An Evidence-Based Approach to Understanding Workstyle Preferences

In today's dynamic and diverse work environment, understanding individual workstyles has become increasingly important for organizations. Recognizing and addressing the unique preferences, motivations, and behavioral patterns of employees can greatly contribute to the overall success of a company. This includes enhancing teamwork, improving communication, fostering innovation, and creating a more inclusive and positive organizational culture. 

In order to effectively capture the complexity of individual workstyles, we developed a comprehensive model that encompasses the various dimensions of work preferences. The Five-Dimensional Workstyle Model aims to provide a holistic approach to understanding and categorizing workstyles within organizations. By considering a range of dimensions that capture the diverse preferences and tendencies of individuals, this model allows for a more accurate and nuanced understanding of employee workstyles. This report will discuss the five dimensions that form the basis of the model, their scientific basis, as well as the practical applications of the model in improving organizational culture.

The Five-Dimensional Workstyle Model consists of the following dimensions:

Independence vs. Collaboration

People vs. Task Orientation

Structure vs. Agility

Caution vs. Risk-Taking

Detail Oriented vs. Big-Picture Oriented

A note on the five dimensions

By incorporating these dimensions, the model provides a comprehensive view of individual work preferences and tendencies that are relevant to the modern workplace, allowing organizations to better understand the dynamics of their workforce. In turn, this understanding can be used to create more effective teams, develop tailored leadership and management practices, and foster a positive and inclusive organizational culture.

Understanding and addressing the diverse workstyles of employees is critical to improving organizational culture. When employees feel their work preferences are respected and valued, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to the organization. Furthermore, an inclusive culture that embraces diversity in workstyles fosters greater creativity, innovation, and adaptability, enabling organizations to navigate the challenges of an increasingly competitive and complex business landscape.

The Five-Dimensional Workstyle Model encompasses a wide range of workstyle preferences that have been shown to significantly impact individual and team performance. The Five-Dimensional Model captures broad dimensions of workstyle preferences that have practical implications for how individuals approach their work, communicate with others, and make decisions.

The Five-Dimensional Model builds on established theories of work motivation, work preferences, employee strengths and leadership styles. By utilizing this model, organizations can create a more inclusive and positive work environment, ultimately improving their competitiveness and success in the marketplace.

Science behind workstyle

Independence vs. Collaboration

Independence refers to the preference for working independently, with minimal supervision or input from others. Employees who value independence are typically self-motivated and enjoy having the freedom to make their own decisions (Gagne, M. & Deci, E., 2005). Collaboration, on the other hand, refers to the preference for working closely with others, sharing ideas, and seeking input from team members. Collaborative individuals appreciate the benefits of teamwork and enjoy leveraging the strengths and perspectives of their colleagues.

Some individuals gravitate towards collaboration to increase their productivity, job satisfaction and share knowledge. On the other hand, some people prefer to work alone if they have work that requires great concentration, and want more opportunity for individual creativity. The decision to gravitate towards collaboration or working alone can be influenced by factors such as the nature of the task, personal work style, and the specific goals to be achieved. Therefore, while some individuals may thrive in collaborative settings, others may prefer working independently based on their unique strengths and work preferences (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

This ties into Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a macro theory of human motivation and personality that posits individuals are driven by three innate psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy refers to the need to feel effective and capable in one's actions, competence involves the need to master challenges and gain a sense of self, and relatedness pertains to the need for meaningful connections with others. SDT emphasizes that when these needs are satisfied, individuals experience intrinsic motivation, well-being, and optimal functioning. SDT suggests that people are inherently growth-oriented and seek to improve themselves. The theory highlights the importance of autonomous motivation, which arises from internal sources rather than external rewards. It also underscores the role of social and cultural factors in either supporting or undermining an individual's sense of volition and well-being.

The theory comprises six mini-theories that explain various aspects of motivation and personality functioning, such as Cognitive Evaluation Theory (CET) focusing on intrinsic motivation and Organismic Integration Theory (OIT) addressing extrinsic motivation. SDT has been applied across diverse domains including education, organizations, sports, health, relationships, and psychotherapy to understand how autonomy-supportive environments impact performance and well-being.

In essence, SDT underscores the significance of fulfilling basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness to promote intrinsic motivation, personal growth, and overall psychological health. For further details on Self-Determination Theory, you can refer to the works of Deci and Ryan (1985, 2000) as foundational texts in this area.

Impact on team dynamics and project outcomes: The balance between independence and collaboration within a team can significantly impact its overall effectiveness. For instance, teams with a mix of independent and collaborative members can benefit from both independent problem-solving and collective brainstorming. 

People vs. Task Orientation

People-oriented individuals prioritize interpersonal relationships, focusing on the well-being, development, and satisfaction of their colleagues. They excel at building rapport, fostering team cohesion, and resolving conflicts through effective communication and empathy. These individuals are attentive to the needs and emotions of team members, creating a supportive and inclusive work environment where everyone feels valued and motivated to contribute their best (Tabernero et al., 2009).

On the other hand, task-oriented individuals prioritize the completion of tasks, emphasizing efficiency, productivity, and goal attainment. They excel at setting priorities, maintaining focus, and driving results by implementing structured plans, clear objectives, and systematic approaches to task completion. These individuals are detail-oriented, organized, and adept at managing deadlines and resources effectively to ensure successful project outcomes (Tabernero et al., 2009).

Role in communication, motivation, and conflict resolution: Recognizing the balance between people and task orientation within a team can help managers adapt their communication and motivation strategies to suit the preferences of their team members. For instance, people-oriented employees may respond better to supportive, empathetic communication, while task-oriented employees may prefer concise, goal-focused messages. Furthermore, understanding these preferences can help managers anticipate and address potential conflicts within the team (McGrath, J. E., 1964).

Structure vs. Agility

Structure-oriented individuals value clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and processes. They appreciate stability, predictability, and adherence to established guidelines. Flexibility-oriented individuals, on the other hand, value adaptability, spontaneity, and openness to change. They thrive in dynamic environments, where they can experiment with new approaches and respond quickly to evolving circumstances.

Maintaining a structured approach at work is crucial for enhancing efficiency, productivity, and overall performance. By establishing clear processes, defined roles, and organized workflows, individuals can effectively prioritize tasks, set achievable goals, and meet deadlines consistently. Structured work environments promote accountability, reduce errors, and streamline operations, leading to improved outcomes and higher levels of job satisfaction. Research emphasizes the significance of structure in enhancing focus, reducing stress, and fostering a sense of control in the workplace (Harvard Business Review). Embracing structure not only enhances individual performance but also contributes to team success and organizational effectiveness.

Adaptability is a crucial aspect of navigating the dynamic demands of the work environment. It requires openness to feedback, continuous learning, and a commitment to improvement. Setting SMART goals - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound - is essential, but regular review and adjustment based on progress and feedback are equally important. Agile methodologies can aid in breaking down tasks into manageable segments, delivering incremental value, and refining based on customer input and data analysis. Embracing uncertainty as a chance for growth rather than a hindrance is key. Seeking diverse viewpoints from colleagues, customers, and stakeholders can provide valuable insights. Proactive adaptability involves anticipating challenges, preparing contingency plans, and swiftly responding to new opportunities. This approach ensures readiness to tackle changes and effectively address emerging situations.

Influence on decision-making, problem-solving, and adaptability: The balance between structure and flexibility within a team can impact its decision-making and problem-solving capabilities. Structured teams may be more effective at following established procedures, while flexible teams may be better at adapting to new situations and generating creative solutions. Understanding these preferences can help managers create an optimal balance between stability and adaptability within their teams.

Cautious  vs. Risk-Taking

Cautious employees prioritize thorough analysis, careful consideration of potential outcomes, and minimizing risk. They may be slower to make decisions but aim to ensure the best possible results. Risk-takers, on the other hand, are more comfortable with uncertainty and are willing to make bold decisions, even when the outcome is uncertain. They may make decisions more quickly, but they also accept the potential for failure as part of the process.

Research shows that risk-takers have different brains than cautious individuals. Studies suggest that risk-taking behavior is influenced by changes in the brain's cognitive control system, which improve individuals' capacity for decision-making and risk assessment (Steinberg, L., 2008). Genetic studies have identified variants associated with risk tolerance. These genetic variants are linked to brain regions involved in reward processing and mood regulation, suggesting that neurochemicals like glutamate and GABA play a role in individual differences in risk tolerance (Palmer A., 2019). While certain individuals are more inclined towards risk-taking behavior, cautious individuals tend to avoid unpredictability and ambiguity in their lives (Ferguson M.A. & Valenti J. M., 1991).

Implications for innovation, growth, and organizational learning: The balance between cautious decision-making and risk-taking can impact a team's ability to innovate, grow, and learn. Teams with a mix of cautious and risk-taking members may be better equipped to explore new opportunities, challenge the status quo, and learn from both successes and failures. However, it is essential for managers to strike the right balance, ensuring that risks are taken with a calculated approach and that the team does not become overly cautious or reckless.

Detail Oriented vs. Big-Picture Oriented

Detail-oriented individuals focus on the specifics of tasks, projects, and processes. They excel at tasks requiring accuracy, precision, and attention to detail. In contrast, big-picture thinkers prioritize the broader context, focusing on the overall goals, trends, and strategic implications. They excel at tasks requiring vision, strategy, and long-term planning.

Contribution to strategic planning, execution, and organizational alignment: A balance between detail-oriented and big-picture thinking is crucial for effective strategic planning and execution. Detail-oriented team members can ensure that projects are executed with precision, while big-picture thinkers can guide the team's direction and ensure alignment with the organization's overall strategy. Managers should recognize and leverage these preferences to optimize the team's performance and contribution to the organization's goals.


Practical application & embracing diverse teams

The Five-Dimensional Workstyle Model has clear practical applications for forming and managing teams within organizations. Research has shown that diverse teams with a mix of workstyle preferences are more effective in problem-solving, decision-making, and adapting to change (McGrath, 1964; Mintzberg, 1989). By understanding and considering the workstyle preferences of their employees, managers can create teams that leverage the strengths and balance the weaknesses of various workstyles, ultimately enhancing team effectiveness and overall organizational performance (Belbin, 2012).

Furthermore, the Five-Dimensional Model can help managers identify potential areas of conflict or miscommunication within their teams, allowing them to develop strategies for resolving these issues and fostering a more inclusive and positive team dynamic (Thompson, 2018).

Enhancing leadership and management practices

Understanding the Five-Dimensional Workstyle Model can enable leaders and managers to develop tailored leadership and management practices that better engage, motivate, and support their employees. For instance, research on transformational leadership (Bass & Riggio, 2006) suggests that leaders who adapt their leadership style to suit the workstyle preferences of their employees are more likely to achieve high levels of employee satisfaction, commitment, and performance.

By applying the Five-Dimensional Model, managers can create a more inclusive work environment by implementing practices that accommodate the diverse workstyles of their employees, such as offering flexible work arrangements, providing opportunities for both autonomous and collaborative work, and adjusting communication and decision-making processes to suit the preferences of team members (Sull, Homkes, & Sull, 2015).


The Five-Dimensional Workstyle Model allows organizations to develop a comprehensive understanding of the diverse preferences and tendencies of their employees. This understanding can be utilized to create more effective teams, enhance communication, and foster a positive and inclusive organizational culture. Furthermore, the model provides a framework for tailoring leadership and management practices to suit the unique needs and preferences of employees, ultimately contributing to increased employee engagement, satisfaction, and organizational success.


Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2017). Job demands–resources theory: Taking stock and looking forward. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 22(3), 273-285.

Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership (2nd ed.). Psychology Press.

Belbin, R. M. (2012). Team roles at work. Routledge.

Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work: Test of a theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 16(2), 250-279.

McGrath, J. E. (1964). Social psychology: A brief introduction. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Mintzberg, H. (1989). Mintzberg on management: Inside our strange world of organizations. Free Press.

Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. Doubleday/Currency.

Sull, D., Homkes, R., & Sull, C. (2015). Why strategy execution unravels—and what to do about it. Harvard Business Review, 93(3), 57-66.

Thompson, L. (2018). Making the team: A guide for managers. Pearson.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185(4157), 1124-1131.

Did this answer your question?