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The 4 unproductive personality types according to Erich Fromm

The 4 unproductive personality types according to Erich Fromm

June 24, 2021

Since psychology have appeared many proposals to classify personality types.

Some with more scientific endorsement, others that have more creative work behind that contrast with reality, the criteria used to find different types of people vary so much that personality systems can be created to cover practically any need.

An example of this is the theory of the 4 types of unproductive personality devised by Erich Fromm .

We recommend: "Erich Fromm: biography of a humanist psychoanalyst"

Productivity according to Erich Fromm

As one of the pioneers of the humanistic philosophy applied to psychology, Erich Fromm believed that personal development consists in striving to gain one's autonomy while at the same time creating bonds of union with others and their life projects. A) Yes, true productivity only appears when we relate the tasks we perform with the conquest of our own freedom .


That is to say, that is born from the moment in which we adopt a sincere commitment with the objectives to be achieved, a fact that only happens when this goal has a meaning that we relate to our own growth.

This implies, for example, that productivity is for Fromm much more than the simple performance of the greatest amount of work in the minimum possible time, but that It has to do more with the way in which we embrace certain tasks to incorporate them into our own philosophy of life .

The unproductive personality types

Starting from this conception of productivity, Erich Fromm described some personality types that he called unproductive . He gave them this denomination because, as personality types, they place human beings in a comfortable situation in which it is very easy to avoid responsibilities and to indefinitely reinforce the achievement of the objectives related to personal development and the conquest of one's own autonomy.


These personality types present characteristics that are valued as positive, but, nonetheless, they are not characterized simply by being undesirable . Erich Fromm did not shy away from expressing the contradictions embodied in the different ways of life, and that is why he also identified some positive characteristics in each of these aspects of the personality.

Therefore, if these personality forms deserve to be labeled as "unproductive", it is because some of their negative characteristics make us prone to fall into undesirable work dynamics.

Related article: "10 excuses that unproductive people always use"

The unproductive personality types are the following .

1. The merchant

The people of mercantile type convert their philosophy of life in the sale of their own image . They intend to scale socially thanks to their aesthetics and the social level that reflects their way of speaking, dressing, walking, etc. They turn themselves into a brand that has to be sold through a self-promotion campaign that lasts a lifetime.


This type of personality is unproductive because much of his work is focused, simply, on speculate with the value associated with your image .

However, these types of people also have desirable characteristics, such as their motivation and their ability to direct their efforts to long-term projects.

2. The operator

The people defined by this type of personality have, according to Fromm, a propensity to use a good part of the things they find , regardless of who produced them or who they belong to. That is, they do not see much importance in earning what they use to achieve their short-term goals.

Although this characteristic is negative, they also show desirable properties, such as self-confidence, self-criteria and initiative.

3. The receptive

People who show the type of receptive personality would be characterized, according to Erich Fromm, by have a good capacity for acceptance and tend to devote themselves selflessly to their tasks . However, they also tend to be passive and conformist, as well as prefer to flee conflict and confrontation of ideas.

They show ease to legitimize the present state of things, however damaging and unjust, and they can also transform the work teams into a sounding board in which the ideas of the leader are always received with approval, even if they are tremendously bad.

4. The accumulator

Accumulating people are prone to a materialistic mentality in which even the people around us (friends, family, etc.) are seen as resources in themselves.That is why the individuals defined by this type of personality value very much the "possession" of well-situated friends socially and economically, and accumulate this type of assets to make their value become theirs.

The positive side of this type of people is that they are very focused on achieving goals and obtaining clear results, in addition to avoiding the unnecessary expenditure of resources.

The application to the company and organizations

This part of Erich Fromm's theory can be applied to a large number of organizations and work teams, since refers to aspects of personality that may be present in professionals of any field .

However, to fully understand the way in which Fromm understood the nature of these features it is good to delve into the work of this author, since the philosophical and psychoanalytic background of this author makes it difficult to separate this part of his ideas from all his theoretical legacy.


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