How to manage remote employees by behavioral type

Different personality types and the impact of remote work

Every employee in your organization has a distinct personality, with some combination of all four behavioral drives that determine how they prefer to work and be managed. 

As a leader, it’s always important to understand your employees’ behavioral profiles so you can tailor the way you communicate, coach, and reward them. But right now, it’s also important to understand how different personality types might be impacted by ongoing remote work—and what actions you can take to support and motivate each individual on your team. 

One thing is certain: In a remote workplace, managers must inspire people in new and different ways. 

In this e-book, we’ll cover:

  • Employee behavioral drives
  • Motivating employees by behavioral type
  • Coaching employees by behavioral type

Put simply, we’ll look at the ways you can leverage your employees’ behavioral strengths while helping them stretch beyond their comfort zone to meet current business needs. 

And while these strategies are applicable to workplaces that are socially distancing, the takeaways remain relevant going forward, once this crisis is behind us.

Ready to learn how to inspire your remote employees based on their individual needs? Let’s begin.

Employee behavioral drives

You can’t cater your managerial style to a person’s personality if you don’t first identify what motivates them. The PI Behavioral Assessment measures four motivating needs or “drives” that have the biggest effect on workplace behavior:

  • Dominance
  • Extraversion
  • Patience
  • Formality 

With a view into where each team member falls on a spectrum of the above factors, you gain insight into how you can manage them for the best results.  

Take a look at the behavioral pattern of our CEO, Mike Zani:

As you can see, Mike has:

  • Very high dominance
  • Very high extraversion
  • Extremely low patience
  • Very low formality

At a glance, you already know a lot about Mike’s workplace behaviors and how you could motivate him. For example, because of his high dominance and high extraversion, he likely craves social interaction and frequent opportunities to influence others. As you can imagine, an employee with this behavioral pattern could struggle with remote work because they don’t get the face-to-face contact they crave. But if you create opportunities for them to lead projects and socialize virtually, you can ensure their needs are met.

Dominance in remote settings

More dominant personalities might be inclined to steer group meetings because they value independence and like to put their ideas into action. And while it might seem like opportunities for imposing influence on others are limited in remote settings, you can still find ways to motivate your high-dominance employees. 

How to motivate high-dominance employees:

  • Give the employee autonomy over how to perform their work in a remote setting.
  • Recognize them for their successes and accomplishments as they relate to working remotely.
  • Challenge them with tasks and assignments that might be more difficult in a remote setting.

Less dominant personalities might be inclined to collaborate as a group. And while it’s impossible to huddle around a conference room table together, it is possible to leverage this low dominance strength.

How to motivate low-dominance employees:

  • Provide opportunities for the employee to collaborate with others regardless of team/geography.
  • Praise their effectiveness for working cohesively and effectively.
  • Offer guidance regarding best practices for remote work.

In addition to motivating your remote employees by playing into their behavioral strengths, you also need to push them to stretch beyond their comfort zone. This will help them overcome any behavioral tendencies that could interfere with the work to be done. On the next page, you’ll learn how to “stretch” your high-dominance and low-dominance employees.

How to stretch your high- and low-dominance employees

As you just read, in addition to motivating employees by playing into their natural behavioral drives (e.g. giving a high-dominance employee the autonomy they crave), managers must also help employees “stretch” to accomplish business goals. Start by pushing your high-dominance employees to do the following.

How to stretch your high-dominance employees

  • Set the tone that although the employee may be physically alone in their work location, there is still a need to collaborate with others.
  • Encourage the employee to go easy on peers who are not as confident about working remotely. This person should try to help them rather than compete with them.
  • Encourage the employee to embrace small, repetitive tasks that may come along with managing their workspace, rather than viewing them as burdensome.

Whereas your more dominant team members may not be afraid to stir things up, your less dominant employees thrive on harmony. But harmony’s an abstract concept when everyone is remote. Stress can be compounded if there’s a feeling that not everyone is on the same page. That’s why it’s important to help these employees “stretch” to embrace that discomfort.

How to stretch your low-dominance employees:

  • Encourage the employee to share remote work best practices with others when you observe them taking place.
  • Help the employee embrace the discomfort and lack of harmony that can come with working remotely.
  • Push the employee to independently solve problems that may arise from remote work.

Extraversion in remote settings

The extraversion drive is perhaps most obviously impacted by remote work. Those with a high amount of the extraversion drive may feel stymied by the lack of peer interaction. 

How to motivate high-extraversion employees:

  • Provide them with opportunities for social interaction.
  • Recognize them for success with remote-work-related challenges.
  • Create opportunities for them to influence others.

Don’t assume more reserved staff are content keeping to themselves. Remote work brings real risks of regression and disengagement, regardless of personality type. But given the chance to construct their calendar on their own terms, these individuals can thrive.

How to motivate low-extraversion employees:

  • Encourage the employee to work in a disruption-free setting.
  • Share objective feedback regarding their remote performance.
  • Give them the freedom to connect with others at the frequency and pace they choose.

How to stretch your high- and low-extraversion employees

It’s tough to feed off the energy of others when you’re at home. Virtual sessions afford the opportunity to interact with others, but also talk through remote work challenges.

How to stretch your high-extraversion employees:

  • Encourage the employee to share objective findings about remote work, as well as their own feelings and opinions.
  • Ask the employee to take time each week to work independently and without disruptions from remote work communication tools.
  • Provide the employee with private recognition of their successes. Remind them that remote work does not always allow for public, large-scale recognition.

Reserved staff are contending with an altered routine and different communication channels. Ahead of group discussions, send out an agenda, asking each person to come prepared with one or two suggestions. Highly extraverted staff will naturally relish the chance to engage, while more reserved team members can then speak up without feeling unprepared or put on the spot. 

How to stretch your low-extraversion employees: 

  • Remind the employee of the benefits of periodic interaction with other remote employees, regardless of the frequency or topic of conversation.
  • Encourage the employee to share their thoughts and opinions with others when reflecting about the nature of remote work.
  • Encourage the employee to ask questions and learn from others working from different locations to establish trust more quickly.

Patience in remote settings

Patient individuals may take kindly to remote work, provided their workspace isn’t littered with distractions. These people seek consistency and familiarity with their routine, which they can establish or re-create at home, allowing them to work through their checklist at a steady pace. 

How to motivate your high-patience employees:

  • Push this person to help and support the rest of the team, leveraging their calm and stable personality.
  • Give this person the chance to bring the team together. This person is great at fostering a collaborative environment that allows others to connect, and the employee will do it well even when the team is remote.
  • Allow this person to help shape group processes.

Those on the lower end of the patience scale crave variety in their day. If there are kids or other distractions at home, manufactured “variety” may not be as necessary. But it’s still important to cater to these faster-paced team members by initiating ad-hoc check-ins, or applying light pressure.

How to motivate your low-patience employees:

  • Give this employee a chance to multi-task. They will embrace the variety it gives them, while staying productive.
  • Add some pressure to this person’s day-to-day routine. Higher intensity work will help keep this person engaged.
  • Communicate clear goals for this employee’s work.

How to stretch your high- and low-patience employees

Individuals with lower patience tend to crave variety. They avoid burnout by way of new challenges and fast-paced environments. High-patience staff can be steadying in a remote environment, but are still capable of being stretched.

How to stretch your high-patience employees:

  • Keep this employee in the loop. The nature of remote work may leave this employee feeling unexpectedly disconnected from others and/or wondering if they’re up-to-date on key decisions that could result in changes to their work.
  • Set clear timelines before projects begin. This employee works at a steady pace, so allow them to plan the amount of time they need to get work done on time. Set the expectation in advance that unexpected changes to the schedule may occur. 
  • Keep your communication positive. This employee is agreeable and thoughtful, and may overanalyze remote communications that seem brief or blunt. 

Where high-patience employees are steady and focused, their low-patience counterparts may be the ones sending them chats and asking for updates. Particularly if action items are contingent upon others completing tasks, employees with a low amount of the patience drive may get antsy in a remote environment.

How to stretch your low-patience employees:

  • Help them avoid burnout by reminding them to take breaks and slow down every now and then.
  • Help this person stay connected with others. Their quick style and fast interpersonal communications may mean that their connections suffer when they work remote.
  • Encourage this person to maintain awareness of everything else that’s going on with the team. It can be tricky to stay on top of team projects when everyone’s working apart from one another, and this person may not want to take the time to do so. 

Formality in remote settings

There’s no denying remote work can lack formality in its traditional sense. Kids are interrupting video conference conversations and coworkers are skipping showers. Informal people would at first seem at an advantage. But formality can manifest in many forms. Flexibility and precision are on opposite ends of the formality spectrum. 

How to motivate your high-formality employees:

  • Provide very clear expectations and guidelines around the work to be accomplished, even though you may work in different locations.
  • Give the employee the opportunity to develop skills in a particular area, encouraging them to be seen as an expert despite differing geographies.
  • Encourage the employee to be seen as a resource for quality and thoroughness of work, both of which can falter when employees work from different locations.

Less formal individuals may embrace the opportunity to “set” their own working hours. They can also be invaluable resources for managers, serving as remote work role models. Ultimately, everyone will be asked to meet in the middle. Managers can encourage flexible staff to promote adaptability, while more formal members help hold everyone accountable to the rules. 

How to motivate your low-formality employees:

  • Give the employee the freedom to dictate their own working experience in terms of timing and methods used.
  • Attempt to give the employee as little oversight as possible.
  • Praise the employee for their willingness to do things differently than what has been done before.

How to stretch your high- and low-formality employees

Remote work stretches formality on either end. Casual hallway chats are no longer possible.

Managerial oversight is undeniably strained. People can’t be monitored all day. High-formality individuals (the rule-followers) will likely stick to the script, while others will take subtle liberties. 

How to stretch your high-formality employees:

  • Help the employee embrace the flexibility of remote work, encouraging them to move away from strict structure all the time.
  • Provide the employee with details and updates, but help them grow comfortable with the uncertainty that comes along with remote work.
  • Given the nature of remote-work-based tools for communication, encourage the employee to adapt a more informal style when communicating with others.

Where more formal employees may view remote life as the Wild West, informal staff will take kindly to it, presenting managers with new challenges. Rather than micromanaging, remind these people they’re trusted, yet still held accountable. Reiterate that they will be afforded autonomy and flexibility, provided they communicated updates, delays, and mistakes. 

How to stretch low-formality employees:

  • Encourage the employee to brainstorm the benefits of process and organization when employees are working in different locations.
  • Identify a specific skill for which the employee can provide expertise to others that is especially valuable in remote work.
  • Remind the employee that others may take a more serious and focused approach to remote work, and they should keep this in mind when working with collaborators.

Successfully manage your remote employees through change 

Great remote management isn’t possible without first recognizing the different personalities that exist within your team and tailoring the way you coach and motivate each individual. 

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