Posted: 07 Nov. 2022 10 min. read

What if we’re not so different after all?

When we talk about Business Chemistry, we often focus on our differences. If some people think the big picture counts the most, and others think the details matter more, those differences can affect how we make decisions. Likewise, if some people want to cooperate and others to compete, that can affect how we relate to one another and work together. But as important as differences can be for helping to create strong relationships at work, our similarities can be powerfully informative, too. So as the month progresses toward Thanksgiving, I’d like to spend a bit of time focusing on some of the ways in which maybe we’re not so different from one another.

Each of the findings below comes from one of our large studies that survey thousands of professionals from organizations all around the world. While we have often found (and previously discussed) significant differences among the four Business Chemistry types, in each case that follows we also found commonalities across Pioneers, Guardians, Drivers, and Integrators.

In one study, we requested that people list three words that best describe them. The words loyal, passionate, creative, and driven appear in the top 10 lists for all four types. Since we often claim for ourselves the characteristics we most value in others, these traits provide a window into people’s identities and tell us something, too, about what they likely want in a colleague. I don’t know about you, but those four words certainly describe some of my favorite teammates.

In a study about tackling tough challenges we found differences in whether people embrace a variety of problem-solving principles; however, what was common across types was the tendency for individuals to report embracing each principle to a greater extent than their team embraces them. It seems all types are vulnerable to the “Lake Wobegon effect” (by which we overestimate our own achievements and capabilities in relation to others).

When asked to rate various career priorities, the top choice for all types is a feeling of accomplishment, followed by doing work I enjoy. These priorities outrank a variety of others, including advancement, compensation, work/life balance, and making a difference in the world. Do you suppose we could help people get what they most want more of the time?

Speaking of that feeling of accomplishment, all types agree that their favorite way to be recognized for day-to-day accomplishments is a simple thank-you (more than a written thank-you note, a celebration, or a gift). For more significant accomplishments, all types prefer to be offered a growth opportunity in recognition of their contributions (more than a salary increase, bonus, or high performance rating). Is it just me, or does it seem like what people value most is what’s easiest to give? What if we did more of that?

When we asked participants in one study about their preferences for in-person versus virtual work, we found that people of all Business Chemistry types prefer a mix of the two, but context matters: For the purpose of connecting with others, all types prefer in-person work, but when considering their well-being, their preferences switch to virtual.

Whether you’re working together in person or virtually, one key to breakthrough is a sense of psychological safety. We’re not all equally comfortable sharing our ideas. But why are we uncomfortable? When asked what discourages them from contributing to group discussions, among the top factors for all types is a sense that people aren’t really listening to one another or that they don’t trust the other people present. When asked in another study about one thing someone could do to create more trust with them, the most common response across participants of all types was to listen. That connection is pretty interesting if you ask me.

Another notable finding is that no matter their type, people are even less comfortable talking about their stress levels than their ideas. Given how much we’ve been hearing about burnout, the great resignation, and quiet quitting, it seems we’d all benefit from being able to talk about the stress we’re feeling, don’t you think?

And when it comes to what they find stressful, all types agree that making an error is the most stressful situation of those we asked about (including various issues related to conflict, face-to-face interactions, workload, and a sense of urgency). In an environment that has more psychological safety, making an error should be less stressful—another vote for more talking, listening, and building trust.

It may be true that you can’t please all the people all the time, but our findings suggest there are things you can do that will please a lot of the people a lot of the time or, more importantly, will create stronger relationships at work—things like more listening. More flexibility in where we work and what we work on. More thank-you’s. More humanity.

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Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Research Lead | Deloitte Greenhouse®

Dr. Suz is a social-personality psychologist and a leading practitioner of Deloitte’s Business Chemistry, which Deloitte uses to guide clients as they explore how their work is shaped by the mix of individuals who make up a team. Previously serving in Deloitte’s Talent organization, since 2014 she’s been coaching leaders and teams in creating cultures that enable each member to thrive and make their best contribution. Along with her Deloitte Greenhouse colleague Kim Christfort, Suzanne co-authored the book Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships as well as a Harvard Business Review cover feature on the same topic. She also leads the Deloitte Greenhouse research program focused on Business Chemistry and is the primary author of the Business Chemistry blog. An “unapologetic introvert” and Business Chemistry Guardian-Dreamer, you will never-the-less often find her in front of a room, a camera, or a podcast microphone speaking about Business Chemistry or Suzanne and Kim’s second book, The Breakthrough Manifesto: Ten Principles to Spark Transformative Innovation, which digs deep into methodologies and mindsets to help obliterate barriers to change and ignite a whole new level of creative problem-solving. Suzanne is a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate with an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a doctorate in Social-Personality Psychology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. She is also a professional coach, certified by the International Coaching Federation. She has lectured at Rutgers Business School and several colleges in the CUNY system, and before joining Deloitte in 2009, she gained experience in the health care and consulting fields. A mom of two teenagers, she maintains her native Minnesota roots and currently resides in New Jersey, where she volunteers for several local organizations with a focus on hunger relief.