Coffee has long been a staple of the workplace. Sitting down for a cup of coffee with colleagues and bosses has even been associated with pay raises and promotions.
The coffee break is, by and large, a 20th century invention and became more prevalent in the years after World War II. Now, it’s a booming business with a thousand different variations on the simple cup of coffee.
It also can be helpful. A 2010 study at MIT showed that employees who take coffee breaks together have an overall improvement in their productivity.
It turns out that our coffee preference also can reveal a lot about our personalities. The next time you grab a cup of Joe with a colleague, take note of how your colleague takes his or her java. You might learn something about your colleague’s personality.
Black coffee consumers
Black coffee couldn’t be simpler. But research conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria has shown that black coffee drinkers are more likely to exhibit psychopathic and Machiavellian tendencies. These coffee purists may be more likely to find pleasure in others’ misfortune and more likely to be selfish and devious.
If your colleague opts for coffee sans cream and sugar, you may want to consider it a warning. This might be someone who would enjoy seeing you get called on the carpet or would tattle on you for a minor infraction.
Those who have a sweet tooth are hard pressed to avoid adding a few packets of sugar to their coffee. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found that people who like sugar in their java are more likely to be agreeable, friendly and compassionate. Their coffee of choice may reflect a sweet demeanor.
On your next coffee break, keep your eyes peeled for these types of coffee drinkers. It’s possible they get along well with people and will provide colleagues with words of encouragement.
Ramani Durvasula, a professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and author of “You Are WHY You Eat,” found that people who add milk to their coffee or always order cafe lattes are likely to go out of their way to help others.
In much the same way that they use milk or cream to soften the bitterness of their coffee, they use their personality to soften the bitterness of life. They often are generous.
When you observe a colleague adding milk to his or her coffee, this might be a sign that he or she is a trusted confidant and supportive co-worker.
Decaf coffee drinkers
To coffee fanatics, decaf is an oxymoron. What’s coffee without the jolt of caffeine? In her book, Durvasula states that people who drink decaf are more likely to be obsessive and controlling.
Their predilection for trying to alter the natural order of coffee is one manifestation of a general tendency to attempt to control themselves and others.
If a co-worker orders decaf, he or she may very well obsess over details and have you on a tight leash in the workplace.
According to Juliet A. Boghossian, a behavioral food expert and the founder of Food-ology, people who mix foods (for example, regular and decaf coffee mixed in equal parts) tend to have difficulty managing tasks. They likely struggle to decide between projects.
If your co-worker goes for half one and half the other, he or she may be more apt to procrastinate. You might want to avoid working on a project with this person.
According to body language experts Judi James and James Moore, as cited in The Sydney Morning Herald, espresso drinkers are an energetic bunch. They tend to be especially extroverted and the life of the party. Their appetite for a kick in their cup of Joe mirrors their yearning for a kick out of life.
If a colleague opts for an espresso, chances are he or she will add vitality and richness to the office environment.
Use your next coffee break to try to discern the personalities of co-workers and colleagues, but don’t take it too seriously.
Your coffee break could get more interesting. And those who don’t drink coffee may be missing out.
Rebecca Hinds is the manager of enterprise insights at Dropbox.
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