Communicating Effectively with Personality Styles in the Workplace

  • Savannah Higgins
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While I had approximately 10 years of experience in accounting (both public and industry), there is one thing that recruiting taught me that I wish I would have known earlier on in my career – the ability to communicate effectively with diverse personality types in the workplace.  I always considered myself at least somewhat gifted in my ability to connect with others and to balance professionalism as well as empathy for any situation. However, I did not realize, until stepping into the recruiting world, how much psychology goes into being a successful communicator, and how those effective communication skills can impact upward mobility (e.g., promotions), as well as drive results. I look back on instances from my past, from either projects or engagements during my accounting days, and now realize how much more successful I could have been if I knew how to speak someone else’s “personality” lingo. Ultimately, understanding and then utilizing someone’s personality style to communicate in a way that resonates with them can help not only resolve issues more easily, but can also make the other person feel more connected and amenable to you as a professional.

One personality profiling tool that has become more commonplace in the workplace, and which I personally use, is the DISC profile, as highlighted below.

D – Dominance (Results, Determined, Direct)

  • For a client or supervisor that has a ‘D’ personality, you may get the impression that things are better left “short and sweet.” This personality style is generally driven by results, and you probably know where you stand, as they do not tend to sugar coat anything. The best communication style to apply here is similar to their own delivery, meaning the less time it takes to get to the meat of a message, the better. A longwinded message to them via email or text will likely get you an “ok” back, and there is a decent likelihood that they didn’t read the whole thing. Be concise and focus on the one thing they are looking for in the message – the result and/or the solution.

I – Influence (Enthusiastic, Outgoing, Persuasive)

  • For a client or a supervisor that has an ‘I’ personality, they are generally positive, generous when singing your praises, and are likely passionate about mentoring and developing others. Considering how they value collaboration and positive energy, you are likely to communicate most effectively with this personality style when you offer an upbeat and dynamic message. Also, leverage the right moments to ask for their advice, as they will appreciate the opportunity to share a wealth of information to ensure you are successful. Not only is this helpful to you, but it will likely make them feel much more valued as a collaborator and mentor.

S – Steadiness (Thoughtful, Supportive, Patient)

  • For a client or a supervisor that has an ‘S’ personality, they are generally amiable, stable, reliable, and diplomatic as leaders. They tend to value a harmonious environment, so when situations do result in conflict, they are likely to be the ones trying to reunite the parties. Being able to express your thoughts from a “seeing things from both sides” perspective, being a good listener, and being seen as reliable will go far with this personality type.

C – Conscientiousness (Precise, Analytical, Details)

  • For a client or a supervisor that has a ‘C’ personality, you will usually be receiving a lot of communications supported by information and logical thinking. This personality type is generally driven by data, research, and DETAILS! They too are very focused on coming up with actionable solutions, but the process of getting to the right answer is equally motivating for them. To connect best with a C personality, provide them with the details and logic behind your analysis, and do your best to “tell the story” as to how you reached the conclusion. In addition, they will likely be more than happy to explain their thinking when describing how they themselves came to a specific solution.


While it may not always be easy to immediately identify a person’s personality profile, I assure you that if you take the time to pause, consider and try to make a quick assessment before responding in an email (and particularly in a not so pleasant one), that extra reflection could help you gain much more in return (e.g., wisdom, insight, relationship building, and upward mobility). As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”