By August 25, 2009 Read More →

6 Personality and Work Environment Types

6PersonalityAndWorkEnvironemtns

“What you are comes to you.” –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m a fan of lenses to help me get a better perspective or vantage point.  If you’re looking for a job or thinking about your career, you can use Holland’s theory of career choice to help you find a better fit.

John L. Holland identified 6 personality and work environment types.  According to Holland, if you can match your personality type and your work environment, you can improve your success and satisfaction.  The idea is that “birds of a feather, flock together,” and that people with the same personality type tend to enjoy working with each other.  For example, Artistic people enjoy working with other Artistic people.

Additionally, people with the same personality type tend to create a work environment that rewards thinking and behaving like that type.  For example, an Artistic environment rewards creative expression.  The result? …  When you’re in an environment that supports you, you act and feel more effective.  The thing to remember is that personality types are really just lenses on behavior.  Rather than assume you’re just one personality type, Holland suggests that you have interests with each of the 6 personality types, in descending order, effectively creating 720 different personality patterns.

In the book The Truth About Managing People…And Nothing But the Truth , Stephen R. Robbins writes about the six personality and work environment types.

6 Personality and Work Environment Types

 Here are the six personality and work environment types based on Holland:

  1. Realistic
  2. Investigative
  3. Artistic
  4. Social
  5. Enterprising
  6. Conventional

Here is a summary of the six personality and work environment types based on Holland:

  1. Realistic (Do’er) – Prefers physical activities that require skill, strength, and coordination. Traits include genuine, stable, conforming, and practical.  Example professions include architect, farmer, and engineer.
  2. Investigative (Thinker) – Prefers working with theory and information, thinking, organizing, and understanding. Traits include: analytical, curious, and independent.  Example professions include lawyer, mathematician, and professor.
  3. Artistic (Creator) – Prefers creative, original, and unsystematic activities that allow creative expression. Traits include: imaginative, disorderly, idealistic, emotional, and impractical.  Example professions include: artist, musician, and writer.
  4. Social (Helper) – Prefers activities that involve helping, healing, or developing others.  Traits include cooperative, friendly, sociable, and understanding.  Example professions include counselor, doctor, and teacher.
  5. Enterprising (Persuader) – Prefers competitive environments, leadership, influence, selling, and status.  Traits include ambitious, domineering, energetic, and self-confident.  Example professions include Management, Marketing, and Sales Person.
  6. Conventional (Organizer) – Prefers precise, rule-regulated, orderly, and unambiguous activities.  Traits include conforming, efficient, practical, unimaginative, and inflexible.  Example professions include accountant, clerk and editor.

Match Personalities and Jobs

 People are happiest when they are put in jobs that match their personality.  Robbins writes:

“The evidence indicates that employee satisfaction is highest and turnover lowest when personality and occupation are in agreement.  social individuals, for instance, should be in social jobs, conventional people in conventional jobs, and so forth.”

Holland’s Hexagon

Holland created a hexagon view to show the relationships of personality types.  Personality types closer to each other are more alike.  Personality types further away are least alike.

6PersonalityAndWorkEnvironmentTypes2

For example,  artistic is least like conventional, but closer to investigative and social.

Compatible Work Environments

The following table summarizes the compatibility of personality type with work environments:

Personality Type Most Compatible
Work Environments
Compatible
Work Environments
Least Compatible
Work Environments
Realistic Realistic
  • Investigative
  • Conventional
Social
Investigative Investigative
  • Realistic
  • Artistic
Enterprising
Artistic Artistic
  • Investigative
  • Social
Conventional
Social Social
  • Artistic
  • Enterprising
Realistic
Enterprising Enterprising
  • Social
  • Conventional
Investigative
Conventional Conventional
  • Enterprising
  • Realistic
Artistic

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resource to explore the Holland Codes:

My Related Posts

Photo by dawvon.

29 Comments on "6 Personality and Work Environment Types"

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  1. Valerie M says:

    Interesting. It’s true that you usually can’t fit yourself into one category. I know I can’t. Another thing is it’s possible for certain traits/personality types/category in one person to evolve and become stronger than the others. I know it sounds like we all have multiple personality disorder … but maybe we do, figuratively!

  2. Very interesting stuff! I’m definitely in the artistic and investigative categories and it’s great to see what work environments will be compatable with my personality!

  3. JD,

    I really like your tables which organise the information and makes it easy to understand. Does this format demonstrate that you are both investigative and conventional? As in, you like to understand new information and organise it in a structured way. Because I’m like that too!

  4. This post could easily have gone on my blog too. I talk about focusing on people’s strengths and passions. Because when a person uses both that’s when the magic happens.

    I think I fall under the artistic category. I love to create and investigate. That’s why I love writing and teaching. I get the best of both worlds.

  5. Very good summary of his work. This is confirming for me as I am at once Social, Artistic and Enterprising. I don’t like assessments that tend to put one in a box. But this is could because it’s accurate and simple with plenty of wiggle room.

  6. Hi JD,

    Years ago, I never bought into the belief of the correlation between a person’s personality and work environment. At that time, I figured that most people have no idea who they truly are so the majority just go with what they were raised to believe is the right course in terms of a career.

    Now, my view is totally different because I see that correlation first hand every single day at work. My day job is that of a lawyer and 99.9% of the people I work with are pretty much same. I, the oddball (the .1%), is totally different and hence, my intense desire to switch career paths which I am doing when I am not at my day job.

    As for the type that I am…artistic. :)

  7. Christine says:

    this was an interesting read, thanks for putting it together for us! my daughter has one more year before university and I forwarded this to her for further thought on career choices.

  8. In addition to matching your personality type with work type, it can be an interesting exercise in team dynamics to balance various types as well as cross identify. Helps with the arguing.

  9. Interesting!

    Unlikely as it may be, I seem to have both artistic (creative) and conventional (efficient and organized) traits.

  10. Hi JD

    The unfortunate thing is that the job spec is very rarely our personality spec. No wonder there is stress and confusion when trying to squeeze oneself into the “personality” of your job.
    That’s where I’ve always been.

    …Am only just getting back my shape now ;)

    Juliet

  11. J.D. Meier says:

    @ Valerie

    It’s really an exercise in stack ranking your preferences. I think the other key is knowing your polar opposite (in other words, where would you have the least fun.)

    @ Positively Present

    Artistic and investigative are an interesting combo. It’s like idea artistry or information artistry.

    @ Daphne

    I’m a fan of mental models, structured information, and thinking skills. I actually enjoying turning complex information into something useful. I could play with information all day, as long as I can turn it into results. I get energy from getting results.

    I’m more of a do’er than a thinker, but I like applied research … really I like to change the game.

    @ Karl

    I like how you distinguish between strengths and passions. A lot of people think they are the same. You might be great at something, but hate it.

    Writing and teaching are a great combo.

    @ Tom

    Thank you. I think the beauty of this system is that it’s a set of preferences you can rank. It’s similar to stack ranking your values. At the end of the day, they can help you see things a new way or make tough trade-offs.

    @ Nadia

    I think you really highlight a great point. It’s easy to follow a career at the expense of your preferences. It’s easy to build skills too and at some point, forget what we really enjoy. I used to do a lot of work in spreadsheets. I was good at it. I hated it. Now, I make more impact and play to my strengths.

    @ Christine

    That’s great to hear. I know choosing paths can be tough. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Some people know what they want to be right from the start. For me, it’s been continuous exploration, but I enjoy the journey.

    @ Fred

    I know exactly what you mean. Our group has gone through various shuffling over the years, and it’s easy to see the tension wax and wane based on different combos.

    @ Vered

    I think that’s actually a powerful combination. Based on my experience, I’ve seen that combination serve a lot of people well because the conventional helps their artistic side get results.

    @ Juliet

    I know what you mean about the mismatch. I do see people that follow their passions tend to find better fits, but it’s always trade-offs.

    It’s great that your back on your horse now.

  12. Avani Mehta says:

    Is it possible that we switch our dominant personalities – and the descending order keeps changing?

    When I am strongly realistic, I sometimes have troubles with the artistic ones. However, times when I am artistic, I feel realistic ones break the flow. (I am both)

  13. Ooo, no wonder I’ve always run from convention. And reality. :) Spot-on, tho! Good one, J.D.

  14. I love these personality type articles. I’m definitely investigative and artistic. Oddly enough, I’m a little conventional too (but not in the conventional sense).

  15. J.D. Meier says:

    @ Avani

    Interesting question. I know exactly what you mean. I switch modes too, and when I do, it feels like a complete mindset shift. It’s as if swapping out one hat for another.

    @ Jannie

    Thank you. You can run, but you can’t hide :)

    Let me guess … your inner artist runs the show?

    @ Melissa

    I think I know what you mean about conventional, but not in the conventional sense. I know the rules to bend them, and I suspect you do too. You have a nice blend of investigative + artistic.

  16. Walter says:

    I think we all possess those personalities. The main problem is that we don’t develop each equally; we give more dedication on one aspect but neglect the other.

    Imagine what one can achieve if all of this personal characteristics were developed? I sure to be a millionaire. :-)

  17. Hilary says:

    Hi JD .. wonderfully well explained – I like the fact we are a mix. I am definitely a mix of all six and actually I’m not sure I exactly know where I fit – perhaps that’s just because of where I’m at now – torn between three lives. I would say I’m not artistic, because I can’t draw, but I’m not sure that’s right either; but I don’t conform and have never liked doing so – but I’m not an extreme either and know that I need to fit into normality.

    Oh dear – too much to think about .. but a really interesting set of mix and matches .. thanks -
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  18. At first i thought about realistic (engineering) type for me then i hit social (examples helps a lot). Hmm… interesting combination – social engineering, huh? ;)

    Well, i walked away just with it – social/realistic. Kind of explains why i enjoy working as a consultant, eh?

  19. JB King says:

    Perhaps there is a little more grey to using this if one likes to think in terms of scaling each of these 6 somehow as I know sometimes I may feel that 2 or 3 of these are where I consider my strengths at that moment to be, which may not be the same as someone else even though the stack order is the same. Course I may be overanalyzing again. ;)

    Another point is that while the examples are helpful, they aren’t always going to be 100% right. For example, I suspect that there are some doctors that really like being investigative and artistic in doing research and trying to find new therapies or drugs to combat various illnesses and conditions. Likewise there had to be some creative accountants that created those wonderful new ideas that gave us history lessons like Enron or the reasons for having GAAP standards.

    That there is another duality again is somehow reassuring to me. I’ve seen this time and again and wonder if somehow binary organization is just hard-wired into us in a way. Good vs. evil, up vs down, left vs right, and so on for a pair of complementary sides to the universe.

  20. JD says:

    @ Walter

    I like to think of it as a sliding scale of preferences and abilities. It’s true we don’t develop each equally.

    @ Hilary

    Thank you. I find it helpful to find which scenario you like least and which one you like most. That way you have a set of boundaries for what you’ll enjoy and what you won’t.

    @ Alik

    It makes sense. It sounds like you found a perfect fit for your preferences and abilities.

    @ JB King

    I agree. At the end of the day, it’s a spectrum of possibilities.

  21. Well spoken. I quite agree with the view points. Thanks for sharing such beautiful thoughts.

  22. Badr says:

    Thank you for the interesting article, great job!
    It’s seems like the Enneagram, Holland’s Hexagon has 6 types of personality but the Enneagram has 9.

  23. Josh Pents says:

    Thats a piece worth looking through for any Human Resoucre sourcing firms and personal career checks