How to work with an impatient vs patient person

Impatient vs. Patient Personality Traits

Within the workplace, your coworkers and employees all fall somewhere on the scale between impatient and patient. The ramifications of this personality trait go far beyond how people respond to the coffee maker taking too long to brew; impatient and patient people have different ways of tackling new projects, providing support to colleagues, and more.

Read on to learn more about these two traits and how they influence people at work.

What does it mean to be impatient?

Impatient personality types are ready to get things done. They’re often the ones moving projects forward, advancing new ideas, and looking for ways to cut through bureaucratic red tape. Waiting is anathema to the impatient person.

The Type A personality is characteristically impatient, but any of the types can tend towards impatience. (Read more about the four overall personality types.)

What are the characteristics of an impatient employee?

A few ways to tell you are working with someone with an impatient personality:

  • They want things done fast and may be frustrated that they’re not already done.
  • They pressure others to get things done and may follow up on items that seem to be taking too long.
  • As far as it’s in their power, they work to accomplish things quickly and make their deadlines (or even turn things in early).
  • They may become frustrated with delays, especially if they perceive them as unnecessary.
  • In the extreme, they may move ahead too soon without the right information, especially if they also tend to be risk takers.

How to work with an impatient person

Patience may be a virtue, but in the workplace, impatience has definite upsides. Learning to work well with impatient personalities can help channel their energy into driving your whole team forward.

How to train an impatient employee
  • Train your impatient employees on how you’d like them to escalate issues and push priorities. Having that clear knowledge will help them wait for resolutions to come down “official” channels -- or to know when it’s time to push things along.
How to motivate an impatient person
  • Be mindful of the blockers facing your impatient employees. They’ll feel motivated when they’re free to run with their work, rather than feeling stymied at every turn. Check in regularly to see if there’s anything you can help unblock.
  • Be realistic about timelines and deadlines. Delays drive impatient employees to distraction; better to roll out a realistic timeline than dream up an aggressive one that ends up needing to be pushed back several times. (Bonus: The patient people on your team will also appreciate the realistic timeframe.)
How to give feedback to someone who is impatient
  • Impatient people may sometimes need to be reminded of other priorities in the workplace. Being open about team priorities will help impatient people keep the right perspective about how their efforts fit in with the bigger picture.
  • People who are impatient at work sometimes bypass the “right” way to do things in favor of the fast way. That’s especially true if they also tend to be aggressive (rather than passive). For example, if they know that catching an IT person in the hall will get their problem fixed faster than submitting a tech ticket, they’ll just do that. If you notice this style is creating headaches for others, be sure to give feedback around that.

What is the opposite of an impatient employee?

On the other hand, some people tend to be patient in the workplace.

What does it mean to be patient?

People who are patient at work are much more willing to wait for what they need. They tend to thrive when they can complete tasks at their preferred pace.

What are the characteristics of a patient employee?

Here are a few signs that you are working with someone with a patient personality:

  • They’d prefer to wait for all of the information, help, or resources they need rather than forge ahead without.
  • They’re able to slow down and assess things at work without becoming antsy to move on.
  • They often have a talent for slowing down and listening carefully.
  • In the extreme, they may become stalled and wait too long to act, especially if they also tend to be cautious.

How to work with a patient person

Being mindful of the patient personalities on your team can help them bring their best work to the table. Let’s explore a few tips for training, motivating, and giving feedback to patient people.

How to train a patient employee
  • Carve out time for training. Sometimes, managers train on the fly or allow training to be constantly interrupted. Employees with patient personality traits take the time they need to learn something new, so return the favor and give them your full attention whenever possible.
  • Be sure to give training around how to handle delays and the general timetable your team operates around. For example, if it’s reasonable to hear back from a vendor within a few days, be sure your patient employees know when it’s time to follow up or escalate.
How to motivate a patient person
  • Patient personalities are motivated by having time to do their work well. Whenever possible, give them the time they feel they need to do a good job, rather than cramming too much on their plates at one time.
  • Recognize when the impatient employees on your team (or you yourself) may be creating too much pressure for a patient person. Get on the same page about deadlines (and make sure they’re realistic), then make sure you’re not doing the workplace equivalent of crossing your arms and tapping your toes.
How to give feedback to a patient employee
  • Recognize the times when a willingness to wait paid off. For example, maybe the rest of the team was ready to move forward on a product launch, but the patient employee did one final check and caught a mistake. Recognize those moments.
  • If the patient employee is creating roadblocks for other employees, communicate that they need to find a way to move forward. For example, you might say, “I know you’re waiting on something from X to deliver Y, but we aren’t able to wait any longer. How can we move ahead?”

Which is a better worker: patient vs. impatient?

There really is no one right answer. Patient and impatient people both bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table, especially combined with all of their other personality traits.

Some roles may be better suited for patient or impatient personalities, depending on the demands of the job, workplace culture, and what helps a person thrive. But there’s no one “best” personality trait. In fact, most teams benefit from a mix of patient and impatient people to offer balance.

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