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3 benefits of being a more self-aware HR leader

Stephanie Douglass, Quizlet
Stephanie Douglass
Stephanie Douglass is chief people officer at Quizlet.

The old adage of “treat people how you want to be treated” may be helpful when it comes to friends, family and even strangers. But what about the workplace?

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I’ve worked with leading global brands and tech unicorns and have found that one of the most important ways to foster collaboration, boost creative thinking and build authenticity in the workplace is to treat people how they want to be treated. This nuance, though subtle, is important to keep in mind for professionals who are looking to support a rich and dynamic culture in their workplace.

Self-awareness and other-awareness go hand-in-hand when it comes to being an effective teammate and can ultimately have a meaningful, positive impact on your organization. Here are three ways self- and other-awareness can influence organizations for the better:

Enhancing diversity of perspective

I’ve come across several workplaces that celebrate their lack of friction and tout how well everyone gets along. While consistent conflict can be detrimental to a workplace’s productivity and collaboration, those that experience no conflict can also fall victim to another weakness: conformity. When leaders hire people with similar backgrounds—a phenomenon known as affinity bias—there is a lack of creative thinking that deters unique, imaginative solutions.

Diversity is pivotal to creating an innovative workplace culture. To get diversity of perspective, it’s important to hire teams that represent different lifepaths, problem-solving skills and social styles. In my own career, I’ve done extensive training in the SOCIAL STYLE model, which breaks out four unique styles: driving, expressive, amiable and analytical. These four styles highlight the different ways in which individuals use their time, interact and make decisions.

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After doing this training as well as extensive work and certification in Meyers-Briggs, I noticed that I had been hiring people who mirrored my own social styles: drivers and analyticals. The work in this area gave me the self-awareness to recognize my natural biases and implement changes in my hiring practices to ensure all social styles were represented. This recognition helped me build more diverse and impactful teams.

Highlighting the strength of differences

Modern workplaces cater to the strengths of extroverts. Open areas for socialization and constant communication across desks are commonplace in corporate America, and extroverts are often held up as the ideal personality type for succeeding in business. It’s a dangerous standard, one that forces introverts to try and change who they are because they think it will help them get ahead. And it’s not unfounded. One study found that extroverted people had a 25% higher chance of being in a high-earning job.

See also: How Amazon Web Services is doubling down to create a ‘meaningful’ EX

Despite some of the negative stereotypes surrounding introversion, introverts are finally getting their moment in the sun. Introverts can be empathetic leaders, attentive listeners and creative problem solvers—invaluable traits to have in the workplace. It’s also true that many of us have a mixture of introverted and extroverted traits. While we may all have moments of being outspoken around colleagues, we may also need to take some silent time to work internally.

HR leaders who recognize the strengths of both introverts and extroverts empower all team members to be meaningful contributors to the organization’s broader success.

Managing collaboration in times of conflict

Stressful times at work are often unavoidable. While crisis situations can sometimes lead to conflict, these are also the moments in which we gain a better understanding of our colleagues and how they respond to stress. While some may take a step back to think, others may want to take charge and act—and, more likely than not, you’ll have team members who respond differently than you do.

If you are able to understand how people react when they are in crisis, it will give you the opportunity to proactively address differences within your teams. In the past, I’ve had colleagues who respond to conflict by becoming quiet and removing themselves from conversation, which differs from my own response. To manage the various reactions to stress in my own teams, I’ve found that curiosity is an important tool to draw out collaboration from the group. By noticing how others react, and keeping this in mind for future situations, I’ve been able to better moderate how my colleagues collaborate in response to stress.


In my more than 25 years of experience working in human resources and management, I’ve learned that there is a huge difference in organizational impact between companies that build an environment where everyone can succeed and those where conformity is needed to succeed. Self- and other-awareness offer the chance for everyone, regardless of their personality or background, to effectively collaborate and make a lasting impact on their organizations.