4 Important Things to Know About Personality Types in the Workplace on Set

4 Important Things to Know About Personality Types in the Workplace on Set
Design by Judy Moore in Canva
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The ability to deal with the different personality types in the workplace you’ll encounter on set is essential to your career success.  The film industry has more than its share of unique personalities and by understanding the different work personality types of your fellow crew members, you’ll be better able to communicate with them and work towards a common goal.

If you’re an a.d., department head, or in some other leadership position, it’s especially crucial to understand the personality style of the people working under you for you to be a good leader.  Our industry doesn’t focus on effective leadership enough, and the results of that neglect are often apparent to those of us who work both on and off set.  

The DISC model of personality assessment can potentially be a useful tool for giving us insight into different people and their different perspectives.

The DISC model is a personality assessment that recognizes four different workplace personality types and was designed to help improve teamwork, communication, and productivity in the workplace.  The acronym stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.  

However, DISC does not measure intelligence, education, skills, or experience.  

DISC personality assessments have been used by thousands of organizations to build stronger working relationships.  We can all benefit from better working relationships on set, particularly if we work with the same people for entire seasons of a show.  

On set, understanding various personality types can give us insight into others’ individual strengths and create a more positive work environment.  It can also give us insight into our own personality traits and help make each of us better team players.

Since it’s not possible to give personality tests to everyone on a film set so we can better understand how to deal with each individual, it’s up to us to identify their personality type based on interactions with them if we want to improve our working relationships.

While everyone is a combination of all four DISC personality types, most people lean strongly toward one or two styles.

So here’s a look at the four different personality types represented in the DISC model.

  1. Dominance

The DISC D-style personality type is about dominance and control.  This confident, strong-willed type is results-oriented and wants to be in charge.  D’s play to win.

D-types aren’t afraid to take on responsibility and they make strong leaders.  They don’t mind conflict and they can be blunt in their communication.  

You won’t find D-types joking around on set.  They prefer a more traditional professional work environment, and they can be impatient and insensitive to others.

You’ve probably encountered some D’s working in the industry.  I know I have.  In my experience, I believe many UPMs and producers are D-types.  They’re fast-paced, competitive, and natural-born leaders.

D-types can see the big picture and are risk-takers. They’re good at motivating and inspiring others.

Personal Wants:  Control and variety

Needs:  Control

When in conflict:  Demands

Under stress may become: Dictatorial, critical

Stick to the essentials when communicating with a D-type, as D’s aren’t the best listeners and often lack patience and empathy.  Avoid idle chit-chat and focus on results and solutions in your conversations with them.  

2. Influence

DISC I-types are friendly, people-oriented, and enthusiastic team members.

Our industry is full of I’s, as they’re creative, expressive types who can thrive in the fast-paced people-oriented workplace of a film set.  You’ve probably encountered I-types often on set, and their outgoing, optimistic energy can be contagious.  You may even be an I-type yourself, as I am.  

I-types typically enjoy the constant interaction with others on set and are well suited to the fast pace of daily life on set.

I-types are creative problem solvers who are open to new ideas, aren’t afraid to try new things,  and often do their best work as part of a team.  I’s need social recognition and group activities and they prioritize collaboration and taking action.  

I’s can be impulsive and could improve their follow-through to complete tasks, but they can be energizing leaders and enthusiastic team builders.

Personal wants:  Approval, less structure

Needs:  Approval

When in conflict:  Attacks

When under stress may become: Sarcastic, superficial

When communicating with I-types, keep in mind that I’s need to feel heard and valued.  A friendly open approach works best with this personality type, but keep conversations fast-paced and quick.

3. Steadiness

Agreeable S-types can get along with anyone and are usually calm, patient, consistent, and stable.  They’re helpful team members who value team accomplishments and prefer harmony and stability in their work environment.

S-types struggle to adapt to change quickly and prefer to maintain the status quo and control their environment.  They may not adapt as quickly as they should to the constantly changing environment of a film set, as they don’t like rapid changes.

However, they’re supportive of others and are natural collaborators, although they could benefit from being more decisive and promoting themselves more.  

S’s may be better suited to a formal office environment than a fast-paced film set, but they’re loyal, accommodating team players who perform consistently and I’ve encountered more than a few S-types on set in my career.  

Personal wants:  Routine, harmony

Needs:  Routine

When in conflict:  Complies

When under stress may become:  Submissive, indecisive

S-types respond best to calmness, kindness, and reassurance that they’re doing things right.  They won’t respond well to aggressive communication, unclear expectations, or rapid unexpected changes.

4. Conscientiousness

C-types are systematic and analytical and are often perfectionists.  They tend to be introverts who value accuracy and enjoy constantly expanding their knowledge.

C’s are logical thinkers who analyze everything, follow protocols and procedures, and prefer working alone.  They thrive in a structured, orderly environment, so this is probably the personality type you’re least likely to find working on a film set.

C-types want objective processes and clearly defined procedures with plenty of time to complete work assignments, which doesn’t mesh well with the fast-paced creative problem-solving that takes place daily on set.   

Introverted personality types like C’s are probably to be found working mostly off set in our industry, carefully analyzing data in an orderly, predictable workplace rather than working on set.  

Personal wants:  Standards, logic

Needs:  Standards

When in conflict:  Avoids

When under stress may become:  Withdrawn, headstrong  

The C-type tends to be formal, so keep communications with them precise, to the point, and backed up by facts, as sociable small talk won’t be well-received.

Knowing Your Own DISC Personality Type

I never realized why it seemed so difficult to communicate with some people at work while communicating with others was so simple until I started researching this blog post and thought about the different personality types I’d encountered on set over the years.  

For example, my I-type personality with some characteristics of D-type can be perceived as pushy, impatient, and overly dramatic.  It would have been helpful to understand how that’s perceived by other personality types on set and what their needs are.  

It would have made me a better communicator and leader, as it will make you to understand your own personality type and how it relates to other personality types in your work environment.

Identifying Different Personality Types in the Workplace

Since it’s highly unlikely everyone on a film set will ever be given a DISC personality test, there are a couple of key indicators that can help determine personality type:

Casual vs. Formal interactions

Big Picture vs. Detail Oriented

D-types are Formal and Big-Picture oriented

I-types are Casual and Big-Picture oriented

S-types are Casual and Detail-oriented

C-types are Formal and Detail-oriented

Email and in-person communications often make it apparent, or you can just ask if someone is formal or casual and big-picture or detail-oriented.  It’s not as precise a determinant as taking a DISC personality test, but it will give you a good idea about their personality type in the workplace.  

Some Benefits of Understanding Personality Types in the Workplace on Set

Now that we’ve looked at the DISC characteristics of four different workplace personality types and some different ways to communicate with each, it’s time to look at the benefits of understanding how that helps create a more positive and productive work environment.

Improves Workplace Communication

By understanding the type of communication each personality type responds to, you’ll improve your own ability to communicate in the workplace and understand the best way to reach others.  You’ll also be better understood by your coworkers because you’ll be communicating with them in their preferred style of interaction, rather than yours.  

I think of it as finding a common language in which to communicate.  If you know a coworker prefers conversations to get to the point quickly, you don’t need to waste time with small talk.  On the other hand, you can have friendlier, more personal communications with others who prefer that style.

That’s empathetic communication and good managers know it’s one way to build more effective teams and increase employee satisfaction.  We could all benefit from more empathetic communication on set.

Years ago, a fellow assistant director told me a story of how she was almost fired from one of her jobs as a trainee because of the way she communicated with the production office.  

The a.d.’s communication style was quick and to the point, which irked the office staff.  They expected more friendliness and sociability in their conversations, something it would have been helpful for my colleague to know before she was nearly fired. 

I now know that while my I-type personality prefers brief, fast-moving conversations at work, S and C-types probably won’t respond well to that style of communication, as they’re more detail-oriented, and it’s a good idea for me to bear that mind when I converse with them.

Better Understanding of Others and Smoother Conflict Resolution

We each work as part of a team on set, and the best teams have productive workplace interactions and can resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise.  

I’ve worked on more than one show where someone got fired because they couldn’t resolve conflicts with people with whom they needed to have a smooth working relationship.  This seems to be more common than getting fired for incompetence in our industry.  

Perhaps if they’d understood their own personality type and made an effort to understand others and how they communicate and resolve conflicts, these situations would have ended differently.

When I was starting out in the industry, I asked a friend who worked on set what the hardest part of her job was.  I thought she’d tell me about the difficulties of her particular job, but instead, she said the hardest part was dealing with all the personalities on set.  After several decades of working in the industry, I’d have to agree.

The biggest challenges on set often involve dealing with different personality types in the stressful situations we often face.

Understanding how each personality type, including your own, handles conflict on set can play an important role in resolving it.  Some personality types are more blunt and direct in dealing with conflict while others types are more averse to conflict and need a gentle approach.

It’s unlikely you’ll ever have a job in our industry with absolutely no conflict on set, and having the self-awareness to handle challenging situations with empathy and emotional intelligence will point you in the direction of your own career advancement.

Help Achieve Your Career Goals

The more understanding you have of the personality types and needs of those you work with, the more insight you’ll have into your own career goals.

Once you know your personality type, it’ll become clearer as to what’s a good fit for your career and what isn’t.   Some people in our industry may be naturally drawn to the most creative work while others may be drawn to strong leadership roles.  

Early in my career, I worked briefly as a production coordinator.  It was the next step up from being a production assistant at the commercial production company I worked for.  

I did not like being a coordinator because I was stuck in the office making phone calls all day rather than being on set.  I missed the interaction with others on set.  Now I know my I-type personality needs fast-paced, people-oriented work and that’s better found on set than in the production office.  

If I’d known my personality type back then and understood my own needs, I would have skipped being a coordinator altogether and focused on working on set.  

Other personality types would rather work away from the hustle and bustle of the set.  Knowing the work you’re well suited for can be a big advantage early in your career, as can knowing how to deal with different personality types in the workplace.

Once you know your personality type, you’ll better understand what motivates you, how you respond to conflict, and how you approach problem-solving.  That’s helpful information to have as you build your career.


As long as we work on set, we’ll be working as part of a team to achieve the communal goal of getting the day’s work and completing the project.  We interact with people every day, and understanding someone’s personality type can help us have smooth rather than stressful interactions throughout the day.

Determining your own DISC personality type is a good start.

In a perfect world, everyone on set would take a DISC personality test to facilitate better communication and more productive workplace interactions.  Since that won’t happen, it’s up to each of us to determine the best way to communicate and resolve conflicts with others on set for a more harmonious workplace.



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