are you at work “cactus” or “snowflake”?

When you find common ground with colleagues, you are much more comfortable and easier in the workplace. But what to do when you hardly communicate with any colleague? Agree, such a lack of contact can complicate even the simplest tasks.

There are several classifications of personality that can explain why you can interact well with one person and try to stay away from another, for example, the DISC Behavior Classifier, personality types A to D, and even the division into extroverts and introverts.

Today we will consider the classification of two types of personality at work, depending on how they perform tasks and communicate with other people – these are “cactus” and “snowflake”.

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Heart or head?

In his new book “Cactus and snowflake at work” Deborah Zack, a leadership coach and bestselling author, defines the “cactus” personality type as guided by the head and the “snowflake” type as guided by the heart.

“Cacti have a strong tendency to be more logical, rational and straightforward, while snowflakes are more sensitive, sympathetic and diplomatic,” – explains Deborah Zak.

In other words, if the “cactus” tends to make decisions based on reason, the “snowflake” listens to his feelings and emotions.

The key word here is “addiction” as a person can exhibit traits of both a cactus and a snowflake. Let’s say you are naturally more like a cactus, but you can be a snowflake when circumstances call for it. Basically, when you exhibit other types of qualities, it simply reflects the difference between temperament and behavior: the first is who you are by nature, and the second is how you act in a particular situation.

“However, most people are better at only communicating with one of these personality types at work. Although none of them is better or worse than the other, – emphasizes Deborah Zak, – due to their fundamental difference, the cactus and the snowflake have their own strengths and weaknesses. And in order to find ways to interact with all types of people, you need to know and use these unique aspects to your advantage. “

Key traits of the “cactus” and “snowflake” personality types

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Devorah Zack offers a detailed description of the qualities that are specific to each personality type, and gives tips on how to get along with a colleague who is different from you.


Accuracy and punctuality are the main qualities on the list of working values ​​for “cacti” that strive for excellent performance and results. Most “cacti” will consider everything that does not contribute to this as unnecessary and unnecessary.

“The typical ‘cactus’ draws a clear line between personal and professional life, says Devora Zack. “When he comes to work, he leaves his feelings at the door.”

To identify “cacti”, pay attention to the phrases “I think” (instead of “I have a feeling”) and any other statements about their goals or motivation related to solving problems or achieving results. Cactus will be an ambitious and productive leader, but completely unemotional.

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Although the “snowflake” is capable of working as productively as the “cactus”, it still chooses harmony and empathy in the workplace.

“Snowflakes will pay more attention to a positive work environment and they always try to get people to be on good terms with each other,” explains Devora Zack.

The typical “snowflake” gets more pleasure from meeting and interacting with different people than a cactus, and she does it more emotionally. “Snowflake” also knows how to be a leader and is well oriented in difficult situations, but she has a more developed personal perception of everything that happens.

How to interact with the opposite person to your personality type

This is quite possible, because do not think that you are on completely different poles and will never find a common language with each other. How to do it?

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  1. Resist the temptation to change the person

“Don’t try to shove a square peg into a round hole, as a cactus is motivated by logic and a snowflake by feeling,” advises Devorah Zak. “It’s important to recognize that you don’t need to approach tasks the same way, even if you’re aiming for the same goal.”

Attempts to change or pressure another person can be counterproductive. Instead, find common ground (a well-completed project, for example, as a common goal), and then design a system that will lead you to success, while making use of your differences, rather than highlighting them. For example, a “cactus” will cope with monotonous tasks, while a “snowflake” will use its creative and communication skills.

  1. Speak the other person’s language

To interact successfully, people need to be motivated. As already mentioned, let it be, for example, a successfully completed project as a common goal.

“For a snowflake, it may be the end result that will help people or improve their lives, but if you are talking to a“ cactus ”, you can say something about how the project will increase its income or attract media attention,” says Deborah Zac.

In essence, the result may be the same, but the motivation that drives different team members to achieve a goal is different, depending on their personality type.

  1. Beware of “non-events”

For Devorah Zack, the tension between personality types in the workplace is one-sided. She calls such situations “non-events.” This means that one person feels hurt while the other person didn’t even intend to hurt him.

For example, imagine two colleagues riding in an elevator: one colleague looks through notes for an upcoming presentation, and then just walks out on his floor; the other is simply shocked that they did not even say hello to him.

“This offended person or“ snowflake ”may think:“ He does not even remember my name ”or“ How arrogant he is! ” the absence of an event, ”explains Devora Zak.

  1. Take advantage of the platinum rule

This is, so to speak, a reimagined golden rule. Instead of treating someone the way you want them to treat you, change your approach. Treat the person the way he wants to be treated – and this will be noticeably different for the two personality types. If you know you are working with a snowflake, consider the feelings of that receptive person; for cactus, you can focus on real goals and be concise and persuasive.

Deborah Zack explains this with an example of a reaction to an employee returning from vacation:

“Snowflake will love it if you say something like: “We all missed you so much. Glad to see you. “ But a cactus can perceive such a phrase as excessive curiosity and familiarity, and he would prefer that his colleagues did not tell him anything at all. “

  1. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

These two personality types, as a rule, voice their opinions, comment and criticize in different ways, which must also be taken into account. “Snowflake” tries to be delicate and soften any blow, which can annoy the “cactus” who would like to be told the whole truth, clearly, clearly and to the point. Accordingly, the “cactus” itself does not choose the words and says everything as it is, and this can hurt the “snowflake” very painfully.

“If you change your style of interaction and communication, making it more understandable and direct for the ‘cactus’ and more diplomatic for the sensitive ‘snowflake’, it can make a huge difference, – sums up Deborah Zak. “You should be able to convey exactly the same idea to both the“ snowflake ”and the“ cactus ”, but in different ways.”

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