By Lydia Weiss
Our work style is something that often feels intuitive – something that has been developed over years and years of habits or have become ingrained in us by the role models in our lives. I’m not talking about whether or not you’re a procrastinator, but more about where and when we are completing work and tending to our personal lives.
Work-life researcher and author, Ellen Kossek has categorized work styles into three categories: Integrators, Separators, and Volleyers.
- Integrators: “Integrators blend work and family through a wide variety of means” – they are the folks who physically integrate work and life and also often mentally and emotionally integrate their work and life worlds;
- Separators: “Separators keep work and non-work activities compartmentalized throughout the day” – this is pretty common for those whose work doesn’t allow them to bring work home or vice versa;
- Volleyers: “Volleyers – integrate the work and nonwork aspects of their lives at times and separate them at other times, depending on their priorities and the circumstances of their professional and home or personal life” – these are the folks who might bring work home if they have a large project or deadline, but otherwise keep it pretty much at work.
Maybe simply from reading these brief descriptions, you immediately know your work style, or maybe you are little unsure. If you want to learn more about work style, check out Kossek’s book, CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age. In the book, you can even take a self-assessment to find your work style.
But why is this important? When working in a team, which all of us do to some extent, understanding your style can help alleviate potential conflicts. If you are a Separator, have you ever had a boss who constantly emails or texts you at midnight because that is when they are working? That was probably a little annoying. Or if you are an Integrator, have you ever noticed the look on your partner’s face when you’ve brought work to the kitchen table…again? If you can be aware of your work style, it provides you with the opportunity to have a discussion with your coworkers, supervisor, and loved ones about your habits and talk about how you can all work together harmoniously.
This leads us into boundary setting. One great example is to have a team conversation about everyone’s work styles (which the WorkLife Office can help facilitate!) and to develop boundaries as a team. For instance, as a supervisor who is an Integrator, it might be incredibly beneficial to say to your team, “I am an Integrator, so when I email you at midnight, I don’t actually expect you to respond right then.” This can alleviate unseen pressures within the whole team. Similarly, by understanding your coworkers work styles, it may be easier to communicate other boundaries related to flexible work arrangements and other workplace considerations.
Source: Kossek, E.E. & Lautsch, B.A. (2008). CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.