Managing diverse personalities in the office to minimise risk (3)

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” – John Maxwell


“Is it better to be feared than loved”?

This famous question comes down to us from Niccolo Machiavelli, a political theorist who lived in Italy during the Renaissance. He contended that a leader who is feared is preferable to a leader who is loved. However, he also lived during a time of great political instability where city governments changed in a flash, usually violently, and usually involving executions of the previous leadership. Since we no longer live in an age where stepping down from a leadership position or being removed would involve the loss of one’s head, do we really need to adopt the route that proved so disastrous for such ruthless dictators as Saddam Hussein and Augusto Pinochet?

The Diverse Personalities (contd)

Dear Readers, I am sure you have realized by now that risk is everywhere in our lives. That is why I try to cover any aspect of risk in our personal as well as professional lives. At the end of the day it is the end result that matters. In the workplace we are out to carry on various activities to meet a purpose such as profit. Even NGOs need to regulate and monitor their bottom line even though their core business is to create positive impacts into the lives of their beneficiaries.

So far I have given a brief outline of the various personalities in the Essipong branch of Capricorn branch where Alfred, a Relationship Manager recently promoted to a Branch Manager and transferred there to turn round the fortunes of the branch which has been incurring losses over the last three years. Now let us look at a few more personalities that Alfred works with in the branch.

Mr. Charles Hansen: Office Driver/Transport Officer

He is 49 years old and has been in the bank for over 29 years, having driven the former Senior managers and other branch managers in the system. He is mature and of a quiet disposition yet has great institutional knowledge which can be tapped by any new manager to use in his decision-making. He also knows a lot about the customers, especially the big-shots who sometimes wield power of influence in the bank! His ears are always” on the ground” and can even assist in loan recovery from the recalcitrant customers. He is a very proud fellow with a big ego, ready to put any millennial into his or her proper place. He believes in authority.

Mr. Kwesi Ammissah: Loans Officer

In his early thirties, Kwesi Ammissah is the only staff who comes from Essipong. At 32 years old, Alfred find Kwesi’s relationship with the borrowing customers surrounded with question marks. In effect Alfred is not comfortable about the closeness of Kwesi to his kinsmen when it comes to the business of banking. There are times that relatives from town put financial pressure on him. He is not meticulous when it comes to an eye for detail. This is definitely a red flag for a credit analyst’s role. Nevertheless, Kwesi has a good human relationship with all the staff.

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Rhoda Asamoah: Janitor

Rhoda Asamoah is forty-five years. A “Methuselah” in the branch with a long institutional memory. She actually knows ‘everything” that has happened in the branch since its inception. She has a computer brain which has a good and up to date memory of the various staff, and even customers who have passed through the doors or office of Essipong branch. With her towering and matronly figure she has grown to regard the branch as an extension of her home. She virtually lives there since she stays longer than necessary. Although there are outsourced janitors who work on shift, Rhoda’s presence around the branch the whole day makes her an obvious choice for messengerial duties around the branch, such as buying lunch for staff.

Alfred’s Strategic Plan

With such a complex bunch of personalities Alfred had to set into motion a strategic plan. He is considering three main issues: How far the branch has the branch come, where they want to go and how they can reach there. With Capricorn’s mission and vision in mind, how can Alfred meet the aims and objectives, exhibiting the corporate values as well? It is a tall list to comprehend. Moreover, work is just like life: you encounter different types of personalities, dispositions and temperaments. The fact that people are different does not mean that Alfred can just walk away and disengage when someone with a different personality or values crosses his path. At this stage, Alfred is likely to spend as much as a third of his life at work, so learning the skills to cope with many different personality types can give him the peace of mind when challenging situations arise.


The Self Audit

Considering the fact that the branch has been incurring losses for 3 years, Alfred had to seek further and better particulars for the cause of the losses. The following comes to mind:

  • What are the job descriptions of the staff? Are they realistic? Can they be amended to fit into the branch’s new strategy of posting profits within the next two years?
  • What do the staff files indicate about them? It is good to know their backgrounds and how far they have come. Some knowledge of their personal background which cannot be found on the file would be useful to ‘keep in the pocket’ for future use.
  • The above information is very useful to know and can be used as back-up for certain behavioural traits they exhibit in the office. As usual there is always someone who has more ‘filla’ about people’s personal issues. These are grapevine news which comes in handy. However much of such information must be treated with caution because it can easily prejudice one’s mind. Esther’s long stay in the branch makes her a valuable asset in that jurisdiction. She was always ready to fill in the gap that Alfred needed to know. Alfred, with his Psychology and Sociology background, tries to be cautious not to lead her on. He wants to know the staff through his own personal interaction with them and not really from the ‘coloured’ lens of Esther.
  • Osei-Broni, the Operations manager is another person that Alfred decided never to take for granted. With Osei’s copious expertise in the operational procedures, he can make or unmake Alfred’s journey to success. Since seventy percent of Alfred’s time is spent marketing, Osei-Broni is the main man in the branch. Alfred has decided to sharpen his knowledge on the operational procedures to be able to check some sensitive transactions during his ‘desk time’.
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This strategy seems to be working for the two managers. He also spends sometime sharpening Osei’s communication and selling techniques. Occasionally he is asked to accompany the Sales staff to have a feel of the stresses caused by the targets for deposits! Alfred has used his people skills to ensure that he gives Osei all the respect to enable him tap his knowledge to complement what he lacks. Osei is likely to head a branch soon, but how can he start delegating some of his people management skills as well as technical skills needed in credit analysis, marketing, delegating, communication and supervisory skills? Alfred wondered why he had not benefitted from such training in the past.


Fitting personalities into Job Descriptions – Alfred’s Dilemma

Personality diversity in the workplace can be a driver for success. This is the final lap that Alfred has to learn and use in managing the diverse personalities while reducing errors, losses and overall risk. No more posting of losses. The new journey starts now.

Tune in next week to look at the various tips Alfred uses to ensure a win-win situation for all the branch staff. They are in it together to turn around the Essipong branch. Can they do it? See you on paper next week


…to be continued





Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations ethics and fraud.


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