60% of workers are now asked to take workplace assessments in today’s modern workforce. This means more managers than ever have insight on their employees, how to work effectively within a team’s innate culture and what to expect when a new employee walks into the office on Monday. All of these are useful when we’re talking about the “fun” traits: creativity, extroversion, stability… but what about the traits that scare the heck out of the boss?


What about the challengers?

First off, remember that there are no “good” or “bad” traits. Everyone falls somewhere onto a spectrum of personality traits and work values (see the best personality assessment spectrum here). But it’s about understanding where on the spectrum someone falls. When you hear the word “challenger” there’s a good chance it has a negative connotation. But being a challenger isn’t a bad trait. Challengers can be an important part of your employee engagement team, a potential manager and an internal motivator… so long as you play your cards right. Let’s explore the pros and cons of a challenger employee and how to deal with this strong personality type.

Who they are: Challengers do exactly what it says on the tin. They challenge. Employees who score more on the Challenger side of the spectrum tend to be more opinionated, direct, skeptical and critical.


More than 75% of hiring managers say a candidate’s personality matters just as much as their technical skills. A Challenger is a personality trait that can be beneficial in the workplace. Challengers can be a bit of skeptics, meaning they are less vulnerable to groupthink and very unlikely to be managerial sycophants. These types of employees won’t fall for just anything or be pushed around but will be guarded and may need a little more convincing. While it can be frustrating to be challenged at every turn by a direct report, it can keep managers and fellow employees from falling into a creative rut or bad habits. Challengers can also help keep the moral and ethical tone of the office in tip-top shape and call management and executives out on promises unkept. Challengers are naturals in the field of law, sales negotiation, and fields where specific parameters should be adhered to. Another pro of a challenger is since they aren’t gullible they are more apt to think outside the box and not fall in line with the status quo. Ways to use your challenger:

● In proposal meetings. Challengers will often do well at negotiating a proposal and justifying specific line items or costs.

● To vet vendors: Your challenger will happily poke holes in a vendor’s pricing, pitch and proposal, saving you time and probably money.

● To research new processes: Challengers are open to changing things up, as long as there is a good reason. Let them go and find the newest and best ways to shift your work processes!

● Training new employees. To build resilience in your new employees, pair them with a challenger employee. This person will rarely accept excuses and keep them on a strict schedule but also help them to research solutions and systems on their own.


According to 2015 research by Connectria Hosting, 65 percent say they have “dreaded” going to work because of a colleague. Challengers can easily come across as contentious. Challengers can even come across as bullies from time to time, even when it isn’t intentional. This type of stronger personality can cause some tension with other strong personalities. Being an antagonist is another trait that can come through with a challenger. It could come across that they are constantly hostile or opposed to things, people or ideas. Situations to avoid with a challenger:

● Don’t put your challenger on a large, slow moving team. They may feel stifled, frustrated or need to grab control.

● Avoid making your challenger initiate sales. Challengers aren’t built for the “yes-man” nature of many sales positions.

● Don’t pair your challenger with another very strong personality. Both will wrestle for control and very little will get done.

How to deal

The reality is, you will have a challenger employee at some point. While there are serious pros to a challenger employee, it may depend on where you place them in the organization. Keep in mind, challengers are determined by the situation they are placed in. If the challenger becomes disruptive or disrespectful by all means, sit the employee down and have a conversation about how that will NOT help the problem. While skeptical and well, challenging, if you tell a challenger WHY certain behavior isn’t logical and doesn’t help, they are more than willing to rein in behavior. They rarely challenge the status quo to be difficult but more often, to improve a situation. Are they being a little too outspoken? Educate them when it is appropriate to give one’s opinion and how to let it go if they don’t get their way. It is important to enforce authority while still allowing them to have some freedom to walk with their leadership, creativity and ideas.

A quick tip,

Encourage more challenging co-workers to back off when they crowd more agreeable employees, especially if there is a power imbalance (supervisor to employee for example”

Do you have a challenger employee? What traits seem familiar about the above profile? Hit us up in the comments.

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