The Circle Line

The 5 Working Styles


Our day-to-day behaviours are the manifestations of deeper drives that we’ve carried with us a long time. 

And what’s more these daily moment-to-moment working styles or “drivers” seem to be universal.

They are developed at a young age, by our child-like understanding of what was approved of and disapproved of by the grownups around us. We adopted these attitudes to ensure acceptance and to feel ok about ourselves.

These working styles develop through our experience of:

These styles all have positives and negatives, and we often display a variety, though we tend to favour two main styles.

See if you recognise yourself below…

1. PLEASE OTHERS (Please People)


Widened eyes; raised eyebrows; nodding; toothy smile; horizontal forehead lines; look up with head down; information up at the end of a sentence; qualifying words (sort of, kind of, ok); gestures of palms up; reaching forwards; body moves forwards.


Understanding and empathic. Considerate of others feelings. Good team members, enjoying working with others and aiming to please without asking. Use intuition. Notice body language and other signals. Encourage harmony in groups and amongst teams. Invite quieter members into discussion.


Avoids any risk of upsetting someone and therefore challenging ideas or behaviour (even if justified). Cautious with criticism and then ignored. Appears to lack commitment. Presents own views as questions. Appears to lack assertiveness, critical faculties and courage of their convictions. Takes criticism personally even if constructive. Allows others to interrupt. Tries to mind-read instead of asking for necessary information and feeling misunderstood when others don’t like results.



Upright erect posture. Precise. Words attempt accuracy. Even, steady tone. Look up to right frequently. Mouth goes slightly out. Often over-detail and use parentheses. Counts on fingers. Steepling hands. Qualifies such as saying “exactly”, “roughly”.


Accurate, reliable work. Checks facts thoroughly. Looks ahead. Prepares well. Attention to detail. Well organised. Good at layout. Plans well with contingency plans. Smooth, efficient well-co-ordinated projects with progress monitored. Cares about how things look.


May not be relied upon to produce work to deadlines as may check too carefully and too often for mistakes – keeps asking for minor changes and does drafts rather than final versions. Finds it difficult to incorporate others’ input. Misjudges level of detail. Applies high standards, always to self and others, failing to recognise when good enough is good enough. Demotivates through criticism. Problems delegating. May feel worthless and dissatisfied.



Hand on side of cheek or behind ear; peering – deepened/premature lines on forehead and around eyes as a result of screwed up face. Tone strangled, tense, muffled, choked back. Incomplete sentences. Words such as try, hard, difficult, can’t think. Body moves forward.


Tackles things enthusiastically. Energy peaks with something new to do. Others value motivation and ability to get things off the ground. Popular. Problem solving. Volunteers for new tasks. Follows up all possibilities. Finds out the implications. Pays attention to all aspects of a task, including what others overlook.


More committed to trying than succeeding. Initial interest wears off before task is finished. Others may resent not doing the interesting bits when they are left with the mundane bits. Makes task impossibly large. Creates difficulty with time schedule. Written work contains lots of irrelevant details. Communication may be pained, strained and frowning – listeners become confused. Too many questions given – answers don’t relate to questions asked. Gripes at the tea point.



Erect, stoical posture; body defended; still; rigid; face expressionless; few wrinkles; monotone; long pauses; short sentences; fine – absence of feeling words; uses “one”, “it”, and distancing pronouns like “you” rather than “I”.


Stays calm under pressure. Feels energised when having to cope. Good in a crisis. Thinks logically when others panic. Keeps emotions in check, problem solves, deals well with stressed people. Can make unpleasant decisions without torturing soul. Seen as reliable and steady. Handles others in the team firmly and fairly. Gives honest feedback, and constructive criticism. Even tempered.


Hates admitting weakness: failure to cope is weakness. Gets overlooked rather than ask for help. Hides work away – tidy appearance. Highly self-critical. Others uncomfortable about lack of emotional responses – hard to get to know robots or masked people whose smile does not extend to eyes. Fears rejection of requests for help, so doesn’t ask for anything, in case it’s refused. May become absent minded. May withdraw. Mind flits in circular motion.



Agitated gestures; looks at watch; fidgety. Screwed up face, eyes moving around. Rapid staccato tone. Words such as quick, got to and time words.


Works quickly and gets a lot done in a short time. Responds well to short deadlines – energy peaks under pressure. Enjoys having too many things to do. Believes if you want something done give it to a busy person. Prepares quickly, saves time on tasks to spend with people. Juggles.


Delays until deadline is near. Makes mistakes in haste; corrections can take time and so misses deadline. Quality of work may be poor. May come across as impatient. Rushes with crammed diary, forgets papers. Not time to waste getting to know people, so feels an outsider.

Taking the Driving Seat

Of course these drivers are layered in with our various other experiences and – importantly – all the things we’ve learnt that we mustn’t do or be – for more on this see our post on The Injunctions.

Quite why we adopt these drivers is a whole other ball game, for you to explore… But the important thing is that we see them in ourselves. And then we can choose whether we keep doing them (if they’re helping us and making us happy), or not, if they’re not. They become optional. Then they become wheels perhaps, or the fancy dashboard trimming or go-faster stripes that we choose when and how to apply. 

When we recognise them in ourselves, they don’t have to actually drive us; we can drive them.

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