The Key to Understanding your own Unique Work Style

Heather Harper

Written by Heather Harper

Jul 4, 2018  - Last updated: Feb 7, 2023


Everyone has different working styles that allows them to perform at their optimal level. Some people work best by planning far in advance, paying attention to every small detail and by being a member of a small and slow-moving team. Whereas, others work best by being spontaneous, being the leader in a large, fast-paced team and by focusing on the bigger picture.

Some of us are so organised that we know what we’re doing at 10 AM in three weeks time, whereas others don’t even know what their doing at 3 PM today. Some of us communicate boldly, directly, and openly; whereas others feel overwhelmed by direct communication.

Whatever your optimal work style is, it is important that you understand it so that you can always work to your best ability and provide effective results. Different work styles can be managed and maximized for effective job performance, productivity, and growth.

Think about it, perhaps the reason you’re underperforming in your current job, or have underperformed in the past, is because that job doesn’t, or didn’t, fit your optimal work style. It was the type of job that required meticulous planning, large group work and communication; and that just isn’t you.

So, in order to make yourself more satisfied and more effective at work, you should really begin to understand your optimal work style. One possible way you can begin to learn about, know and understand your work style is to ask yourself some simple, but yet effective, questions:

Do you prefer to work alone, or collaboratively?

  • How do you prefer to communicate?

  • What hours do you like to work?

  • How do you plan your day?

  • How have you dealt with organisational conflict in the past?

By answering these questions, and other similar questions, you can establish the basis of your working style. These questions allow you to determine whether you work best in teams, how you like to communicate with your colleagues, whether you plan your days out, whether you’re comfortable with conflict, and many other things that will determine how you perform optimally at work.


However, although asking yourself those simple questions is an easy and effective way to begin to determine the basics of your work style, it is perhaps not the most in-depth way to work out your optimal style. In my opinion, the best, and by far the most in-depth, way to measure your work style is through work style assessments. These type of tests will tell you a lot about your personality, and consequently how this affects your optimal style of work.

The most traditional, and some of the most reliable valid, personality tests are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC, measures of the Big-Five, Occupational Interests Scale, The Belbin Team Roles Inventory and the Hogan Development Survey. There are also other, more modern, methods of measuring your personality, such as online tools like WorkStyle. To read more about the best tests and online assessment tools available to measure your personality for workplace use, read this article I wrote a few weeks ago.

These tests will all measure your personality or that of your team members through a series of different traits and characteristics, and these will tell you valuable things about how you work best and of course, your optimal working style. Some of these tests will tell you whether you’re an extrovert and enjoy working as part of a team and are a natural born leader; or an introvert, someone who prefers to work alone and excels more in small teams, or in solo work.

"Understanding how you work, including how you like to communicate and plan your day is mission critical to growing a powerful team around you." - Daniel Henderson, Detail Central

Some tests will identify whether you’re conscientious, or not. This is a crucial part of your work style because it shows how analytic you are, whether you pay attention to detail, if your organised or if you have a strong work ethic.

Other personality tests can measure whether you have a dominant personality type and therefore prefer to be in charge. Whether you’re more of a steady personality type and prefer to work in a sociable and cooperative team. Or, whether you’ve got more of an influential personality type and like to inspire and motivate others.

Some tests, such as the Belbin Team Roles Inventory, can also suggest your optimal role within a team. For instance, whether you’re the negotiator, the analyser, the innovator, or whether you should be in the lead role for this team.

Amazon's Work Style Assessment is another great example of this. This Amazon assessment test is one given to people who want to work at Amazon to assess if their work personality fits their needs and work environment. It also helps determine if Amazon employees fit Amazon's leadership principles so they can move up the rank.

These are just a few examples of the many personality traits that can be measured using personality tests and assessments. Each trait has its strengths and weaknesses and by understanding them, and by learning your work style, you can learn how to work with your weakness and improve them, and how to use your strengths to your advantage.

A final point to make is that understanding your personality, and thus your work style, can allow you to be happier at work. Understanding your work style can allow you to apply for the right jobs; for instance, if you are an extrovert you should apply for roles in bigger and sociable companies, whereas if you are an introvert you may not like these busy and lively companies. Or if you would prefer a leadership role, opposed to an analytic or thinking role.

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Heather Harper

About the author

Heather Harper is a psychology student from the University of Lincoln. She currently works as an intern for WorkStyle and is studying a Masters in Occupational Psychology at the University of Manchester.