Which Of These Three Workplace Archetypes Are You?

Many of us love “What type are you?” tests, whether it’s what Harry Potter house, what order of Knight Radiant you are, or what The Office character you are.  These tests can lead to a fun sort of tribalism, but there aren’t limited to pop culture, either. There exist many types of categorizations based on real-world archetypes, including popular ones like Myers-Briggs type indicators and the Mensa IQ test.

While often taken for fun, these quizzes can provide insight into your inner workings and how you operate in different scenarios. In the workplace, knowing what type of employee you are can help you find a career that is right for you. Employers can use this knowledge to better target the type of worker they need.

“Knowing your work orientation can help you find ways to motivate yourself and craft a better work situation without having to change jobs. It can also help you know what other careers might be more or equally satisfying to you.” –Katharine Brooks

Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski found three approaches to work and life, with workers fitting into one of these three categories: job orientation, career orientation, and calling orientation. We’ll analyze the three orientations, look into the importance of knowing your archetype, and offer commentary on what other classifications analysts have found.

Job orientation

Those with a job orientation are your classic workers who work to make a living. They work to have an income and provide for themselves while having many interests and priorities outside the workplace. For those with a job orientation, work is a necessity, and they would prefer to keep their work and home lives separate. They’ll put in good work but won’t take it home with them.

Inc.com’s Jessica Stillman believes that knowing you’re of this orientation allows you to find fulfillment outside the office.

“[Y]ou can emphasize finding fulfillment outside of paid employment with hobbies, community activities, or family.” –Jessica Stillman

Career orientation

Those of the career orientation are more engaged in their work, viewing work as a corporate ladder to be climbed. They are motivated by success and prestige and find fulfillment in respect, status, and paychecks. In their own categorization, HR Resolutions cites Gallup’s three classifications: engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged. In this classification, career-oriented workers are the engaged workers.

Career-oriented workers are best motivated by a clear corporate ladder, writes career coach Katharine Brooks, who analyzed the three archetypes for Psychology Today.

“This individual will be interested in the ability to move upward in his or her career, to receive raises and new titles, and to achieve the social standing which comes from the career.” –Katharine Brooks

Calling orientation

These individuals are those who find fulfillment and meaning in their career development. Their job is more than a career or a way to make money – it is truly a calling. Forbes’ Luis Romero refers to this type of worker as ‘The Entrepreneur’ is his own classification.

“These are those pursuing a higher purpose. In other words, their main motivation transcends the need for money and their idea of being useful is intrinsically tied to doing something that they love. In short, they have a clear personal mission and vision.” –Luis Romero

Calling-orientated workers get satisfaction from giving themselves to their chosen calling. They value growth diving into their work, and Wrzesniewski found they were generally very satisfied with their careers and personal lives.

Why is this important?

Brooks reiterates that knowing what archetype you fall under will make it easier to find fulfillment inside and outside of your career. If you’re a job-orientated person that thinks they are career-orientated, they may never find the career satisfaction they crave.

Employers can benefit from this knowledge by knowing what types of workers to seek for their open positions. Lila MacLellan wrote that a company’s expectations need to meet their employees’ orientation, and that disconnect is one of the major reasons for the Great Resignation.

“Some may emphasize purpose or a hard-driving culture over pay and work-life balance, which wouldn’t suit those with a job orientation. And other workplaces may promise meaningful work or pathways for advancement but fail to deliver either in practice.” –Lila MacLellan

Remember that these archetypes refer to work styles, not job titles. Many entrepreneurs do fall under the calling category, and most highly-successful industry leaders we picture probably do as well. But anyone who views their work as their purpose falls under this category, regardless of pay grade or title.

Wrzesniewski found that each type is equally represented in most workplaces. Brooks uses this data to show how an administrative assistant could fall under any of the three types as an example. The assistant could accept the job because it’s available and the pay is good. They could accept the position knowing it’s the first step to climbing the corporate ladder. Or the assistant could have a passion for assisting their supervisor and providing unparalleled customer service.

There will also always be overlaps. Job-orientated employees still want to feel valued for their work, and calling-orientated workers still want to be paid well.

Other models

We referenced Gallup’s “engaged, not engaged, actively disengaged” model, and Romero’s ‘Entrepreneur’ is paired against the ‘Freeloader’ and the ‘Worker’. CNBC’s three types of workers include takers, matchers, and givers. Many models have a clear ‘best’ type of worker in juxtaposition to the ‘inferior’ types. These models are often unkind and don’t take outside circumstances, or the employer’s failings, into consideration.

The strength of Wrzesniewski’s archetypes is that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ types. Every organization will be filled with each of the three types, and knowing this can put each type in a position to succeed. Knowing your own style lets you find a sense of satisfaction when you find a position conducive to your style, and employers can better motivate employees once they understand what actually motivates them.

Wrap up

It may feel like declaring a Harry Potter house, but knowing your work archetype has tangible benefits. Wrzesniewski offers a model that encompasses all workers without declaring a type better than others. Being aware of your type will allow you to find the right career for you, and employers armed with this knowledge will know how to better motivate their employees.

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