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Lessons Learned

The 5 Types of Coworkers Who Can Make Your Work Life Infinitely Better

An integrator, an advocate, a pioneer? Hiring managers, take note: These are the five types of coworkers everyone needs in the office.

The 5 Types of Coworkers Who Can Make Your Work Life Infinitely Better
[Photo: Flickr user Noodles and Beef]

Much attention is paid to the office bullies, jerks, and energy vampires of the world. These are the folks who drain productivity and make that third cup of coffee necessary to face going to the office. Sometimes, it seems like they’re everywhere.

But that doesn’t seem to be the reality. While it’s probably not surprising that the 2015 report Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement by the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) found that 44% of relationships with coworkers were "very important," what may be surprising it that the report also found that 79% of employees were satisfied with those relationships.

So, maybe our coworkers aren't as bad as we make them out to be. There are several types of people that can be particularly beneficial. Hiring managers, take note: These are the five types of coworkers everyone needs in the office.

Dream Coworker No. 1: The Integrator

Integrators are a type described by consulting and auditing firm Deloitte’s Business Chemistry framework, which identifies personality patterns. Integrators understand the broader context of an issue and can bring people together. Often, Integrators gather input and consider varied opinions, then are able to socialize an approach before moving forward. They typically want to be part of the group, but some are more inwardly focused and need some quiet time to process what’s going on around them. Integrators like to make connections and have a strong sense of empathy and nuance, so they’re good at reading people and understanding their needs. This is the person you want building and motivating your team.

Dream Coworker No. 2: The Innovator

Innovators are always looking for new ways to complete tasks, says Robin Marks, an associate director of the Counseling and Programming Team at the University of Delaware’s Career Services Center, where she has observed several key employee types that often do well in the workplace. Innovators bring a fresh set of eyes to various situations and look for ways to improve them and make them more efficient. This is the person you want looking at better ways to automate rote tasks, or to streamline a system that isn’t working very well.

Dream Coworker No. 3: The Advocate

We all need someone to have our back. Advocates aren’t afraid to speak up for themselves—or for you, if they think you need and deserve something you’re not getting, Marks says. Advocates spot what their team members need to do well and be engaged, and then they work to provide those resources or circumstances. They want to do the right thing for the people working around them and typically do best when their requests are related to employee satisfaction or customer service, she says.

Dream Coworker No. 4: The Bridge

Another type of valued coworker is The Bridge, one of the "middlemen" identified in the book The Middleman Economy: How Brokers, Agents, Dealers, and Everyday Matchmakers Create Value and Profit by Marina Krakovsky, Bridges are information and connection conduits. They are great at busting silos because of their large, diverse networks. Bridges don’t have to be senior managers—they can be anywhere on an organizational chart, Krakovsky says. But they share an ability to connect you with the people and information you need.

"You could think of this person as a knowledge broker, a merchant of information. All of those are basically capturing this idea of someone who is taking useful information from a place that doesn't particularly value it, because it's familiar and bringing it to an environment where it's new and valuable," she says.

Dream Coworker No. 5: The Pioneer

Need new ideas? Then you need a Pioneer. Another Deloitte-identified type, these blue-sky thinkers are good at adapting to multiple environments and seeing different perspectives. They can consider different aspects of a project or problem and come up with new ways to improve or solve it. Just don’t rely on the typical Pioneer to be bothered with the details of getting things done. But if you love big-picture excitement, they can add big doses of it to your workday.

"If you need to change the lens on the way you are looking at something and trying something completely new, they’re the ones who love blue-sky innovation," says Kim Christfort, national director of Deloitte’s Leadership Center for Clients.

If being surrounded by people who come up with great ideas, work together, and stick up for each other sounds like a great place to work, seeking out these coworkers might be a step in the right direction.

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