Exploring Colour Based Personality Types and their Effects on Working in a Project

TEXT | Adebayo Agbejule and Noora Teräs
Permalink http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2023061956417


Project management is the process of leading the work of a team to achieve all project goals within the given constraints such as scope, time, and budget (PMI, 2017). Project management uses specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver something of value to people. The success of any project is measured by its completion time, within the budget cost and in meeting the planned performance based on the initial plan (Berhan and Beshah, 2017). In addition, the success of a project also depends on capabilities of the project team to deal with uncertainties inherent in a project which is linked to the personalities of the team (Muller and Thomas, 2006). Project management is divided into five process phases as listed below:

  1. Initiating phase
  2. Planning phase
  3. Executing phase
  4.  Monitoring and control phase
  5.  Executing period

Project innovation begins with the creative process of idea generation and culminates with the disciplined realization of that idea. The innovation process often involves chaotic cycles of shifting back and forth between idea generation and idea implementation as the project team learns from unforeseen issues and successful progress. The process of creativity and innovation in project management presents a challenge for project teams because the ideal characteristics of creative team members are very different from those of team members who excel at implementation. For example, creativity is suitable for individuals with open minds, comfort with ambiguity, and a willingness to take risks, while efficient implementation requires conscientiousness, focus, and conformance to a planned course of action (Crilly, 2020). This shows that projects need different type of personalities, the main problem becomes how to get these personalities working together in an optimal way to ensure project success.

The success of a project depends on several factors, including the competencies of the project leaders, their personalities, characteristics, skills, and leadership styles, which amongst others the impact on project outcomes (Meng and Boyd, 2017). The goal of the study is to determine the relationship between personality type and the ways people work in the different phases of project life cycle.

On one hand personality traits of project managers affect their leadership qualities (Muller and Thomas, 2006; Erikson, 2019). On the other hand, the emotional intelligence and personality of project managers impact on their competence. Personality refers to an individual’s characteristic patterns of thought, emotion, and behaviour, together with the psychological mechanisms, hidden or not, behind those patterns (Johnson, 2009). Researchers (e.g., Meng and Boyd, 2017) suggest that emotional intelligence and personality of project managers have a significant effect on team communication, conflict management and team leadership.

There are different instruments used in assessing personality types (e.g., Myers Briggs Type Indicator; Keirsey Temperament Sorter). This study focuses on colour-based personalities, the DiSC-analysis based on preferences to different colours such as red, yellow, green, and blue. Each of these personalities have certain determining behavioural characteristics:  Preference for red colour indicates bold and ambitious but also hot-tempered and dominant. Yellows are optimistic and cheerful but also impatient.  Greens are calm and easy-going but also passive and indecisive. Blues are organized and analytical but also sometimes too detail oriented (Erikson, 2019).

There are many types of personalities in the project teams. The cohesion of the team members is critical to project success, so it is important to understand the different personalities in the team.  Based on DiSC-analysis, a project team should consist of all colours to create best possible dynamic. In a perfect world we would have an equal number of each colour. The yellow comes up with a new idea, the red makes the decision, the green must do all the work and the blue evaluates and makes sure the results are excellent. But this is not the case. In some cases, individuals with preference for yellow are in positions suitable for reds. Or in the worst cases, they have been able to talk their way into a job that requires blue behaviour. Indeed, there are many examples of people who are in the wrong roles, and part of the explanation lies in the fact that they lack the natural perquisite to do their jobs. (Erikson, 2019). To lead a good project, it is good to recognise different personalities, and maybe try to build a project team so that there is as much as possible good combination of colours.

Research method

This research was conducted using a survey method.  A questionnaire was developed and sent to 45 project workers and 24 responded via Google forms platform. Of the 24 respondents, 45,8 % were blue personalities, 25 % were green, 20,8 % red and 8,3 % were yellow. 83 % were male and 16 % % were female.

The questionnaire was prepared in two parts. In the first part, the respondents participate in the personality test based on DiSC analysis, and then proceeded to answer questions relating to certain areas of project management.  SPSS was used for data analysis. Factor analysis was employed, and two categories of project management were created, that is leading and organising projects.

Result and Analysis

The results of this analysis are presented in Tables 1, 2, and 3. The results shows the individuals with preference for blue colour are comfortable in all stages, especially in the execution phase. Preference for yellow colour has the highest mean score for leading and organizing projects. Individuals with preference for blue have a higher mean score in organizing (mean score = 3.69) than in leading (mean score = 3.59). A preference for red colour has a higher mean score in leading (mean score = 3.95) than in organizing (mean score = 3.69).  Preference for the colour green had the lowest score in both organizing and leading.

Personality typeInitiationExecutionClosingTotal
Table 1. Personality types and in which stage of a project they are working.

Personality TypeNumberMeanStandard deviation
Table 2. Personality types and leading projects.

Personality TypeNumberMeanStandard deviation
Table 3. Personality types and organizing projects.


The results show that there are differences in colour-based personality types and how they affect working in projects. Organising projects are easy for yellows and blues, red personalities also find it to be quite an easy aspect of project management to them. Greens are also in this aspect moderate and rank themselves lower. All this shows that what has been studied and said about these four personality types correlates well also in the project-based work environment. Erikson (2019) suggest that to lead a successful project it is critical to recognise different personality types and understand how they work. This way it might be possible to reach a better result in all important areas of project management.

The limitation of this study was the sample size. To have a more comprehensive study at least all 45 people should have answered, or the questionnaire could have been sent to more people. Despite the small sample, the study provides insights to the personality types and implications of working in project teams.

  • Berhan, E., & Beshah, B. (2017). Key project planning processes affecting project success. International Journal for Quality Research, 11(1), 159-172.

  • Crilly, B. C. (2020). Ambidextrous project management: The influences of leadership styles, project management practices, and team characteristics on creativity and innovation (Doctoral dissertation, Hood College).

  • Erikson, T. (2019). Surrounded by Idiots: The Four Types of Human Behaviour (or, how to Understand Those who Cannot be Understood). Random House.

  • Johnsson, F. (2009). Personality measures under focus: The NEO-PI-R and the MBTI. Griffith University Undergraduate Psychology Journal, 1.

  • Meng, X., & Boyd, P. (2017). The role of the project manager in relationship management. International Journal of Project Management, 35(5), 717-728.

  • Mullaly, M. & Thomas, J. (2006). The colour of success: exploring the impacts of personality. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2006—North America, Seattle, WA. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

  • PMI. (2017) A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Newton Square, Pennsylvania: PMI Publishing.

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