We talk a lot about temperament in the workplace when we want to describe how employees interact, the reaction we receive when we make an assignment, or what leads to conflict.  Just like other more physical traits, temperament is fixed in each of us and stays fairly consistent over time.

The idea that we can create a typology to describe temperament goes back to the time of Ezekiel or approximately 590 BC.  By drawing on the properties of animals, Ezekiel described the temperament of people as being like a lion, ox, man, or eagle.  Before 250 BC when scholars of the day assigned elements to people (earth, wind, fire, ether, and water), seasons and signs of the zodiac were proxies for our differences in personalities.  Hippocrates followed in 400 BC,  and as recently as 1998 Hartman produced his Personality Profile.  Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Paracelsus, and others built on these early works utilizing a four or five part typology.  The basic five part typology which included introverted/task-oriented, extroverted/task-oriented, extroverted/relationship-oriented, ambiverted, and introverted/relationship oriented serves as the basis for most of the later work for more than 2,000 years.

When discussing personalities and temperament, the person that most of us are familiar with is Carl Jung.  Carl Jung drew his inspiration from the early Greek scholars and his 1921 book, Personality Types is the basis for much of the work that has followed.  Most of us have participated in a Myers Briggs or MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) session where we have found out which of the four letter combination types we are most like.  Isabel Briggs Myers worked with her mother Katharine Briggs to develop Carl Jung’s theories into useful tools for understanding who people really are, what motivates people, how to develop people, how best to form teams, and why people interact like they do.  A short test is available at: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes1.htm.

More recently, Taylor Hartman used colors to describe personalities.  His typology includes: Red (the power wielders), blue (the do-gooders), white (the peacekeepers), and yellow (the fun lovers).  The test is located at http://www.colorcode.com/.  He hypothesizes that the current population fall into the categories as follows: reds (25 percent); blues (35 percent); whites (20 percent); and yellows (20 percent).

As you consider your workforce, there are a variety of systems that you can use.  Most will provide you with considerable insight into your workplace.  If we tie all the diverse tools together, there are six important areas to consider:

  • Emotional Maturity – understanding the world through an adult frame of reference instead of a child’s.  A mature person accepts criticism, avoids self-pity, controls outbursts, responds to crisis with logic and analysis, and listens to the ideas of others.
  • Conscientiousness – possessing the discipline, thoroughness, organizational skills, and desire for achievement to make one successful.
  • Agreeableness –exhibiting a tendency to be pleasant and accommodating in social interactions by demonstrating empathy, friendliness, generosity, and helpfulness.
  • Sociability – possessing the desire to live and work around others in a group or the desire to have social interaction.
  • Sensing – live in reality as well as perceive and understand the feelings of others they interact with in the workplace.
  • Negative Emotions – recognize negative emotions and can deal with them in a constructive and expeditious manner while minimizing the impact on those working in the same area.
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