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Collaboration tips: Why your team’s personality types matter

Want to improve collaboration in the workplace? Consider different personality types and what motivates them up

Collaboration, or working with others to produce something or achieve a common end goal, is not always easy. Successful collaboration requires that you keep several factors in mind.

First and foremost, you need to know what motivates those with whom you are collaborating. This is important because what motivates one person does not necessarily motivate another, and to achieve a successful working relationship you need to know if your goals are aligned.

To create a healthy, productive work environment, it is essential to understand what drives each individual. There are three defining factors that motivate most people in their relationships with others:

  • Achievement
  • Affiliation
  • Power

In simple terms, achievement-motivated people are generally goal-oriented; affiliation-motivated people tend to prefer collaboration over competition and usually avoid conflict; and those motivated by power look to influence others and often want to lead.

Instead of judging others, try to understand what moves them and work with their qualities.

It is not impossible to collaborate with someone who does not share your motivation, but you should be aware of where that person is coming from. Your interactions with them will indicate how highly motivated they are by each of these factors.

Instead of judging others, try to understand what moves them and work with their qualities. This helps to ensure that your collaborative relationship will flow smoothly: When we feel supported in our goals, we tend to work better.

In many cases, motivation is not generalised: What motivates a person in one situation is not necessarily the same thing that motivates them under a different set of circumstances.

Consider the five-factor model: Where does your teammate fit?

Motivation is not the only factor to consider, however – it is also important to look at how their personality traits and qualities match with yours.

Consider the OCEAN model, also known as the Five-Factor model, developed by Robert R. McCrae and Jüri Allik:

Openness: How receptive are they to new experiences, including learning new things, thinking outside the box, and accepting changes? Rating high in openness generally indicates that the person is creative and imaginative. An individual who is low in this trait may be more likely to hold more traditional values and to prefer routine.

Conscientiousness: Are they able to exercise self-control and act according to their principles – in other words, do what is right and act in socially acceptable ways? People who grade high in conscientiousness are usually responsible, persistent, and resourceful. People who score low in this area may tend to procrastinate and act impulsively.

Extroversion: Are they energised by the company of others, or do they prefer solitude? A person high in extroversion likely enjoys the attention of others and feels secure in social situations. In contrast, those who score low in extroversion are probably more reserved and introspective. They may seek solitude to recharge and prefer interacting with smaller groups of people.

Agreeableness: How well do they get along with others? Not to be confused with extroversion, agreeableness refers to how mindful one is of others. An agreeable person is usually well-liked and takes an interest in the lives of others. People who rate low in agreeableness tend to be more self-centered and unlikely to put another person’s needs before their own.

Neuroticism: Are they emotionally stable and comfortable within themselves? This trait involves how often and how intensely people feel negative emotions. A person who rates high in neuroticism often feels insecure and vulnerable. They may be perceived as overly sensitive and may overreact in certain situations. These individuals may struggle to feel comfortable even if their situation improves. A person who scores low on neuroticism, in contrast, is likely more confident and adventurous, and not prone to self-doubt.

The better you understand your own personality traits and motivations, the easier it is to spot these things in others.

First step: Know your own motivations

There is no specific formula to gauge your colleagues’ motivations or personality traits, and you can never be completely sure of their mindset. But it helps to know yourself. The better you understand your own personality traits and motivations, the easier it is to spot these things in others.

You can learn a lot about others by looking for clues in their behavior and conversations. In a collaborative space, for example, ask your colleague or team member what task they would like to do. Their response will help you see what motivates them. For example, suppose you are working on a project that requires research and a presentation – a colleague who prefers to do research over public speaking may be low on extroversion.

Before you can determine what motivates others and apply the OCEAN model to better understand their personality traits, you need to know yourself: What are your own personality traits? What things motivate you?

Answering these questions will help you assess how effectively you can work with others and if the collaboration will succeed.

About the Author

Somi Arian is a tech philosopher, international speaker, entrepreneur, award-winning filmmaker, and LinkedIn Top Voice influencer. Her work focuses on the impact of technology on society at large, the business landscape, and the future of work. A sought-after transition architect, Arian has given talks and workshops to industry leaders from organizations such as the BBC, The Economist, Marie Claire, Amazon, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Virgin Atlantic, and American Express. Her 2018 documentary, The Millennial Disruption, was nominated for a dozen international film festival awards, winning the Worldfest Houston Silver Remi for Best Documentary Short Film (2019) and Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema’s Best Directory Documentary (2019).  Her new book is Career Fear (and How to Beat It): Get the Perspective, Mindset, and Skills You Need to Futureproof Your Work Life. Learn more at

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