Emily Marsh September 5 2018

Rule maker or rule breaker? Traits of high and low Control employees

Control is one of the five factors of personality measured by Facet5. It measures the amount of self-discipline and responsibility a person has. What do we know about the traits and motivations of those with high Control and those with low Control? And how can they work together effectively?

We all know that one person who is a stickler for the rules, who follows processes to a T and who has a well ordered and planned approach to getting things done. If you need their help in a tight turnaround, you know you’ll be safe in their hands. But if you need them to bend the rules just slightly, you may be hard pushed to get them to change their ways.

Then there’s the opposite type of person, who is more free-thinking, less bound to rules and likes to challenge the status quo. The type of person who lives for the moment and takes things as they come. If you’re looking for a new approach or way of doing things, they will be up for the challenge. But their casual and unplanned manner might make you question their reliability.

These are two people with very different personalities. One whose Facet5 profile would show them to have a high Control score. And the other whose profile would reveal them to be at the low end of the Control scale.


Control is one of the five factors of personality measured by Facet5. It aligns with conscientiousness, one of the five personality traits widely recognised as one of the building blocks of personality.

Control, or conscientiousness, refers to the amount of self-discipline and responsibility a person has. High Control individuals may be described as logical, reliable and practical. But may also be seen as authoritarian, inhibited and uncompromising. Low Control people, on the other hand, may be seen as easy-going, liberal and creative. But also as irresponsible, unfocused and amoral.

How does this play out at work?

An employee’s personality can be a good indicator of the types of roles they would suit best, how they approach their work, and how they interact with others in a team.

Traits of high Control employees:

  • Take a logical and planned approach to their work - and their career
  • Don’t like to be rushed and are measured and steady in their work
  • Like to know that they are progressing in their role
  • Will remain focused on a task until finished
  • Don’t mind routine work - as long as there is a purpose
  • Take their work seriously - have a high sense of duty and responsibility
  • Insist on high standards
  • See things as right or wrong
  • May find it hard to deal with erratic or unpredictable behaviour

They prefer to work in roles that offer:

  • Status and respect - leadership and recognition are important to them
  • Work which requires precision and care so they know where they are going
  • A system or schedule to work to so they know where they stand
  • An orderly workplace with adequate resources to allow them to do their job to a high standard
  • Opportunities to be part of a team - they like to feel they are part of a bigger operation

Traits of low Control employees:

  • Like to do their own thing and what comes naturally
  • High sense of individuality
  • Free thinking
  • Always looking for a challenge
  • Feel there is no such thing as the right thing - will interpret rules to suit the situation
  • Can be impatient to get started on new tasks...
  • ...but may get bored once initial interest in a task wears off
  • Struggle to be motivated by routine work
  • Can be rebellious or disruptive in extreme cases

They prefer to work in roles that offer:

  • A relaxed workplace atmosphere without too many rules and regulations
  • The freedom to work on ‘concepts’ rather than details
  • The ability to start new projects rather than finish things off
  • The ability to work with like-minded people
  • A ‘status-free’ environment without position or too many defined expectations

Working together

The challenge for organisations with a mix of high and low Control employees is helping them to work together more effectively. In many ways, their behavioural preferences complement each other. There’s someone to get a project off the ground, and another to make sure it’s seen through until the end.

But their differences may also cause conflict to arise. A highly controlled and disciplined employee may get frustrated at the “maverick” colleague who comes across as too casual, unplanned and even unreliable. Meanwhile, the more liberal and free-spirited employee may see their colleague's attempts at control as stifling individuality and become frustrated with them for not being open to new ways of doing things.

The practical solution is to help employees to build self-awareness of their own preferences, as well as helping them to understand the preferences of those they work with.

Self-awareness helps people to understand their core preferences, strengths and weaknesses, as well as how their behaviour may come across to others who are very different from them. This knowledge gives people the power to adapt their behaviour when necessary for the good of the team. What's more, if people understand each other's natural preferences, they can become more powerful as a team by delegating tasks accordingly.

Beyond the Personality Test

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