Published August 2005

Understanding basic types
of people helps managers

Q. I’m preparing to change employers as well as my job. As the new deputy director of a department at a major corporate headquarters, I will be in charge of operational directions and be expected to contribute effectively in forming strategic plans and projects. I will be working with employees at all levels of the corporation. How can I best prepare to deal with the myriad personalities I’ll encounter as I take on my new responsibilities?

A. Our favorite advice for career success — always be positive, give your best effort, and meet all of your work colleagues no matter their rank better than halfway — applies here but only in a broad sense.

In your particular situation, the ability to rapidly identify — or, “size up” — the many personalities you’ll encounter will go far in helping you achieve both initial and sustained success in your new position.

Modern personality analysis tends to categorize people into one of four main types. Always be aware that each of us is unique and usually a combination of two or all of these types. Usually, one personality emerges and characterizes each of us most accurately.

A long-time favorite, the Marin- Wilson Model of Personality Types, serves as a solid grounding in how to quickly “size-up” individuals. Here’s a look at its four major personality types:

Analyticals. Think of them as “data vaccums,” often known affectionally or not as geeks. They are information sponges; they like to soak up every conceivable detail about a product, project or decision that must be made.

They are serious, orderly, often referred to as perfectionists. Once they feel they’ve gathered all relevant information available for the task at hand, they decide and want to act quickly. Their greatest fear, however, is making the wrong decision.

Dealing effectively with “analyticals” requires reigning in your enthusiasm and emotion, being ahead of them in assembling facts and details and establishing yourself as decisive and in charge.

Amiables. Also known as solid contributors and dependable, “amiables” constitute about half the population. Amiables are the worker bees — they get things done. They aren’t shy about telling the boss what they need to get their job done and will utter an audible sigh if they perceive they have been slighted.

As a boss, do not get on the wrong side of Amiables. If they think they’ve been badly treated, either by a peer or a supervisor, they are likely to share the excruciating details with co-workers, friends and family members. Communicate with Amiables by verbalizing your feelings, asking and listening for their opinions and being decisive.

Expressives. These people are aware of everything that’s going on in their working environment; they have ‘street smarts.’ They are motivated to be well liked; their greatest fear is being rejected. Often referred to as ‘party people,’ they make decisions based on their intuition and what’s popular. If they feel hurt, put down or the target of sarcasm, they will remember it for the rest of their lives no matter how much you apologize. Incorporate emotion into your conversations with “expressives,” be enthusiastic and attentive.

Drivers. They are aggressive, forceful and demanding. They are the type that walk into a room, turn on you and demand you tell them how you justify a decision or project outcome. Ten minutes later, they’re all smiles and backslaps, wondering how your family is doing and naming each one.

They crave power and control, usually basing decisions on “what’s in it for me.” Their biggest fears are losing power and failure. Communicate with drivers by controlling your emotions, focusing on the bottom line and being assertive.

Eric Zoeckler operates a marketing communications firm, The Scribe, and writes “Taming the Workplace,” which appears Mondays in The Herald. Contact him at 206-284-9566 or by e-mail to

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