- Gretchen Rubin says people come in four types, or “tendencies.”
- Each tendency is best suited to certain types of work environments.
- Knowing your tendency can help you find a role you enjoy and one in which you do well.
Finding a job that fits your personality might seem self-indulgent — do you really need to feel like your boss and coworkers “get” you? Isn’t it enough to do your work well, get a solid performance review, and go home?
Ask Gretchen Rubin and she’ll tell you that personality plays a key role in not only how much you like your job, but also how well you perform at your job.
Rubin is the bestselling author of multiple books including, most recently, “The Four Tendencies,” in which she divides people into four personality types, or tendencies. (You can take Rubin’s quiz to figure out which tendency you fall into.)
Rubin’s quick to acknowledge that anyone can do any job, no matter their tendency, but she says certain tendencies are most likely to thrive in certain work environments.
These are the four types:
Upholders generally meet both inner and outer expectations, meaning they don’t let others or themselves down. Questioners meet inner expectations; they will only do something if they think it makes sense.
Obligers are the biggest category. Obligers meet outer expectations but don’t always meet inner ones; they usually need some form of external accountability. Rebels resist both inner and outer expectations; if you ask a rebel to do something, they will likely resist.
When she visited the Business Insider office in September, Rubin outlined the best types of workplaces for each tendency.
“Obligers are great to have around,” Rubin said. “They can be invaluable team members and visionary leaders — but they need that outer accountability.”
If a boss tells an obliger, “When you get a little bit of downtime, can you run those numbers for me and get that report?” they’re not providing much in the way of accountability.
The good news, Rubin said, is that most workplaces do have a lot of accountability, in the form of oversight, deadlines, and deliverables. But obligers sometimes run into problems when they go freelance or start their own business.
If you’re an obliger in that situation, you might want to hire a coach who keeps you on track. One person Rubin spoke to announced that the first 20 people who signed up for their business got a free e-book — then they actually had to write the e-book.
In “The Four Tendencies,” Rubin writes that upholders tend to do well as entrepreneurs or freelancers because they’re “self-motivated. They can identify what needs to be done and then follow through, even when they don’t have a client, customer, or boss to hold them accountable.”
The flip side is that upholders “sometimes get impatient when others struggle to meet expectations” — especially if those others are their direct reports.
“Questioners often run into problems in the workplace because their questioning can be seen by others as being draining and overwhelming,” Rubin said. “Or, if they have a thin-skinned boss, that boss can feel undermined or like someone’s questioning their authority.”
If you’re a questioner, try to find a work environment that values your relentless curiosity and your willingness to challenge edicts from above.
As for rebels, Rubin said, they “typically do better in situations where there’s a lot of change. Rebels tend to like spontaneity; they don’t like doing the same things every day.”
That’s why rebels tend to do well in sales roles, Rubin said. Not only are you visiting different offices every day making sales calls; “it’s good for people who are willing to think outside the box, maybe are comfortable flouting convention.”
The bottom line: Knowing yourself is always a plus when you’re job-searching. Keep in mind your personality traits — even the ones you exhibit outside the workplace — when you’re choosing a job or a company.
Watch the full interview:
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