THE Bully, the Teacher's Pet, the High-Achiever, the Rebel and the Outcast - we all came across these characters at school. Fast-forward to today and you probably still meet them - at work.

Maybe your colleague is not the same rough kid who picked on you in Primary Four, but he has the same characteristics. Even though school is behind us, do our personalities ever graduate from the playground? And how does this impact on us at work?

In his book Intimacy: The need to be close, David McAdams speculates that from the time of birth, every individual is biologically predisposed to approach the world with his or her own personal style. However, our social environment also plays a major part in shaping who we are and how we relate to others, including those in the office.

Like it or not, our personalities have a direct impact on job performance and team cohesion. As a leader or worker in the office, it is important to understand the different personality types and what makes others tick, as it is quite likely you will need them at some stage to ensure you get the job done.

You would like to think that as an adult, you have developed the ability to respond to different personalities in a mature and collected manner. But the reality is, some personality types may irk you just as they did at school.

Personality clashes or imbalances happen at every level of work and can lead to unpleasant work environments and, sometimes, the total breakdown of work relationships. Every day we see newspaper reports of executives and boards reaching a stalemate, and whole companies grinding to a halt due to personality clashes and the inability to see eye to eye.

Most people can adapt and adjust their personalities when the need arises, but it is nearly impossible to change the fundamentals. Any attempt to do so will be both counterproductive and possibly even detrimental.

You will have far greater returns in trying to nourish different personalities within the workplace, channelling the strengths of your colleagues to an area that is suitable to them rather than moulding them into something they are not.

Better job match

Many businesses rely on behaviourial tools to better determine which candidates are appropriate for positions, how they can be further developed and how their interpersonal skills can be improved.

One such tool is the Apollo profile, which is designed to close the gap between company and employee goals. It benchmarks a company's best performers, both before and after workforce interventions. The profile also enables individuals and organisations to objectively evaluate where they are compared to where they and the company want to be.

The Apollo profile provides models of workplace excellence. It can be applied to entry-level employees as well as senior management. The profile measures work preferences, motivations and values against high performance individuals in selected job functions - inside or outside an organisation. The survey also profiles an individual against those considered above average - not the mean or average.

The coaching card

Executive coaching is utilised to hone skills of employees who want to develop professionally. As companies continue to localise their senior management capabilities, they often find themselves promoting individuals who have the technical knowledge to excel at their jobs, but who are not used to managing large teams or other senior leaders who are their equals in intelligence, motivation and ego.

This kind of management calls for a very different set of interpersonal skills than what is needed to lead a traditional work or sales team. A qualified executive coach can focus on identifying the gaps in a person's skill set and assist in bridging those gaps.

Executive coaching is also used to develop workers' interpersonal and communication skills. The coach can help a worker in identifying verbal and non-verbal communication cues from counterparts and interpreting what they mean and how to respond. This is not only useful in developing internal cohesion but can also be used in establishing relationships with clients.

Like a sporting team, it is vital to understand your and your co-workers' personalities so that you can play to their strengths and reduce exposure to their weaknesses. This approach will ensure that your team wins.

You and your colleagues may have graduated from the schoolyard physically, but it is important to take advantage of the tools available in the workforce today to ensure that you have also moved on mentally.