What are you like?

The chances are that some of the people you work with sometimes get on your nerves. Sometimes you wish that they’d get another job. Or retire. Failing that you could have them killed.

When you move to a different team you notice that it’s the same there. Carol in the new office is just like Angela from the old place. Joe gripes in just the same way as Mark used to moan.

Why is this?

It boils down to personality.

There are many, often overlapping theories about personality. At Real Clear we use a simple, effective personality profiling system known as DISC which suggests that we’re basically a unique mix of four main elements of personality. We like it because its..err…really clear!

The four elements are:

Dominance – wants to be boss, straight talking, ambitious.

Influence – wants to be popular, likes to have fun, easily bored.

Steadiness – wants to keep things safe and the same, loves to care for others, organised.

Compliance – likes to analyse, question things, pays attention to detail.

We could go into lots more depth describing them but only the people with high scores in compliance will actually care.

Psychological research suggests that personality traits are generally fixed. Behaviour and attitudes may change, but fundamentally we are how we are. People who thrive on being the centre of attention, for example, are unlikely to drastically change into being consistently quiet and serious in social settings.

We tend to get on better with people who are like us, and less well with people who are different. Our brains like to save energy by using mental shortcuts (the posh word for this is heuristics), we spot similarities between how Carol and Angela are and use that to help us understand them. How we felt about Angela is likely to affect how we feel about Carol. The more we understand these differences the more we understand each other and function better as a team.

We recently worked with Oh-Dear-We’re-Not-Getting-On-Well PLC (their real name). Two major characters there were Graham and Jo.

Graham often got annoyed. His team didn’t get information to him on time and what they gave him lacked the detail he needed. He was particularly challenged by Jo, one of the directors, who seemed to be always smiling and joking but didn’t give him clear instructions. She got on his nerves. Didn’t she understand that he had serious work to do?

Jo, on the other hand, got on well with everyone in the team. Except Graham. She found his demands for more information draining, and thought he was cold and pedantic. She felt frustrated by his oh-so-serious attitude. Her view was ‘As long as the jobs get done at the end of the day, what harm is there in having fun?’

We helped Graham and Jo understand their personalities and each other’s. Graham was high in compliance. He thrived on detail and tasks. He liked things to be done properly and held very high standards. He took life seriously, enjoyed analysing things and understanding how they worked. An introvert, he preferred a calm, quiet environment to do his job.

Jo was low on compliance but scored highly as an influencer. Fun, variety and inspiring people were key factors in job satisfaction for her. Extroverted and easily distracted, Jo liked a busy environment where she could encourage and lead.


hrough sharing and discussing their differences, Graham recognised that Jo wasn’t intentionally winding him up. He agreed to stay calmer and to try to understand why small details didn’t matter so much to other people. Jo decided to help Graham by giving him specific instructions and checking he had all the information he needed to do a good job.

Then they fell in love and got married.

No, of course they didn’t.

But knowing yourself and knowing what makes other people tick can fix a team. And if nothing else it’ll save you a fortune on contract killers.