Individual Differences in Your Organization
You’ve heard through my posts what people are and what they need in the workplace. Taken as a whole, people share all the attributes I’ve described in the first five principles. They look for safety and security, for instance, and they welcome the opportunity to grow and achieve mastery. How individuals express these attributes, however, depends a great deal on their personalities—the product of their genes, brain structure, and formative experiences. Some individuals are more intellectually gifted, while others are more socially savvy. Some are introverted, while others are extroverted. Put simply, the people side of business requires you to understand how people are different. It is our sixth principle.
For instance, people respond uniquely to the application of support and structure. People will have their own reactions to the characteristics of their managers and leaders. This can be a wonderful source of richness for the organization (through the diversity it brings) or the nightmare of a really troubled employee. Despite your best efforts to provide a healthy work environment, people will respond differentially.
If you ignore personality and treat people as if they were indistinguishable, you will fail to accept each person’s individuality. People will not feel cared for or safe in their jobs. Feeling cared for requires that the person be seen as special in some unique way.
When you see people alike, you will not harness the talents of your employees. Each person has signature strengths that should be utilized for the good of the company. You also will allow less competent people to slip by. The tendency is to assume that everyone will function similarly. This is a mistake. Each person, with their unique strengths and weaknesses will have skills that need development and difficulties that they need help to see and correct.
Different personal styles and skills are needed for different positions in your organization. One size does not fit all. Critically, understanding individual differences makes it possible to have the right people in the right jobs throughout your organization.
More on individual differences next time.
Tom DeMaio, PhD