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Understanding behavioural styles in the workplace

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Stephanie Bessant FIRP is the Director of Rust Consult – a training, coaching and mentoring service for SMEs.

With over 25 years’ experience in the recruitment sector, 14 of these running her own recruitment agency, Stephanie is an expert in matters relating to HR advice, business mentoring, training, health & safety, graduate recruitment and customer experience auditing.

Stephanie shares her insight into 4 key behavioural styles.

She speaks about why it is so important for employers who are recruiting graduates to understand different styles, and how these can work together to create a harmonious, balanced and productive team.

What are behavioural styles?


There are 4 main behaviour styles, which fall under various headings depending on what training method is used.

DISC is a widely used method; these behavioural styles are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance.

Though each behavioural style is unique, it’s uncommon to find a person who exhibits every characteristic of one style.

Usually, you’ll find that an individual is a mixture of all 4 – but with one leading behaviour.

Taking the time to establish employees’ behavioural styles will also help in the process of building a resilient team.

  • Sometimes known as the ‘doer’, these individuals are driven and they want to succeed.

    Generally seen as target-focused, they are direct, work to deadlines, and will want to achieve results at any cost – meaning that they can also be aggressive, dominant and forceful.

  • Those who influence are seen as leaders – they are creative and able to see the wider picture.

    Sociable and extroverted, influencers communicate assertively and loudly to achieve goals.

    They are natural leaders, who can also be egotistical, self-centred, and impulsive.

  • A compliant person is conscientious and meticulous – they will work carefully, precisely, and to budget.

    They are introverted, enjoy working alone, and are very adverse to risks – meaning that they can also be calculating, private and unsociable.

  • Those who display steadiness are generally team players, who can be introverted but always want the best for others.

    Caring and friendly, steady people like routine, and are known for their reliability and consistency.

    But although they are good with people, they can become sulky, withdrawn and resistant when exposed to sudden change.





No behavioural style is ‘better’ than another, and in order for any business to thrive, for the team to work productively and harmoniously, they will usually need all 4. The way I often explain how each behaviour works well together is with this story:

Your business wants to put on an event to raise brand awareness. The first person you would go to is the “influencer” – the social butterfly, who will know all the best places to go, and will lead idea generation for the event.

They’ll quickly find the perfect venue – but the “compliant” individual, the risk-adverse, asks the question, ‘How much is that going to cost?’ It turns out that the perfect venue the “influencer” has found is £5k over budget – far more than the business can afford to pay.

Once a more practical and in-budget venue has been located, the planning begins – this will be run by the “dominant” individual.

They will delegate duties, make sure that schedules are in place, and plan the event to a T, then will move on to do something else.

In order for the team to work effectively and for the event to take place at all, then, the event needs a “steady” individual.

They will ensure that each email is actually sent, that person involved in putting on the event knows what they are doing and is comfortable performing their particular task or tasks – ultimately, they’ll see that the event is carried out efficiently and effectively to the end.

So, each team needs all 4 elements in order for the event to happen.

  • Graduates are leaving university with 1st or 2.1s – and in lots of blue chip companies, we’re seeing that employers want to look at all elements of an individual, including their behaviour.

    Understanding different behavioural styles (some companies choose to use psychometric testing) is a way for employers looking to hire graduates, to get a sense of how they will work in their team and working environment.

    The other thing is that once employers understand the types of behaviour that individual team members possess, they can more easily understand how those people will react in certain situations.

    Good managers can then build teams that utilise all behaviour types, ensure that everything is controlled, and that there is harmony and balance within their company.

  • Different behavioural styles are revealed in what employees do in their spare time, who they choose to spend time with, what they wear, how they present themselves, and their body language.

    Many businesses choose to use psychoanalysis (usually in the form of quizzes, tick-boxes, and short tests) to assess their employees’ dominant behaviour, and look at how much of each style they represent.

    Psychometric testing, often used in graduate recruitment, is usually a similar (often much longer) tick-box style test.

    Employers often give candidates these tests during an interview, and will look to assess patterns in their answers – seeing if they answer questions in a way that they think they should be, and if their answers change when things are worded differently.

    When they look to hire graduates, organisations use psychometric testing to establish how an individual is going to work in a team, something that may influence their hiring decision.

  • Employers need to work out what their own behavioural style is in order to better understand the different styles of each of their employees.

    They can also train managers to understand different behavioural styles – that will also include their own.

    When managers know their own natural style they can adapt their behaviour to ensure they get the best out of other team members.

    Ultimately, it goes back to the story I told earlier on – it’s about understanding that the most balanced and productive team will come from having all 4 behaviour types.

    Especially in graduate recruitment, once employers can understand all behavioural styles and how they work together (who is opposite, and who compliments each other), they can create a harmonious environment where every individual can reach their full potential.

You can connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn here!

Looking to recruit graduates for your business? We are the UK’s graduate recruitment experts – contact us today to find out more about our services.

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