3 Ways To Manage Conflicting Personality Types

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on July 16, 2015

You're outgoing; he's reserved. She researches everything to death; you rely on hunches. Does this sound familiar?

You and your employees can fall into any one of the 16 different personality types, so don't be surprised if you find yourself supervising someone who is your diametric opposite. But, don't fret! Follow these ideas to manage personality opposites effectively.

Understand Types

Effectiveness expert Stephen Covey advises to "seek first to understand, then be understood." Seeking to understand goes far deeper than simply reading an explanation of a particular personality style, however. After you've learned your colleague's personality type, invite him or her in to chat about what that classification means to them. "So you are a 'Thinking' type. How do you see that play out in your job?" "I see that you rely on intuition. How does that relate to how you manage projects at work?"

Discussing hypothetical situations specific to your industry may also be helpful. Present a scenario and explain how you would approach it, then invite your employee to share their own approach. Despite being personality opposites, you may find that you often will reach the same result, but just take different paths to get there.

Empower Self-Management

Instead of feeling a vague sense of discomfort with how someone of a different personality type approaches their job, use communication and empowerment to lead to a better outcome. In many fields, a variety of methods can be used by different employees to complete a task. As a manager, sharing your outcome expectations effectively lays out a clear vision of what you want to happen. Rather than managing every decision and action along the way, empower your employees to create their own road map. Rather than expecting someone to work just as you do or think in similar ways, enable him or her to feel comfortable in their own space and with their own style of tackling projects. It's the outcome that matters. 

Ask Why

The "5 Whys" is a great approach to process improvement and is equally effective in understanding employees with different working styles, particularly when an extravert/introvert mismatch is at play. Each additional "why" seeks to dig a bit deeper than the one before, getting to base-level explanations instead of surface-level assumptions. In practice, digging deep into the "5 Whys" tends to reveal the root of an idea, practice or problem. Asking your employees why they do, think, feel or decide in a certain way—in a safe and non-judgmental way, of course—can be the key to feeling more comfortable in a working relationship and building trust within your team. 

Though personality opposites may have difficulties working well together, communicating clearly, empowering employees and always digging deeper for more information can lead to better work interactions and greater team effectiveness. 
Molly Owens

Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. She began working with personality assessments in 2006, and in 2012 founded Truity with the goal of making robust, scientifically validated assessments more accessible and user-friendly.

Molly is an ENTP and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and exploring with her husband and son.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Guest (not verified) says...

This article focuses on you being the manager. I am an INFJ and I recently had a boss who was poles apart from me - I don't know her MB but she shot from the hip, ignored anything and everything I said, made snap decisions, micro-managed etc.

I tried to discuss how I felt about her approach but she told me to 'get over it and move on'. I've since changed jobs and managers. Was this just a very difficult person who probably shouldn't have been a senior manager in the first place - or was this an example of clashing personality types and therefore there must be some types that simply don't get INFJs?


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