12/11/2012 12:45 pm ET Updated Feb 10, 2013

Can an Entire Company Be Defined by Social Styles?

Many employees have had the experience of going through some type of social styles training. The concept is simple -- people interact socially in one of four ways: Expressive, Driver, Analytical and Amiable. These four styles help to define how a person thinks and reacts to others around him. But in a large organization, can the same four styles define an entire company?

When we look at how people interact in an organization, the assumption is that every person applies their own personal "style" to the way they work. How they approach problems, address concerns, and take on everyday tasks comes down to a measure of how their work style aligns with their personal comfort zone. But I have witnessed entire companies that possessed a particular social style, and I found it baffling. With all the variations of people and personalities in a company, how could the entire group work as one social style?

The it dawned on me -- it is totally plausible that if you have enough of one social style in a group, the "theme" of that group tends to become homogeneous and monolithic in nature. It evolves into what researchers define as the "herd mentality"; when a group finds comfort and confidence by following the general direction or theme of those around them. This can, in some instances, create an "oasis effect" where everyone in the organization finds solace in knowing that they are all acting of like mind, in effect creating their own happy-place. Boy, doesn't that sound nice?

This is where it gets weird for me.

Are people really that starved for comfort at work, that they would give up or yield their own personalities in lieu of being in a social sanctuary? Does the phrase "can't we all just get along?" get taken too literally by these folks? In my mind, it does. To me, being in companies like this feels a lot of a bad scene of The Stepford Wives. Everybody agrees with everybody else, and nobody argues. All that's left is to look for the underground laboratory where the employees were created and programmed.

Individuality in a company can be a huge benefit. If a company finds its organization defined by a single social style, it ought to take a step back, and find out why employees are trying so hard to be part of the herd. Are they scared? Are people worried about being fired or laid off if they do something wrong or differently? Is individuality frowned upon by the group? The company could potentially find itself losing a lot of energy, creativity, and productivity, just to have everyone get along and agree with one another.

Don't take for granted, the fact that every person is different, and with each difference every person has endless potential to be more, and make the company better.