Imagine this scenario. It's a critical time during a particular business deal. The entire management 'team' of one company reconvenes for lunch in an isolated conference room to discuss what has just transpired with the representatives from the other company over the course of the morning. One individual slams the door angrily behind him. With many an explicative, he sits down, complaining about the behavior and unfair tactics of the other negotiators. Another individual attempts to calm the raging man down. He waves off the succoring individual with an angry shrug, refusing to be calm and continuing to shout.
This scenario is one way to illustrate the differences between the classic Type A and Type B personalities. Persons with the classic Type A personality, originally defined and classified by Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman in 1959, are said to possess three fundamental characteristics, in contrast to Type B personalities. (Friedman and Roseman cited in Noakes 1986, 847) Type A personalities are said to be highly competitive and ambitious, to speak rapidly and to interrupt others frequently, and to be seized by anger and hostility "with uncommon frequency." (Friedman and Roseman cited in Noakes 1986, 847) Colloquially, a Type A person has come to be understood as someone who is always on the go, someone who is a prime candidate for an emotional meltdown at work, a perhaps destined for a heart attack before the age of forty.
In contrast, the Type B individual of the aforementioned envisioned scenario, whom is attempting to calm his fellow negotiator down, exhibits the characteristics of a more easy-going laid back individual with a higher tolerance for frustration and interpersonal differences. Type B individuals are said to be more content, less domineering, and placid in nature.
Given these psychological stereotypes, a manager is likely to say to him or herself that he or she would prefer to have an office workplace entirely populated by Type B rather than Type A workers, for the sake of his or her own health and heart, to say nothing of the health of his or her own professional environment! However, although this might be the typical office or human resource manager's gut reaction to the typology of personality types A and B, he or she would be wise to think twice, lest his or her wish come too true, to soon. After all, a certain amount of speed and ambition is necessary to the modern workplace, to motivate individuals to get things done, is it not?
Another breakdown of Type A and Type B characteristics has been suggested that perhaps does slightly greater justice to those with high-intensity and high-achieving personalities, whose drive might be a necessary fuel to driven office environments, particularly those of newsrooms, advertising, and banking. It has also been suggested that there are potentially "two subsets" of the Type A person. The first is the Type A hostile, as described above, the angry and overly impatient workaholic. The second Type A person, however, might be called the "Type A controlled." (Cimons, cited in Noakes 1986, 847) The Type A controlled individual is motivated "by excitement and reward, by the challenge of what he is doing. He's like a kid in a candy store. When he wants more, it's because he loves what he is doing." (Cimons 1988, p.46, cited in Noakes 1986, 847)
Type A controlled person might be an excellent leader. Although brash and outgoing, he or she is filled with enthusiasm for work, and seems to literally get an endorphin 'high' off the excitement of working hard and leading other individuals at a pursuit enjoyed by this Type A controlled individual. Unlike the hostile Type A, the controlled Type A has learned to channel his or her desires in a productive fashion for a greater goal and for the good of others and for the workplace as a whole, rather than in pursuit of selfish ambition alone. In fact, he or she might even enjoy sports during his or her scanty leisure time, another productive use for an overabundance of energy! (Friedman and Roseman cited in Noakes 1986, 847)
The Type A controlled individual can and must be contrasted with the Type A hostile individual. The latter is the classic Type A personality, as described in the scenario that began this paper. This hostile type is characterized by " a mistrust of others, cynicism," and other toxic elements that are detriments rather than assets to the workplace -- as well as potential risks to the individuals' own health! (Cimons, cited in Noakes 1986, 847) The reason for making this distinction is not simply a concern for a potential company's health care costs in these financially strapped times. Rather, the Type A hostile type "exhibits an absence of trust in the basic goodness of others, believing them to be mean, selfish, and undependable." (Cimons, cited in Noakes 1986, 847) This hostile personality type will only sow dissention in the workplace, rather than create harmony, like a Type B personality, or use workplace energy for productive means, like a controlled Type A personality.
Both Type A personalities, the hostile and the controlled, do share some similar facets. For instance, both individuals 'hate to wait,' a sad and unavoidable fact, even in modern life. A period of downloading a file from an Internet site that will send a Type B personality off drumming his or her fingers, staring into space, or productively rearranging his or her desk, or perhaps socially networking in a genial way with a nearby colleague, will send both Type A subsets 'through the roof' -- perhaps, depending on the extremity and strength of the personality, literally as well as figuratively. Both of these Type A individuals are almost physically unable to sit back and relax, and are consumed by haste, impatience, and above all a competitive drive to always be working and to be the best. The Type A personality that is controlled may exhibit such characteristics out of a joy for his or her labors and a desire to achieve a goal. The Type A hostile may do so to vent his or her rage at the world, and to vainly attempt to control what seems to him or her a vengeful, uncontrollable world that his 'against him/her.' Regardless, the characteristics, when observed, are difficult to miss.
Thus, the question for the manager becomes -- how to balance the different elements of Type A and Type B personalities in the workforce? Clearly, one wishes to eliminate, through credible job interviews and careful screening such Type A hostile individuals. Active mistrust of one's colleagues is never conducive to an appropriate work environment, and such hostile Type A individuals must be disciplined when they exhibit interference with the personal and professional labors and advancement of others. However, a balance between the leadership of Type A controlled individuals, who are filled with an endorphin-driven zeal for their work, and the less driven but equally valid supportive skills of Type B personalities are necessary in any functional workplace. In fact, one might say that the ideal workplace exhibits a balance between the two types, as Type A controlled individuals propel the workplace forward with their drive and initiative and desire to meet strict deadlines, while Type B personalities provide a valuable softening, encouraging the Type A workers to have a more reasoned and reflective perspective on work in general, and also the specific output of any particular project.
Both types may be potentially penalized for their personality types and styles of professional behavior work. For instance, Type Bs, as noted in The Clinician's Thesaurus, despite their greater pleasantness to be around, may often find themselves at lower grade performances in work, than their…