Are you a tank, mage, or healer in your workplace? Depending on your answer, you may have just received a crystal ball into how you and your team operates. I am one member of a small team in my work environment, a science laboratory (about me). We have the goal of studying a medical disease with the intention of one day developing a novel treatment that will help people.
What makes my team work so well is that we each have defined roles and responsibilities that leverage each of our strengths and shores up our weaknesses. Suffice it to say, this requires that we have a good working relationship with each other. A part of this culture that makes it fun and functional is that we are all also gamers, e.g., D&D, board games, all sorts. We know the lingo, the humor, and the challenges.
How Assigning an RPG Archetype Applies to the Workplace: A Fun and Functional Perspective
Our entire workflow and culture has emerged into a living metaphor of a tabletop RPG gaming party. We’ve talked about how each of us fits into the archetype of tank, healer, or mage. Of course, some of us are hybrids, like Paladins, who are tanks and healers combined.
And, I wondered if this assignment of party “roles” has helped us realize when we need to act in a certain way, we know fairly quickly who should do that task. Should the tank start the presentation strong and forceful, and allow the healer to close with the softer tone of voice?
A Party Faces Challenges….and Overcomes
When there are challenges and problems in how we are functioning as a team, it is often true that we argue with each other. This degrades our ability to move as a single force toward that goal in front of us. We have “split the party”, which is a no-no in any gaming scenario.
It’s a neat observation that we can use our RPG gaming know-how to fix problems, meet challenges and overcome the surprising ghost who appears from nowhere. I’ll also say that there have been times when I’ve had to make a choice between two options.
Both outcomes are fairly good, such as deciding where to take our team to lunch with a visiting scientist. Of course, I don’t want to waste time on such an inconsequential decision (in the large scheme of things), so I take a d20 I have in my bag and roll it. Evens, odds, it decides where we go for food.
Quick Overview of Workplace Archetypes: Tank, Mage, Healer
First things first, what is an archetype?
Archetypes are inborn models of people, behaviors, or personalities that influence human behavior (source). Based on this definition, it makes sense that the people in our usual social circles would influence how we act, behave, and interact.
I’ve taken everything I know about RPG gaming and I mapped each archetype to what I feel best describes my work team members. For simplicity, I will obviously focus only on 3 archetypes: Tank, Mage, Healer.
Certainly, there’s a mixture of each of these archetypes in each individual, and sometimes when the situation arises, a person may need to take on the role of another’s archetype (i.e., when someone calls out sick, we need to adapt to take up the slack as it were).
So, now that we’ve laid out the archetypes (which you guys are already familiar with) how do they apply in the workplace?
1. The Tank
A tank is the person who blocks out everything to focus on one thing, be it work or playtime. I used to think this was an introvert’s game, but it turns out many extroverts like myself are also tanks (at least at work). Tanks generally go in headfirst into any situation. They are always up for the challenge, which makes them the leader in most cases.
The tank goes into the dark unknown places and usually helps setup the marching orders for a particular project. “Team, today we need to get these tasks done — I’ll start with this job, can you XYZ blast away at that bit over there?”
Look, let’s also get this out the way. Being a tank doesn’t mean being a bossy-pants, either. Tanks are just ready and willing to take a leadership role if a group or project needs direction.
2. The Healer
This archetype also requires a bit of explanation. A lot of people like to think of the healer as someone who is always there to pick up the pieces and make things better for everyone. Healers are problem solvers, but they take their time in getting there.
You’ll know when you have a healer on staff because they are not shy about voicing their opinion. They don’t mind sharing their insight either, but they won’t always force you to accept the direction they recommend.
Usually healers are very competent due to their deep understanding of how things work or should work. The healer is there to help everyone get back up after a fall — be it figuratively or literally. The tank NEEDS a healer to work well. The healer sees the big picture because they are swamped in the battle of working through a project.
Personality wise, a good healer is someone who isn’t afraid to speak up, but also knows how to do so tactfully. They aren’t poking the bear, trolling, or stirring up sentiment. They work through the personalities of others on the team to meet that goal. The healer has the mentality that “if we win, I win”.
3. The Mage
I find that this archetype is often (not always) the “type-A” personality — they get things done and they don’t care about how you do things, just as long as it gets the job done. Mages aren’t too delicate in their approach to doing business, but they are pretty efficient at getting the task at hand completed. Blam, nuke it ’till it’s dead.
A mage is highly specialized and knows how to get to the goal as soon as possible. Sometimes you want the mage to unleash their entire mana pool at the target because speed and efficiency are utmost. Of course the cost is often times a smoldering mess, which may include the mage’s drained state, e.g., stress and mental health.
It can often be the case that a mage will drive themselves so hard that the tank or healer have to slow them down. I love having a mage on my team because I can trust them to do their job in that particular area that we can control the project’s direction when it spreads too thin. A mage is crowd control and the key to winning the big fights. Divide and conquer.
On my team at work, we have several “mages” who are amazing at their specialized jobs. They are often toiling away at very niche tasks, but come together with their output to finalize a bigger project that is waaaaay better than the simple sum of its parts. I love watching mages work, while I’m slaying the tank-y things that may get in their way, e.g., paperwork, administrative red tape, getting the financial/material resources to feed the team.
What About All the Other Archetypes?
I absolutely skipped over the other RPG classes, didn’t I. Rangers, Bards, and all of the popular character classes are fit don’t they somehow into how we can think of this. But, if you think about it, most of the other classes are a mixture of the main 3 with some flair added in.
I might be touching a nerve with some of you by saying that, but simplicity makes it easier to think about how archetypes explain and help organize a team in a real workplace. Though, I’ve had this conversation with others in person, I would certainly enjoy learning what you think. Leave a comment below!
Does Alignment Matter at Work?
Good, evil, neutral alignments are predispositions to certain behaviors in characters. I think the same general principles apply to how a party operates when it comes to a workplace team environment. Of course, there are certain alignments for people on your team that should be avoided at all costs.
For example, I’m not sure chaotic evil people are the right kind of individuals you want around in real life at all….
To keep this article from going off in all sorts of directions — morality, ethical responsibilities are topics for another time — I will just say that oftentimes people have a chemistry that just “clicks”.
For those groups that don’t have that special chemistry, people will need to adapt to succeed. Splitting the party may happen by intention, on-purpose, or unintentionally. But, generally, division for long-periods of time when you’re trying to achieve specific goals is counter-productive.
For the party’s success (metaphorically this is also your workplace team environment), working together efficiently is more than just being good at your job. It’s also about how your personality, inclinations, and instincts work with others alongside you — and how your neighborly colleagues operate next to you as well.
Who are you in the workplace? Do you work in a team oriented environment? I will say that I love working with my team. When you have a good team, your workplace day to day atmosphere is so much more enjoyable. Sure, it’s not always roses and lavender, but when each person is someone you have a good relationship with, you know that you can execute certain strategies with confidence.
Oftentimes, when you roll for initiative, you don’t know what’s going to happen. But, knowing your class role will allow you to see where each person should go and act with less humming-and-hawing. I find the same is true when you work with a team with specific roles for each individual clearly defined.
Did you enjoy this article? I’m certainly just having fun with the idea of how RPG archetypes seem to overlay how a workplace team operates. This likely doesn’t hold true for everyone’s team, but maybe you’ve thought about it, too? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear what you think!