Where Personality and Circumstance Collide: Individual Differences in the New World of Work


*This post was co-authored by Hogan’s Jennifer Lowe and Jocelyn Hays.

During a recent conversation about our return to “normal” work — which for Hogan consultants means travel and in-person development and service delivery — a critical question came up. After 15 months of working from home, do my professional pants still fit? Sadly, for at least one of your blog authors, the answer is no. But at least we’re not alone! The I-need-new-work-clothes phenomenon is so common that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert recently featured a very funny (but NSFW) sketch illustrating the problem. And while wardrobe may be a facetious example, it is a clear one to illustrate an emerging (and blessed) truth: We are coming out of our forced, virtual workspaces. And, as we do, we’re discovering a new world of work, where technology and more flexible, remote work environments likely will be at the forefront of enhancing efficiency, team diversity, and employee satisfaction.

Of course, the evolution of where and how we work is not without its challenges. Over the past year, leaders have been asked increasingly to create cohesive teams and productive cultures without the benefit of physical or perhaps even temporal proximity. Expectations for how employees communicate, collaborate, and manage their time have evolved and will continue to do so. Adapting to the changes thus far has been no easy feat. In fact, Hogan recently surveyed nearly 870 individuals across the globe about their work experiences during the pandemic, and 35% reported that collaboration or communication was their top challenge while working remotely.

We are lucky to work in a field dedicated to supporting employee and leader success, development, and engagement at work. Helping individuals at all levels to adapt to the “new normal” will likely be a critical role of talent development and HR professionals for at least the next year, if not longer. Considering individual differences in how leaders motivate and supervise their employees, and differences in how those employees manage their own efforts and their relationships, should be one part of a multifaceted approach to helping individuals throughout organizations thrive at work.

A recent Forbes article listed some behaviors high-performing leaders are now exhibiting: They are prioritizing connecting with their teams — not only to discuss the work, but also to share knowledge, enhance collaboration, and deepen relationships.1 Additionally, they are ensuring that their team members have work that is motivating and clearly aligned with the organization’s goals and culture. Similarly, Harvard Business Review recently identified some leadership skills that can be gleaned from pandemic parenting experiences, such as relying on peers to provide input into decisions, appropriately prioritizing and focusing on diverse tasks, and relating to others (and yourself) in a more aware, compassionate manner.2

Organizations will need to support leaders as they face these new demands and recognize that some people may be more naturally adaptable to the new world of work. Leaders who build trust easily and are well connected to their teams may be asked to expand those efforts to coach their peers or contribute more broadly to building a strong organizational culture. Leaders who are naturally more introverted and task focused may need to plan to adapt their approach and reprioritize their time without compromising their focus on team goals and success.

As leaders strive to support their direct reports and maintain a positive, functional organizational culture, team members must also adapt to new environments and expectations. The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted employees’ new expectations for flexibility and autonomy, but with those comes a responsibility to set sufficient goals, self-manage effectively, and ensure results are achieved and relationships are maintained. As is the case for leaders, some employees may find it comfortable and relatively easy to work in remote and hybrid environments, manage their time, and proactively communicate with physically distant teammates. Others, however, may need more support and guidance to adapt to whatever the “new normal” is in their specific organizations. Given that a recent Gallup poll found that workers’ stress levels are at an all-time high, it is critical that individuals find ways to succeed at work that fit both their professional and personal realities.

To make things more complicated, we all need to be prepared for the “new normal” to change again as organizations, team leaders, and team members get their footing and determine the best way to operate while maintaining a strong culture and high levels of engagement. Although we cannot define the myriad factors that might shift as the pandemic wanes, it is safe to assume that they will. Leaders and individual contributors will find that their success and satisfaction depend on their ability to remain self-aware and adapt their approaches effectively. Organizations that support and empower their leaders in these endeavors are more likely to solidify their culture and position themselves for long-term success — because when leaders support their teams, team members are more engaged and business unit performance is improved.   

Don’t let your organization’s people be left behind. Join us on Thursday, July 8, for a webinar to learn how everyday personality characteristics can impact reputation virtually, along with corresponding development opportunities to help every employee succeed in remote work. Register here!


  1. Bendaly, N. (2021, June 10). How to Build Trust in the Hybrid World of Work. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicolebendaly/2021/06/10/building-trust-in-the-new-world-of-work/?sh=75792ed5475b
  2. Siang, S, & Carucci, R. (2021, June 25). What Pandemic Parenting Can Teach Us About Leadership. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2021/06/what-pandemic-parenting-can-teach-us-about-leadership
  3. Forman, L. (2021, June 21). Work Flexibility, Popular With Employees, Is Hardly a Holy Grail. Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/work-flexibility-popular-with-employees-is-hardly-a-holy-grail-11624300543
  4. State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report. (2021). Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/349484/state-of-the-global-workplace.aspx