Do you ever wonder why it’s so easy to work with some people and so difficult to communicate with others? This is completely normal since we’re all different. But if you manage teams or you just want to effectively cooperate with other people, Thomas Erikson’s personality types may be helpful.
The model, created by T. Erikson, is like a roadmap for those who crave a more meaningful connection with their surroundings. Achieving this goal is possible by becoming more aware of how different personality types see the world, and by predicting their reactions to particular scenarios. This may seem like a daunting task, but sometimes it’s enough to be open to diversity, a Green’s powers of observation (more on that in a moment) and empathy.
In his books (“Surrounded by idiots”, “Surrounded by psychopaths”, “Surrounded by bad bosses”), Erikson describes the 4 main personality types: red, green, blue and yellow. What’s important to note from the start, none of the types are better than the others and each type has both strengths and weaknesses. Without a doubt, each of these personality types has a different attitude towards life – and so towards work as well.
Maybe you’re wondering if this kind of model introduces artificial categories – at the end of the day, no two people are alike and everyone is different. That’s true, yet research shows that the personalities of nearly 80% of people can be classified by linking two colors from Erikson’s model. And that can definitely make communication and relationship-building easier. How does it work?
As mentioned earlier, the four main personality colors are red, blue, green and yellow. Yet only 5% of people can be defined by just one color. We usually match e.g. the characteristics of commanding red and analytical blue or empathetic green and inspiring yellow. What are the characteristics of the particular types?
Reds are extremely energetic, goal-oriented and excel at anything they do. They’re passionate about their work and are quick to make decisions, regardless of the consequences. But since reds are so confident, they believe that only their ideas and solutions are the most valuable, and that can make them quite difficult to work with on a daily basis. They don’t like criticism and they’re not afraid of conflicts, which can discourage others from working with them. Red personality types savor risk and may be seen as strong leaders. They’re also direct, domineering and headstrong.
How do I deal with Reds at work? Reds need to hear it like it is. Remember that Reds are always in action and are results-oriented. When working with people with this personality type, say directly what you mean, be prepared for discussion and stick to the facts.
Yellow personality types need constant incentives, and this is guaranteed by contact with other people. They’re extroverted and very sociable, focusing on the positive. Yellows are usually pretty good leaders, team players, and public speakers. When a Yellow starts to tell a story, he/she can go on and on, forgetting what the conversation was about in the first place. These are personality types who may not do well in positions requiring lots of responsibility and self-discipline. They’re also sensitive and try not to hurt others.
How do I deal with Yellows at work? Yellows are very creative and innovative, but they need support in transforming their vision into reality. Don’t be surprised when they skip a deadline or a task slips their memory – and try not to bear a grudge. These personality types are helpful and (usually) enthusiastic, but they’re not too keen on detailed instructions, and their attitude to work is often based on how they’re feeling.
Being a group leader or part of a large team may be too much of a challenge for a green personality type. Greens are generally characterized as being calm, empathetic and with a balanced personality, yet they prefer to work individually or in small groups. They are usually trustworthy, good listeners and observers, who dislike conflicts. Greens are well-liked by most of the team and aren’t bothered by fulfilling other people’s requests. They care about living in harmony with nature and aren’t afraid of hard work to support their families.
How do I deal with Greens at work? It’s important to remember that Greens don’t like to make decisions. Greens want to be supporting, but it’s worth reminding them of their job tasks. These are kind-hearted people, who also need to be heard, and any thoughts on their work should be mentioned one to one.
Blue personality types are rational, precise and rigorous. They’re also fond of order and efficiency. Blues say what they think in a very meticulous way and are able to see a situation from different perspectives. On the other hand, they can be perceived as overly critical, finicky and too slow to act. Blues constantly strive for perfection and can confront those that undermine their ideas or values. But blue personality types are also open, friendly and willing to work with others. They prefer calmness and would rather avoid risk.
How do I deal with Blues at work? Details and data mean a lot to Blues, so when working with them be well-prepared and master the topic. Don’t ask a Blue for work with immediate effect and be careful with critique, as these personality types are sensitive to judgment.
Although there’s no single effective recipe for the ideal team, Erikson’s model is a valuable indicator for HR managers. The idea is to hire people who will complement each other with different personalities and attitudes towards job tasks, achievements and failures. But is it all really worth it? These are, after all, additional things to do and can drag out recruitment processes.
To answer this question, let’s use a metaphor – would van Gogh’s paintings be famous today if he had only painted sunflowers? They could have been, but it’s doubtful. It’s the same with a team’s effectiveness. It would be hard to reach your goals if your team is solely made up of innovative yellow personality types; you would still need someone to bring these amazing ideas to market.
Also, a diverse team has better opportunities for development for its members, as everyone can learn something new from their colleagues, as well as nurture their talents with the support of a mindful leader. And that’s truly an advantage for both a company and its employees.
There are many benefits from knowing the personality color types of your employees. That’s why Erikson’s model is used by companies around the world. Having said that, it’s worth remembering that personalities are incredibly complex and a rough interpretation of personality color types carries the risk of stereotyping your employees.
If better team cooperation and a higher employee awareness of their strengths and weaknesses is important to you, offer them professional support in personal development. Our specialists are here to help.
Erikson T., Otoczeni przez idiotów. Jak dogadać się z tymi, których nie możesz zrozumieć, Wyd. Wielka Litera, Warszawa 2017
I am a clinical psychologist, psychoanalytical psychotherapist and group analyst. For 9 years I have been running my own psychotherapy practice, extended by psychological coaching services in the area of personal development, team management and organizational culture. I am a co-author of two books: “Man and Psychology”, where I wrote a chapter on psychotherapy, and “Analytical Psychotherapy. Group Processes and Phenomena”, where I wrote about the destructive mechanisms of a group process.