Hannah looks at Justin, her colleague, and sighs.

“Wish I were as flexible, task-oriented, and self-confident as he is,” she thinks. Hannah spends time trying to boost productivity and take no offense at critical remarks from her boss. She pours heart and soul into personal development, but it’s such energy-sucking that seems impossible.

Why is it so challenging to become like Justin, an easy-going critical thinker and fair-headed boy of all top managers? It doesn’t need to be so hard.

The problem is, Hannah doesn’t take personal peculiarities into consideration when trying to work better. Dreamy melancholic, she forgets about strong sides of this temperament type to use for career development and wants to become Justin, an extroverted sanguine, instead.

It’s depressing. It’s disappointing. And needless to say, Hannah fails to achieve this.

Don’t be Hannah. You don’t have to get over yourself to succeed at work. Consider the strengths of your character and make them work for the benefit of your career.

How Temperament Type Can Influence Your Career

In this article, we’ll 1) define core temperament types, 2) find out how they influence our career choice, and 3) learn their strengths and weaknesses to use for efficient work and career development.


Four fundamental personality types exist, and they are as follows:

  • Sanguine (enthusiastic, active, and social)
  • Choleric (short-tempered, fast, and irritable)
  • Melancholic (analytical, wise, and quiet)
  • Phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful)

This classification comes from Hippocrates who believed the concept of humorism and incorporated those four temperaments into four bodily fluids (“humors”) affecting human behaviors and personality traits. He insisted that mood and emotions depended on an excess or lack of those fluids in people’s bodies.

Later, medical researcher Galen described four temperaments as the classification of hot/cold and dry/wet qualities from four elements. Looking for physiological reasons of human behaviors, he considered the ideal personality as one with all four characteristics balanced. Galen named them sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic after the bodily humors such as blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.

These four are standard but not the only classification of human temperaments.

We all know the terms introvert and extrovert by Carl Jung, whose theory of psychological types takes a new meaning today. Experts write, paraphrase, and even plagiarize articles and books on the topic, trying to bring it home: extroverts are best leaders who rule the world, while introverts are quiet and socially disabled personalities. Back in 2010, the American Psychiatric Association even called introversion a mental disorder.

Jung himself considered extroverts and introverts two extremes of the scale:

There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.” Carl G. Jung

With that said, most of us appear to be ambiverts combining the features or both psychological types. And yet, the preponderance of one over another influences our decisions and career choices by all means.

Temperament classifications are many.

  1. That by Thomas and Chess describes three temperaments based on nine traits: easy (40% of people), difficult (10%), and the slow-to-warm-up (15%).
  2. Another one by Personality Max names four temperaments — Projector, Creator, Intellectual, and Visionary — along with common career matches for each.
  3. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator allows you to identify individual strengths, weaknesses, and possible career preferences based on 16 personality types.

To make a long story short, we’ll concentrate on four core temperament types which had apparently fuelled all further theories of psychological types. Combining them with the introversion-extroversion scale — as we know, there is a difference in the brains of extroverted and introverted people — let’s define how temperament influences our career choice and how we can use its strengths for professional growth.


Temperament is individual differences in emotions, motor, reactivity, and self-regulation. It demonstrates consistency across situations and over time, so it’s logical to assume it influences career choices we make. The problem is, some people ignore their individual peculiarities, trying to get ahead of themselves and, therefore, taking wrong steps at professional paths. (Remember Hannah, mentioned at the beginning?)

So, emotional intelligence is crucial for those willing to get the most out of their strengths. Applying temperament features to work, we can decide on directions to proceed, professional skills to develop, and environment to feel most comfortable while building a career.

And now, for the most interesting part:

Take the quiz to find out whether you’re more extroverted or introverted.


Now it’s time to put the things right.

Are you an Extrovert?

According to psychologist Hans Eysenck, extroverts have a lower basic rate of arousal compared to introverts, which means they need to work harder to stimulate bodies and minds. That’s the reason they crave for a company of others and seek adventures in the environment.

The dopamine system in an extrovert’s brain eagers for novelty, risks, and surprises. They find it exciting to try something highly stimulating; otherwise, they don’t feel “normal” and motivated. Energized by people, extroverts choose careers which:

  • offer options
  • encourage teamwork and collaboration
  • allow exploring things and taking challenges
  • accept enthusiasm
  • develop interpersonal and leadership skills, flexibility, and productivity boost

The Truity Psychometrics report on career achievement and personality type found that extroverts earn more, supervising 4.5 people at work compared with 2.8 from introverts. Also, researchers report that “extroverts are simply more cheerful and high-spirited.” Sounds inspiring, isn’t it?

As a rule, people of sanguine and choleric temperament types belong to extroverts.

Are you an Introvert?

Unlike extroverts, extreme introverts have a higher basic rate of arousal, which explains their preference for less stimulating environments: stimuli in their brains need to run through a long pathway for planning and solving problems. That is why predictable situations and time alone are more pleasant for introverts.

To avoid fatigues, stresses, or even depressions at work, people of this psychological type choose careers which:

  • don’t require much publicity
  • don’t demand strict deadlines or constant rush
  • allow them to develop new skills privately
  • let to observe and examine situations before making decisions
  • expect little distractions

Melancholics and phlegmatics are those believed to be introverts. And it seems they are in trend today: TED talks on the topics, books such as Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength or The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World on Amazon, articles about super successful introverts, studies that call introverts the best leaders, etc.

A 2006 Japanese study moved beyond and said that introverts were even healthier than extroverts! Who could have thought, huh?
More than that, innies are better in communicating and writing.

That’s all well and fine but let’s not forget about ambiverts who can take the best of both introverts and extroverts. As psychologist Brian Little says,

“those who are ambiverts have rather more degrees of freedom to shape their lives than those who are at extremes of other ends.”

The differences between extroverts and introverts are scientifically explained, as well as the peculiarities of ambiverts who are called more successful and influential. So, knowing where you are on that introversion-extroversion scale makes a big difference in improving a productivity outcome.

The same goes for knowing your individual type on the scale of four core temperaments. Depending on strengths and weaknesses of each, you can learn how to apply them for more efficient work and career development.

Not sure which is the temperament type of yours?

Take a test, find it out, and check your characteristics below.


Your temperament is a permanent psychological nature determining how you think, feel, and interact. It reflects decisions and behavior, so knowing your abilities and characteristics could help to benefit from them.

As already mentioned above, four basic temperament types consist of sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, and melancholic where the first two belong to extroverts while the last two are considered introverts. Most of us are a blend of two temperaments but one dominates the other anyway, especially if you have an “extrovert-introvert” combination.

Let’s study each for better understanding of people around us; and let’s concentrate on our dominant temperament type to learn all its traits and use them on workpath.

Successful Sanguine

This type is typical for air zodiac signs, associated with blood fluid.

Do you belong to sanguines? Big chances are you are an easy-going, flexible, and dynamic person, task-oriented and no slouch at critical thinking.

What are your main strengths at work?

  • You are self-confident, taking no offense at critical remarks.
  • You have superb interpersonal skills and positive attitude to get on well with peers and clients.
  • You are cool-headed and productive, but you lose motivation and interest in work when it becomes humdrum or doesn’t require any defined responsibilities.

Careers perfect for sanguines: sales, PR, customer service, marketing, travel, sports, and entertainment.     

How to work smarter if you are sanguine?

  • Don’t torture yourself with hackwork.
  • Become an efficient time manager: don’t overset or procrastinate.
  • Combine routine and dynamic tasks to stay productive.
  • Be proactive. Participate in social discussions.
  • Take advantage of your sociability: be flexible when it goes to conflict negotiations.

Assertive Choleric

The most ambitious of all the temperaments, cholerics are competitive, goal-oriented, motivational, and often climbing into positions of leadership. A perfect example of a choleric manager is Steve Jobs.

Belonging to this type, you are practical, logical, analytical, and straightforward.

What are your main strengths at work?

  • You are full of energy and have strong leadership skills.
  • You start new projects with passion.
  • You are persuasive and attractive.

Don’t let impulsion and irascibility rule your decisions and behavior. Try to be more caring and sympathetic: insistence is great, but don’t forget about tactfulness.

Careers perfect for cholerics: business, law, technology, security, management, engineering, and statistics.

How to work smarter if you are choleric?

  • Solution-oriented, lead projects from A to Z.
  • Take short breaks during a day to calm down your temper.
  • Cholerics can’t stand boredom, so try to get emotionally involved with every task.
  • Work with people who have similar professional interests.

Cool-headed Phlegmatic

Relaxed phlegmatics live in harmony with others. Top characteristics of this temperament are self-control, patience, fixity of habits, and high effectiveness.

What are your main strengths at work?

  • Phlegmatics are the most productive employees.
  • When it comes to tough stuff, you are steady and cool-headed.   
  • Not so fast at decision-making as cholerics, you do stay the course.
  • You are a team player, curious and fair.

Careers perfect for phlegmatics: nursing, education, psychology, office work, assistant roles, human or social services.

How to work smarter if you are phlegmatic?

  • Start working on a project in advance.
  • Better solve one critical problem than spend energy on multitasking.
  • Avoid procrastination and inactivity.
  • Learn to speak for your opinion and discontent in public.

Dreamy Melancholic

The last but not least, a melancholic temperament type belongs to diligent and accurate introverted individuals, thoughtful loners and analytical thinkers.

Task-oriented, they better work alone or in small groups. Melancholics don’t like when someone interrupts or distracts them, so they often choose careers allowing to show their creative side with less publicity and no rush.

What are your main strengths at work?

  • You have strong analytical skills and intuition.
  • You are tactful, and you are okay with routine work.
  • Your strong problem-solving skills make you a great adviser.
  • You are wise and creative.
  • You are a classy organizer.

Careers perfect for melancholics: research, art, science, accounting, administration, and social work.

How to work smarter if you are melancholic?

  • Organize a workspace properly. Nothing should distract you.
  • Do work in pieces.
  • Don’t procrastinate, prevent yourself from stresses before deadlines.
  • When it goes to criticism, try to work out objectifying attitude.
  • Take advantage of your detail-oriented nature: struggle with indecision and perfectionism.


Temperament is our permanent psychological nature determining how we think, behave, interact, and work. The great mistake would be to expect someone to become like us or vice versa. With better understanding of our individual peculiarities, we can take advantage of them for a successful career and happier life.

About the author

By Lesley Vos, a content evangelist and contributor to publications on education, digital marketing, and personal development.

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