Understanding Different Types of Intelligence in the Workplace

Managers at a meeting.

A manager having trouble with a promising-but-unengaged, creative-but-inattentive employee. A worker who never seems to understand the feelings of others. The detail-oriented “fun police.” The office prankster. In all these cases we have a challenging office fit, or what could better be called different types of intelligence or misalignment of typology.

“Typology” here refers to systems, including but not limited to Jungian Psychology and the Myers-Briggs scale, that claim to categorize human approaches to life into a few basic types. We’re all here, somewhere. Most of us would say we feel like a mixture of them. We’re also open to the mistake of judging other people by our own style, rather than meeting them where they are.

We can therefore use these different intelligence categories—and the connections and differences between them—to resolve conflicts, overcome challenges, and even identify our own gaps in management.

What are the Different Types of Intelligence?

Let’s examine a few different types of intelligence you see in the workplace and learn how best to capitalize on their resources. Common types you may recognize include:

  1. People smart (feeling). The heart of the office
  2. Details smart (thinking). The brain of the office
  3. Ideas smart (intuition). The dreamer of the group
  4. Senses smart (sensation). The closer

1. Build up Morale With the Feeling Type

The feeling type is described as “people smart.” Their critical senses about people and the concept of fairness are their calling cards. They can sometimes be ruled by their emotions, unable to properly access their thinking at times.

However, this isn’t a point against them: It’s a resource you can use in a fully functioning office, not only by making the feeler responsible for interpersonal celebrations like birthday parties, but including them in all recruitment activities. It’s important that you praise their sense of people and have patience with their feelings.

Ramon is a feeling type. He echoes the office mood, often without noticing it, and he’s the first person people go to when they want to celebrate (or commiserate). Ramon is friendly to new coworkers and can’t help but empathize with others’ experiences and needs… Sometimes to the degree that he neglects his own interests, or even his work.

His manager listens and sympathizes, making sure Ramon feels his emotions are valid and heard, but he also helps Ramon keep his eye on the ball.

2. Get Down to Details With the Thinking Type

“Details smart” refers to the thinking type, which most of us have developed to some degree or another. The pure thinker is distinguished by their logical—some might say heartless—approach. Far from being ruled by feelings, the thinker is somewhat mystified by them. Ask a thinker about their own emotional state and be prepared to wait a few minutes while they dredge up something true.

Value and acknowledge their quickness, critical thinking, and logical approach. Have patience with their introversion and interpersonal difficulties, and you will find a powerhouse intellect.

Angelica is a thinking type. She knows the best way to accomplish every task and doesn’t mind if you borrow hers. She’s happy with her spreadsheets and analytics, her problem-solving is top notch, but she’s often curt with others and seems uncomfortable in groups.

Her manager uses that raw intelligence wherever it can have the most impact, and doesn’t rely on her for social or emotional tasks—they create and defend a space for Angelica to do her work without interruption.

3. Support the Creative Intuitive Type

The intuitive type, “ideas smart” is perhaps harder to define but easy to illustrate: Seemingly undisciplined or messy, their attention span is as minimal as their creative skills are outsized, and are often neuroatypical. If you have a coworker who forgets to eat, produces innovative solutions from their daydreams, or can only produce copy after an hour of recreation, chances are you’re looking at an intuitive.

Intuitives are our dreamers and often great leaders, of the different types of intelligence, but they can be limited by their presentation and general work habits. Let an intuitive go free—for a while, and within limits—and they will return with gold you can’t get any other way. Indulge their creativity and have patience with everything else.

Jeannine is an intuitive, with the messy office to prove it. She has her own way of doing things and you could stand to learn a few things from her, even when it doesn’t immediately make sense. Jeannine gets restless in online meetings but thrives in a remote environment—as long as her manager remembers to write things down (or send an email) to help Jeannine focus on her tasks without distraction.

4. Close the Deal With the Sensation Type

“Senses smart” refers to the sensitive or sensation type, or what we called “the closer” above. That’s because in business it’s this type who most often and most easily succeeds. But who are they?

Sensation types are usually athletic, love the finer things, and can have their own issues defining a work/life balance. They can be a bit flummoxed by other types’ feelings and intuitions, because they prefer to stay grounded. Praise their success, especially the material signifiers they present to the world at large, and be patient with their single-mindedness.

Sam is a classic sensation type: A marathon runner, BMW owner, and top of his sales division every quarter. He’s also a little boorish, can be abrupt or rude to those he considers inferior, and if you don’t share his interests, you aren’t necessarily worth his social time. Sam’s manager harnesses his great potential, but doesn’t let Sam’s big personality get in the way of the team’s goals. Sam’s a star player, but sometimes needs reminding he’s not the star of the show.

Use Different Types of Intelligence to Supercharge Your Workplace

When it comes to the different types of intelligence and using them best, nobody can be everything to everyone—you’ve got your own style of intelligence, after all, and leadership is an ongoing journey down that path. But the truly great manager takes that into account, never judging a worker based on their own biases and interests. Let Monster help as you plot out your best strategic plan for office and project harmony.