1) The Alpha

Forever seeking to be the centre of attention, the alpha is arguably the most ambitious member of the team, and one whose sights are firmly set on reaching the big time. Alphas are self-confident to the point of narcissism, and will do anything to win praise from above, including crushing those they deem inferior.

Sure, they can deliver great results in the right role, but their egotism can distort their judgment when it comes to key tasks, something which can go unnoticed beneath layers of bravado and swagger.

In a recent BBC study, psychiatrist Dr Judith Orloff revealed that narcissism was one of five traits guaranteed to get under our skin in the workplace. Orloff suggests that the best way to deal with alphas in the office is to stroke their ego and frame every situation in such a way that it serves them.

We think the best advice is to be aware of their habits, and closely monitor their work to ensure they’re genuinely performing when you strip away the exhibitionism.

Sound familiar? If not, don’t worry – we continuing breaking down characteristics of workers on the next page.

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(2) The Gossiper

If your office lacks an alpha, it’s virtually guaranteed to have a gossiper. As if “chatting” was in their job description, gossipers spend most of the day bending the ear of anyone who’s willing to listen – and their topics of conversation aren’t always safe for work.

From badmouthing their peers to complaining about business matters, gossipers can quickly spread ill feeling in the workplace whether they intend to or not. Of course, the odd bit of a nattering should be encouraged and not frowned upon, but leave a gossiper unchecked and they’ll soon take advantage.

The best way to deal with gossipers is to instil a “my door’s always open” atmosphere in the office. By encouraging staff to come to you with their problems (however trivial they may be), you’ll nurture a healthier, happier, and less secretive working environment.

Worried you’re a gossiper or just talk too much in the office? Entrepreneur has a guide to some of the tell-tale signs that could indicate you’re the blabbermouth of the business.

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(3) The Superhero

Take the time to recruit the right staff, and you may be lucky enough to find your very own workplace superhero. As capable as alphas whilst lacking the same narcissistic tendencies, office superheroes care about the greater good of the business, and not just perfecting their own CV. Steadfast and dependable, these heroes and heroines of the workplace don’t complain when they’re asked to stay late, and are happy to forego their own progress to help a colleague in need.

Given that these business superheroes often shun the limelight in favour of anonymity, it can be difficult to work them out and manage them effectively. To keep them happy, offer praise where it’s due and ensure their career trajectory is upwards, not sideways. Alphas can often overshadow their efforts, so keep a close watch to make sure the right person gets the gold star.

To find out who the superhero is in your office, take a look at the guide to office superheroes from TonerGiant.

The final two office archetypes are revealed on the next page.

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(4) The Upstart

Young upstarts can dazzle with their knowledge and eagerness to learn, and they make a bright and positive addition to the office. But be wary – these bright young things may be ambitious and hardworking, but they have a lot to learn and can often make mistakes in their keenness to impress.

Other members of staff may also have a huge influence on them, which could prove detrimental to their character and progression.

To bolster the skills and experience of young members of staff, provide plenty of opportunities for vocational training, and nurture positive relationships between new and existing team members.

Halogen Software, a specialist in talent management, has a brilliant guide on nurturing the top talent in your organisation. In the guide, Halogen quoted Dr John Sullivan, who stated in 2012 that “top performers produce as much as 10 times more than the average worker, whilst requiring less than two times the pay” — a statistic worth bearing in mind during your next search for new talent.

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(5) The Slacker

It’s a sad fact, but most businesses endure an office slacker — someone who does the bare minimum to avoid being laid off. Lacking motivation and drive, slackers can demotivate the office and leave their colleagues feeling resentment towards how the business is managed, particularly if their poor performance is dragging the whole team down.

If you have work-shy personnel on your staff, it’s important to assess the situation carefully before dolling out P45s. By addressing the issue, you may find there’s a perfectly good reason for their apparent laziness, or that something could be put in place to better manage the issue.

Recruitment expert Totaljobs has previously addressed the issue of dealing with the office slacker, and suggested that a subtle strategy is the best way to deal with idle minds within the business.

Which personality type earns the most – extroverts or introverts?