Work Traits

People Orientation

People orientation is especially helpful in roles like sales, culture development, customer service, leadership, human resources, marketing, media, and stakeholder management.
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What is people orientation?

People orientation means you'd rather not keep your head down and work in isolation. You prefer engaging directly with people in your day-to-day work life. You’re highly interested in who you’ll be working with, as well as how well you’ll get along.

You pay sensitive attention to the emotions and wellbeing of others, and you like to think through how decisions will impact people outside of yourself. Sometimes you can be empathetic to a fault. 

On your team, you’re known for being the social one and you like to appear friendly in all of your interactions with others.

We call it: People

Your level of interest to work directly with people and to attend to their inner world of thoughts and feelings.

You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.

John Steinbeck

Leaders who have people orientation

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt

As the longest-serving First Lady in American history, Eleanor Roosevelt has a long list of notable accomplishments. She was a champion for the civil rights movement and an advocate for everyone from women and workers to refugees and the poor. 

She was empathetic to her core, and paid close attention to the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others.

She wrote in her autobiography, “My interest or sympathy or indignation is not aroused by an abstract cause but by the plight of a single person whom I have seen with my own eyes.”

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was the first Black president of South Africa and is remembered as a pillar of strength, kindness, and empathy. 

Mandela was imprisoned charged and imprisoned for his activism against apartheid. But even then, he was sympathetic with the very people who kept him behind bars—proof of his unwavering people orientation. 

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived,” he was quoted as saying. “It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Nelson Mandela
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Martha Beatrice Webb

Martha Beatrice Webb (better known as Beatrice Webb) was a sociologist and social reformer in the late 1800s. She didn’t just imagine walking in somebody else’s shoes—she actually did it.

Despite the fact that she was born into a wealthy and successful family, she wanted to experience life among the working class. So, she dressed the part and went to work in a factory in East London.

She documented her firsthand experience in her book, Pages from a Work-Girl’s Diary in order to bring attention to the life experiences of working class people. She wrote in her own autobiography, “My own investigations into the chronic poverty of our great cities opened my eyes to the workers’ side of the story.”

The benefits of people orientation

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Because you’re attuned to the thoughts, opinions, and experiences of others, your team likely trusts you to make decisions that benefit the whole, rather than just yourself.

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Emotional intelligence

You’re able to pick up on how others feel about situations and decisions, which is a highly sought-after trait in the business world.

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Your people orientation makes you sociable, friendly, and highly likable on your team.

The blind spots of people orientation

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Difficult decisions

You care deeply about others' opinions and emotions, which means it can be challenging for you to make difficult or unpopular decisions.

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Being constantly in tune with the needs and feelings of others can be draining, and might lead to burnout.

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While prioritizing others’ emotions is noble, it can mean you sometimes don’t prioritize your own feelings and can easily be taken advantage of.

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How to have people orientation

1) Create team-wide user guides.

Sometimes working with others can be daunting because we don’t understand how to work with them effectively. That’s where these user guides come in handy.

Everyone on your team can fill out a templated document that shares details of how to work with them effectively—such as how they prefer to receive feedback and what type of work is most meaningful to them. That gives you helpful information you can use to become more attuned to their thoughts, experiences, and feelings.

2) Consider how a decision will affect others.

A key aspect of people orientation is caring about how an important decision at work may affect others, including coworkers, clients, suppliers and other stakeholders. 

If you have a tendency to make difficult decisions without considering how they impact the lives of others, schedule in some time to reflect on this before finalizing a decision. You could even try making a mind map of the far-reaching effects of the decision, or try journaling (even a short paragraph!) from someone else’s point of view.

3) Ask thoughtful questions.

It’s easy to get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of your daily work life that you fail to consider how other people feel about projects or decisions. It’s time to ask thoughtful questions.

Straightforward inquiries like, “How do you feel about this?” or “What do you think?” can reveal a lot of important information that boosts your ability to relate to and connect with others.

4) Take an assessment.

The more you understand the people you work with, the easier time you’ll have connecting to them. Taking an assessment like F4S can help your whole team better relate to one another.

The assessment will reveal everybody’s motivations at work. That’s helpful context as you handle everything from assigning projects to evaluating the impact of decisions.

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