Music – whether we’re listening to an iPod while loading boxes or playing Pandora on a desktop while typing up reports – is an increasingly ubiquitous part of the workplace. But does music make us better workers, or is it nothing more than a productivity-sapping distraction?
The answer may depend in part on our personality type, as we discovered when we asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “Listening to music usually increases your productivity.” While a strong majority of readers agreed with the statement overall (78%), their responses indicated some interesting differences between certain traits, most notably those related to the Energy aspect; respondents with the Intuitive trait were 12% more likely to agree than those with the Observant trait (84% vs. 72% agreeing, respectively).
Which personalities feel that music is a help, and which feel that it’s a hindrance? Let’s look at the data below.
Diplomats (85% agreeing)
The monotony of labor, whether physical or mental in nature, may be more grueling for Diplomats than other personality types, which could explain why they were the Role most likely to seek an escape from it, if only for one of their senses. In addition to their core Intuitive trait, Diplomats also share the Feeling trait, which was the second-most influential trait in our survey. Feeling types were 6% more likely to agree that music increases their productivity than Thinking types (81% vs. 75% agreeing, respectively).
This combination of traits makes Diplomats more emotionally expressive and imaginative than other Roles, so music may very well help them harness that energy and boost their productivity. Since Diplomat personalities do sometimes get wrapped up in their own thoughts, music may be especially helpful for them when they’re engaged in repetitive work that doesn’t demand their full attention. Even in creative fields, however, Diplomats may find that music can be a serendipitous source of ideas, breaking them from their more conventional patterns of thinking.
Assertive Campaigners (ENFP-A) were the most likely of all the personality types to agree that music makes them more productive (89%). Highly creative and sociable types, Campaigners tend to be passionate, driven workers who also understand that relaxing and letting loose from time to time – including listening to music – can be essential for creating balance in the workplace and, in turn, improving productivity.
Michael Scott, the fictional boss from The Office and a Campaigner personality type, is a great example here. In one episode, Michael, concerned that his employees were overworked and stressed out, converted a storage closet into the “Café Disco,” where they could take a break to listen to music, dance, and drink coffee (prompting Angela, most certainly a Sentinel type, to complain, “I just don’t like the general spirit of music.”) Although Café Disco, like most of Michael’s plans, didn’t quite pan out as he expected, by the end of the episode employee morale, if not productivity, had indeed been boosted (even Angela’s!).
Analysts closely followed Diplomats in their agreement with the statement, which makes sense, since both Roles share the Intuitive trait. Although music may at times prove distracting for an Analyst personality who is working on a particularly taxing problem, it may also help to alleviate the tedium of rote tasks, such as weeding through emails or organizing documents, allowing boredom-prone Analysts to plow through their work undeterred. Moreover, due to their independent work style, many Analysts may enjoy the “do-not-disturb” signal that headphones send to other people, finding it easier to devote energy to a task when they feel confident that they won’t be constantly interrupted by coworkers.
Explorers and Sentinels (75% and 71%)
Whereas Diplomats and Analysts may both have their reasons for not being entirely present when working – the former seeking the distraction of art to fuel their labors, the latter using music as an excuse to tune out interruptions from other people – Explorer and Sentinel personality types alike may prefer not to have their focus divided. Although a majority of Explorers and Sentinels felt that music increases their productivity, we can attribute their lower rates of agreement to their core Observant trait, which makes them very practical and focused on the task at hand.
Explorers are spontaneous personality types who may enjoy listening to the radio or allowing their music to shuffle randomly, using the unexpected energy that a song may inspire to motivate them as they work. They’re also always looking for new opportunities, seizing the moment as much as possible. One never knows, some Explorers may reason, when a crucial bit of overheard information could be drowned out by white noise. Sentinels, for their part, tend to prefer order and predictability in their work environments. Wishing to be fully absorbed in their work, some may find that musical accompaniment detracts from the satisfaction they derive from accomplishing tasks.
Of all the personality types, Assertive Logisticians (ISTJ-A) were the least likely to feel that music increases their productivity (63%). Logisticians take their work very seriously and are concerned with accuracy, efficiency, and adhering to rules. If they think that music might compromise their focus, cause them to make mistakes, or slow them down, or if listening to music is frowned upon in their workplace – they simply won’t do it. Hermione Granger, the studious Gryffindor from the Harry Potter series, is a fictional example of a Logistician to consider. Not one to fritter away any opportunity for studying, Hermione would undoubtedly be at her most productive in a quiet corner of the library, rather than listening to music or working among the general commotion of the common room.
Statistically, there was very little variation in the responses of the four Strategies. The Social Engagement Strategy agreed at a rate of 81%, the Constant Improvement and People Mastery Strategies at 79% each, and the Confident Individualism Strategy at 75%.
Introverts and Assertive personality types were slightly less likely to agree than Extraverts and Turbulent types, which explains why respondents belonging to the Confident Individualism Strategy agreed the least. This difference may indicate that these types, which include Assertive Logisticians, feel less of a need than others to dissociate themselves from the work that they do. As Introverts, their mental focus is naturally directed inward, which makes it easier for them to focus on their work, rather than on external distractions like music. Their Assertive Identities also make them more confident in their own abilities, so these personalities may feel that they don’t need music, or any other form of stimulation, to help them be more productive – they’re already suitably productive on their own.
It may hardly be surprising that the more artistically minded personality types, like Diplomats, prefer to listen to music to help them get work done than do the more pragmatic types, like Explorers and Sentinels. We should keep in mind, though, that listening to music while working may actually be more distracting to people who enjoy music than it is to people who don’t. The former may dwell on a melody to the detriment of their work, while the latter may find their work more absorbing than any ambient noise. Of course, our survey didn’t determine whether Diplomats or other personality types actually are more productive when they listen to music – just whether they believe that they are. But their perceptions may be more accurate than not.
Moreover, the type of work and the type of music undoubtedly play a part. A Diplomat attempting to decipher a legal contract while listening to lyric-heavy rap music at an ear-splitting volume may have worse results than one writing a blog post as a smooth-jazz instrumental plays in the background.
Does music inspire you to greater heights of productivity, or does it drive you to distraction? Let us know in the comments!