Using Questionable Work Hacks, by Personality Type

We live in the age of the “hack”: a clever way of doing something more efficiently or less expensively in any area of our lives, including work. For instance, is replying to emails eating up too much of your time? Type up some generic form emails that cover your most common communications and shoot them off quickly, rather than composing individual replies. Easy, right?

But what if the company you work for expects you to personalize all of your emails, or what if in sending hasty, prewritten replies you miss important information? Would you still send those form emails?

Some work hacks may be innocuous enough, but others raise questions, and some may even be expressly prohibited. Take as an extreme example the story of one U.S. software developer who outsourced his job to a contractor in China and paid just a fifth of his salary to do so! (Needless to say, that employee soon found himself unemployed.)

While few people would show such utter disregard for workplace ethics, it can be difficult, when we’ve discovered a more efficient way to do something, to resist the temptation to do it, even if we know we’re not supposed to. To find out how personality type might influence people’s tendencies to use questionable work hacks, we asked our community whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You use tricks and shortcuts that you are not supposed to use to get work done more quickly.” 

A modest majority (56%) of our community agreed with the statement. But there were significant disparities between every personality trait, the only exception being Extraverts and Introverts (56% vs. 52% agreeing, respectively). The most staggering split, a difference of 24%, appeared between Prospecting and Judging types (66% vs. 42% agreeing) – which makes sense, since the Tactics aspect gets to the heart of how we approach our work.

Which personality types are more likely to take uncondoned shortcuts at work? We take a closer look at the results below.

Roles

Analysts (71% agreeing)

Of the four Roles, Analyst personality types were most likely to use time-saving tricks, even when such actions might fly in the face of workplace rules or norms. We can look to Analysts’ core combination of Intuitive and Thinking traits to understand this result. Intuitive types were 20% more likely to agree with our statement than Observant types, and Thinking types were 13% more likely to agree than Feeling types.

Although Analysts may believe in working hard, they also believe in working intelligently – they’re far more concerned with what approach works best than with what approach pleases others. This independence and utilitarianism can lead them to take advantage of the kind of hacks that their superiors (and others) frown upon. Furthermore, their Intuitive trait, which makes them creative and open to possibilities, likely inspires these personalities to look for novel solutions to the more onerous aspects of their work.

Debaters (ENTP), who possess the Prospecting trait in addition to the Intuitive and Thinking combination, were the personality type most likely to agree with our statement (81%). For Debaters, everything is, well, up for debate – including the written, and especially the unwritten, rules of the workplace. Debaters love to look at the big picture and come up with creative ideas, and they hate getting bogged down in the drudgery of day-to-day tasks. Any shortcut that can help these personalities get past the grunt work and get back to flexing their intellectual muscle is going to be very attractive to them.

Diplomats and Explorers (59% and 58%)

Diplomats and Explorers were the next most likely Roles to agree. While it is easy to see the Prospecting, envelope-pushing Explorer personality types employing tricks and shortcuts to lighten their workload, the Diplomats’ response is more surprising, given their reputation as principled idealists. As with Analysts, however, Diplomats’ Intuitive side may stimulate creative new ideas about how to do things, as well as motivate them to take risks that others wouldn’t agree with.

Consistent with the overall results, Diplomats’ responses were divided based on the Prospecting and Judging traits, while Explorers’ results varied based on the Thinking and Feeling traits. That explains why, despite differences in their core personality traits, Diplomats and Explorers were nearly tied in their overall responses.

Sentinels (34%)

Sentinels, defined by their Judging and Observant personality traits, were the only Role to disagree that they use questionable tactics to complete their work more quickly. Practical types with strong habits who prefer structure and routine, few Sentinels would dream of doing anything at work that wasn’t explicitly allowed by their supervisors or workplace policies. Regardless of the potential advantages in breaking the rules, Sentinel personalities prefer to work within the system, not circumvent it.

Consuls (ESFJ) were the least likely of all personality types to agree with our statement (29%). As Sentinels with the Feeling trait, Consuls can often be found in professional roles that are centered around helping others and that are inherently process- and rule-oriented, such as accountants, health-care professionals, teachers, counselors, and other administrative positions. Taking shortcuts in these fields could cause serious damage to the well-being of others. Responsible and selfless as they are, Consul personalities would never take reckless risks just for the sake of saving themselves a few hours of work.

Strategies

Social Engagement and Constant Improvement (61% and 55% agreeing)

Although there was less variation in the results for Strategies as there was for Roles, Social Engagers and Constant Improvers were somewhat more likely to agree that they use tricks and shortcuts that they aren’t supposed to use to get work done more quickly. These Strategies are defined in part by the Turbulent Identity, and Turbulent personality types were 8% more likely to agree with our statement than Assertive types.

Those with Turbulent Identities tend to worry more than others do about their status and their performance – they’re always looking for ways to be “better.” They’re also sensitive to stress, and if they feel like they’re falling behind in their workload, these personality types might resort to shortcuts to catch up, rather than asking for help or discussing their challenges with their colleagues or superiors, which, to them, would feel like admitting failure.

On the other hand, they’re also more likely to worry about the potential consequences of taking questionable shortcuts and may decide that the short-term rewards aren’t worth the penalties for being caught. That may explain why Social Engagers and Constant Improvers did not agree with the statement in very strong majorities.

People Mastery and Confident Individualism (51% and 47%) 

Barely over half of People Masters agreed with the statement, and a slight majority of Confident Individualists disagreed with it. Assertive personality types take a more even-keeled approach to work than Turbulent types do. They understand what can reasonably be done in a day and aren’t likely to push themselves too hard to exceed that limit. These personalities may see the time-saving advantages in work hacks, but their own judgment tells them that such measures are unnecessary. Indeed, People Masters and Confident Individualists may not take shortcuts simply because they’re not at risk of falling behind in the first place.

Conclusions

Whether we want to get work done faster so that we can move on to the next bit of work, so that we can give ourselves a break, or because we believe that existing methods and processes are inadequate, the temptation to take shortcuts, even questionable ones, will remain.

It’s entirely possible that some work hacks actually do work more efficiently and the rules forbidding them are misguided. But we should bear in mind that, regardless of one’s line of work, there may be sound reasons for following our workplace’s rules to the letter, reasons that sometimes don’t reveal themselves until after the rules have been broken.

Does your personality type drive you to take shortcuts to get the job done faster? Has doing so ever come with consequences? Tell us below!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

8 months ago
These days, there are tools and technology to prevent 'questionable shortcuts'. I don't usually use them because the risk of being found out is too high. But if I can reduce that risk, then I will try.
8 months ago
I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can influence policy, and, in some cases, create it from scratch. So, in a way, it is my job to think of all of the "work hacks" that can be used, and determine which ones to endorse, which ones to adopt, and which ones to forbid. My boss works with me on it, but a more efficient practice is ideal as long as we don't sacrifice customer satisfaction or accuracy on the way. Efficiency = Profit in a volume-oriented business.
8 months ago
True. I don't care if I do it the 'right' way (I still try to do the right thing morally; by 'right' I mean the general consensus of conventionality and properness) as long as it gets done.
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