5 School Nutrition Personality Types (and How to Manage Them)

Cartoon fruit characters.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. As your school’s Food Service Director, the first step to effectively managing the different personalities on your team is to look for the main strengths of each employee.

Once you’ve identified each of your School Nutrition employees’ strengths, use the following guide to determine who on your team has which personality type.

From there, you can use our recommendations for how to get the most from each personality and from your team as a whole.


The Leader


The Leader thrives on knowing that teammates rely on them and look to them each day to oversee the big picture across all tasks.

How to Spot

The Leader feels comfortable organizing team members and taking responsibility for the kitchen’s overall operation.

It’s tempting to expect the seasoned vets in your kitchen to have this personality, but that’s not always the case. Consider each employee’s behavior and attitude to identify this personality, and don’t rule out the idea of a Leader who is young or newer to the team.

How to Manage

Titles aren’t always the same as personality types. It’s OK to empower an unofficial Leader, but make sure the rest of the staff understands that on top of giving this employee a little more power to make decisions — even if only unofficially — you’re also going to hold the Leader a little more accountable for the results. That will help to keep the other personalities and official supervisors from feeling left out or resenting the Leader personality (or you).

The “Get In Where You Fit In”


This personality wants to help the team hit goals first and foremost, no matter what.

How to Spot

Look for a team member who is versatile, likes variety in job tasks from day to day, and is willing to learn in order to help the team.

How to manage

Just because someone doesn’t take control as a leader doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable as a team member. It just means that the person is cooperative-minded and willing to be flexible and fill in wherever you need them to on a given day.

But remember: not wanting to lead and not needing any recognition are two different things. Yes, this team member is likely to be fine with making sacrifices on behalf of the team, but make sure you let both the “Get In Where You Fit In” and the rest of the team know how much you appreciate this kind of attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes.

The Buddy


The Buddy seeks a great working environment. Having a good time while getting the work done and being friends with everyone are the two things this personality type values most.

How to Spot

Do you have an employee who always jokes with teammates and genuinely cares how they are doing on a personal level? Look for the team member who enjoys her/his teammates as much as the work itself.

How to Manage

Don’t be fooled into thinking the Buddy doesn’t care about the work or the quality of the meals. But what the Buddy cares about even more is the people who make up the team. If you need to get the Buddy to do something, frame it in terms of helping out the individuals on the team, rather than meeting quotas or projections.

Also, if your School Nutrition program has a social media account, the outgoing, friendly Buddy would be a great choice to manage it.

Looking to set up your School Nutrition program’s social media account?

Read our guide!

The Happy Hour


This team member has a great work ethic and is money motivated.

How to Spot

Anyone who works wants to make money, but you can tell the “Happy Hour” apart by a willingness to work extra hours. If you’re not sure, try incentivizing your team and see who comes out on top. Have a contest where you give away a gift card or some other prize of monetary value, and watch the “Happy Hour” go!

How to Manage

This one is pretty straightforward. Incentives work the best, but that doesn’t always mean directly offering money. You also could offer the opportunity to earn more money as a reward. Offer more hours in exchange for hitting an individual goal and your “Happy Hour” will jump at the chance.

The Tackler


The Tackler is motivated by the work itself, plain and simple.

How to Spot

The Tackler is a cross between the “Get In Where You Fit In” and the “Leader,” but is more of a lone operator. When this personality sees a problem, you better step aside and clear a path.

How to manage

The Tackler wants to know that you care about the work as much as they do. You’ll gain the Tackler’s respect by occasionally rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty. Once you have that respect, everything else will follow.

Just for fun: which School Lunch meal are you?

Take our quiz!

What if I have more than one of each personality type?

If you have multiple team members with the same personality, it’s a good idea to give them each a little (separate) direction. By keeping them focused on different tasks, they not only will divide and conquer more work, they also will be less likely to step on each others’ toes.

The Key to It All: How You Communicate

As we said at the top of this article, it’s all about viewing the positives and strengths of each team member. If you need to make a change that you think your team may be less than thrilled about, be sure to communicate it to each team member in a way that appeals to their personality type.

If you keep communicating the wrong way to the wrong personality, even if they seem OK with it at first, they will grow frustrated and will get tired of always feeling “bossed” around. Of course you are the boss, but no one likes to take orders when they don’t like the reasoning behind it.

Here’s an example of how you should and should not communicate, using the Buddy personality to demonstrate.

Don’t say

“I need you to work late today.”

This puts the focus on the work itself instead of on the teammates. But the Buddy is motivated mainly by helping his or her teammates.

Instead, say

“I know you weren’t scheduled to stay late today, but Lynn has a last-minute doctor’s appointment. Would you mind helping her and me out? We’d really appreciate it.”

This way emphasizes that the Buddy will be helping his or her teammates, something the Buddy naturally wants to do.

Once you know who you’re working with and how to effectively manage them, your School Lunch program will really get cooking!

Want to boost your program’s efficiency even more?

Check out our incredibly helpful School Nutrition solutions!

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