Personality Assessments: Managing Traditionalists & Trailblazers

Work culture is increasingly important, but few managers know how to cultivate a happy, engaged and productive workforce. Vitru was built to bring psychometrics, cultural fit and personality assessments into one place, so everyone has the tools they need to build better teams.

One way to foster innovation and creativity inside your workplace is to study how employees view and interact with the world around them. This gives insight into how to create the right team and where to put them. Vitru5 uses personality traits Originality, Sociability, Focus, Need for Stability and Agreeableness to surface work personality. In this series, we’ll look at each trait and how it might serve to give us a window into work personality and how they work best!


Originality is described as the factor of openness and one’s level of curiosity versus comfort with familiar territory. The two ends of the spectrum are so-named; “trailblazers” and “traditionalists”. A balance between the two ends of the spectrum can lead to an adaptable and level-headed personality fit for just about any job. So, what happens with the personalities that lean to one side or the other? Would some company cultures be a better fit for a strict traditionalist versus a trailblazer?

Let me introduce you to Frank and Zoey.

Meet Frank and Zoey

Zoey has never liked rules. She runs through life at her own speed, unconstrained by social norms and mores. Zoey imagines she blazes her own trail, and if she runs into a roadblock, she finds her way around it. She’s curious. Always trying to come up with a new, innovative solution to better suit her life. Zoey is a trailblazer, but at her entry-level corporate job, she doesn’t feel like one. She has to follow the same routine, day in and day out. Zoey understands how this method works for the company, but still cannot get it to work for her. She is always thinking of new ideas, but they are seen as rash and off the mark by her mid-level managers. She wishes someone would appreciate her ingenuity and forward-thinking, fast-paced nature.

Frank is the opposite of Zoey. He likes his routine. He settles into the “way things are” because they are efficient and practical. He is rational and finds comfort in rules and parameters. Frank is a hard worker and eager to please, but at his new job at a tech startup, he leaves feeling anxious about his day. Everything is constantly changing and never the same as the week before. He can never get into the right routine because each day new tasks are thrown at him like a catch-all. He wants to know what to expect every day so his day can be laid out in the most efficient and practical way, but at the bootstrap startup he calls home, that is not always possible.

Frank and Zoey were hired for their education, experience and skills. They each saw a bright future with the company they chose, but after 4 months, are feeling strained and out of their element. What they failed to take into account were respective natural penchants towards a certain type of work culture.

, mainly due to a cultural mismatch between employee and employer. Is all hope lost for Frank and Zoey? Is it time to pack up their desk ferns and find another job? In all this talk about Frank and Zoey, we’ve forgotten about their (very frustrated managers).

Managing Frank and Zoey

Frank’s manager can’t understand why Frank can’t “get with the program” and enjoy a job that exhilarates everyone else. Zoey’s boss feels Zoey is too flighty to be taken seriously and mistakes her energy for skill. When they interviewed these new additions to the organization, they thought it was a perfect fit but now….they’re not so sure. In this scenario, everyone is frustrated and not performing at peak potential.

Organizational psychology guru Adrian Furnham defines cultural fit as “where there is congruence between the norms and values of the organization and those of the person.” Greater job satisfaction, a higher level of identification with the company and a superior job performance are all side effects that come with an aligned personality and company.

Just because Frank and Zoey don’t mesh into their companies, does not mean they need to become another churn statistic. Psychologist Brian Little points out the restrictions on too much emphasis on personality categorization: “When we construe ourselves or others as being a particular type of person, we have really set limits on our and their capacity to develop.” Packing up and going home at the first frustrating bump may not be best for the companies, or Frank and Zoey.

Startup culture can be fast-paced and exhilarating, but sometimes also disorganized and erratic. Frank could be the person who brings harmony to the small team with his inclination to make a plan and stick to it. His rational approach may just keep the startup team on track to hit their goals, before jumping on the next big idea train. Frank’s manager would be smart to make Frank a project manager, so he can make sure loose ends are tied up and the workflows are dictated by someone who likes… workflows. It would also help Frank buddy-up with someone who can help him see the similarities in different projects and campaigns.

A well-performing, but stagnant corporate sales team could be motivated to new heights by the ambitious spark in Zoey. If open to new ideas and a non-traditional approach, Zoey’s imagination can be put into action by the rest of her team into a solution that benefits both the company and Zoey’s curious and innovative nature. Zoey’s boss should channel her endless energy and desire to solve tough issues into a position that will inspire those around her and find her a mentor with similar characteristics that has done well at the company.

A study by NPR found that diverse teams, be it ethnicity, gender or personality, perform better. David Greene from NPR states: “It’s a matter of looking at individual teams and making sure they’re different perspectives, different points of view, different backgrounds.”

Rather than being frustrated by Frank’s staid, responsible personality or Zoey’s striving, fearless energy; these same traits could be used to make their entire teams stronger.

Like a Glove

Do you see a Zoey or a Frank in your office? Inspire Zoey by asking her to think of a new way to approach a nagging problem. Empower Frank by letting him know his responsibilities and a due date. According to a recent SHRM survey, only 20% of employers say they use some type of personality assessment as part of the hiring process. Get more out of each employee by learning exactly where each falls on the spectrum on the personality trait of “originality.”

Bio: Ryan Mead, CEO/Partner

Vitru is an online application that provides tools to evaluate and build better teams. Powered by science yet practical and easy to use for a variety of teams. From students and nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies Vitru works!

Great organizations, regardless of size or mission, understand that powerful team chemistry is impossible to force; but when it happens, it’s magic.

Vitru allows team leaders to create and assess teams virtually and in doing so helps quantify what makes an outstanding team outstanding.

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Tweet me at @GoVitru

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