How To Get Along Better With The Boss
A True Story
(Issue 2012-3 April 2012)
This is a true story about conflicts between a boss and an employee and how a simple understanding of Personality Type could have prevented years of friction, anxiety and frustration.
It's a story about why people are different and how they can get along better and work more productively by using Personality Type.
It's a true story. I know, because I was the employee.
The True Story
The conflict would start when my boss, who has an ISTJ Personality Type, would bump into me in the hall and ask me to remember or recall specific numbers or details.
He would say, "So how much did your department ship yesterday?" Usually I would freeze and not be able to recall the precise details. Then I would feel stupid.
Now this was a very fair question. I managed 10 production departments and each one was critical to the revenue of the company. But for the life of me, I could never remember specific numbers, especially under pressure.
You might wonder how I came to be in charge of 10 production departments. Well, they all used to run poorly but I had a knack for fixing them so they ran more efficiently, made more money and wasted less materials. So I was put in charge of these departments one at a time until I was running them all. They had a saying in the company. "Give it to Michael, he can fix anything."
But I have a really crappy memory for numbers and details and my boss loved numbers and details, facts and figures.
Just like in high school, memorizing dates in history class, or memorizing foreign words in Latin, I had to work extra hard trying to memorize the material just long enough to ace the test. Then my brain would promptly forget it and move on to the next task.
I know my memory for numbers and details is really poor and when my boss, who was really, really, smart asked for details, without giving me any time to prepare, I would become nervous and my ability to recall details would temporarily get worse.
So I always felt stupid that I could not have all these numbers on the top of my head. Other managers could do it and they always impressed me. But now I know, as a person who tests out as an INTJ Personality Type, my brain is not wired to remember numbers and details from the past. It's wired to do other things.
So my ISTJ boss would get frustrated with me. It was a constant source of friction and anxiety.
Sometimes I would write all the numbers down on a sheet of paper and carry that sheet with me all day. But quite frankly, I thought it looked pretty weak trying to read the daily shipment numbers from a cheat sheet.
Now just so you don't think I'm a total loser, had my boss called and said he'd like an update in 10 minutes, I could be prepared. I had all the data. Just not in my memory.
I had all the data posted on charts on the walls in each production department so all of my people could see how we were doing. These charts showed the trends of our shipments, our quality etc. We kept these charts updated hourly.
But could I pull those numbers from my head when put under pressure? No.
So my ISTJ boss always wanted details because ISTJs are detail oriented people. But I was a big picture guy. That's what INTJs are great at: big picture, connecting the dots, spotting new trends and opportunities, finding solutions where none existed.
Another example of our differences is when I would pitch new ideas to my boss. Sometimes the ideas would be accepted so quickly that I was shocked. Other times the ideas seemed to bounce off him. Little did I know that each Personality Type likes to be persuaded in their own specific way. So it was a matter of luck whether I communicated with him in the way he preferred.
This difference in Personality Type caused a lot of friction and frustration. I lost a lot of sleep over this sort of conflict. Even had nightmares about it.
It wasn't until several years later when I started to study Personality Type that I could see where the conflict came from and what could be done about it.
Knowing about Type also helps in personal relationships.
A Personality Type Primer
I have INTJ preferences, which means that my brain is wired to work a certain way, with certain natural strengths and weaknesses.
According to Personality Type theory, your Type is the same from birth to death. It's like a small software program running in the background of your mind. It provides your natural default behavior. Of course you can override it if you want but that's another story.
Knowing your 4 letter Type code can tell you a lot about yourself. That's why at CareerPlanner we offer a Personality Type Test, and we give it away.
Knowing the Type code of another person can tell you a lot about them and where you might have conflicts and where you might see eye to eye, and how you might change your approach to communicate better.
For example, if you are in sales, knowing Type can help you shift your style and your sales pitch to the comfort zone of the other person, and thus let you sell to the person the way they want to be sold to. Very powerful stuff.
Just For You Skeptics
I know many people are skeptical about "Personality Type" and think its akin to horoscopes, fortune tellers etc. It's not.
Personality Type theory has been around since the 1920's. It's backed by lots of statistically valid data and lots of practical hands on work of trained psychologists.
But the good news is that in the last few years researchers have begun to make a connection between a person's Personality Type, their brainwaves and their brain chemistry. So concrete scientific proof is starting to show up.
Back to my Boss and I
So my personality type is INTJ which means I have natural preferences to do things as an INTJ would.
Some things about INTJs:
- About 3% of the male population are INTJs (1% for females - very rare indeed)
- INTJs strongest (dominant) ability is called Introverted Intuition (Ni) which allows them to see the big picture, connect the dots, have accurate hunches about the future, and spot trends and future opportunities others don't see. They do this in their heads (that's what introverted means - inside one's head) where you can't see what's going on. So these folks are a bit hard to get to know. Also, this function happens so quickly and automatically that INTJs may not know they are doing it and they may think everyone else sees the world the same way.
- INTJs second strongest (auxiliary) ability is called Extraverted Thinking (Te). This means INTJs apply logical, analytical, objective decision making, and organizing to the external world. When you look at an INTJ this is what you first see because they use this function in the external world - as opposed to using it in their heads where you can't see. Extraverted Thinking is all about setting goals, and organizing things, people and events to achieve those goals.
- INTJ, taken as a whole means I am driven to look into the future, see an end result that I want, pick out a clear path to get there and not give up until I achieve it.
By definition, INTJs are big picture people. We don't enjoy details. We are better at seeing patterns and trends than memorizing numbers, details, data etc.
INTJs are good at exploring the future, new ideas, new methods, new systems, new products etc. Handling day to day details is something other Types are much better at.
Some things about ISTJs (my boss)
- About 16% of the male population are ISTJs (7% for females)
- ISTJs strongest function is called Introverted Sensing (Si). This allows the ISTJ to vividly record, store, categorize and retrieve whatever he sees, hears, smells etc (thus he knows and can recall details). This happens inside his head, so you won't see it. It also happens so quickly and automatically that the ISTJ may not know he is doing it and may assume everyone else works the same way. Thus, to an ISTJ, someone who can't remember numbers and details (like me) must either be slow or they don't care.
- The second strongest function for the ISTJ is called Extraverted Thinking (Te). It's the same exact function as with INTJs. They share this ability. Thus both ISTJs and INTJs are focused on objectively analyzing the world, setting goals and organizing their world to achieve those goals. So my boss and I had this in common.
- ISTJ, taken as a whole is a dependable, cautious, stable, realistic person who is results driven, detail oriented, and looks at what has worked in the past to see what might work in the future. Give me factual data, hold the theory for later.
So while both my boss and I are results driven and goal oriented, I look to the future for new ideas, new concepts and I validate them based on theory while he looks at the past for what has been proven to be correct.
He looks for details to explain what is going on. I look for concepts, theories and the bigger picture to tell me what is going on.
What I Should Have Done To Work Better With My ISTJ Boss
Had I known about Personality Type back then, I would have recognized these things about my boss:
- When my boss was asking for the details and the numbers, his Sensing function was looking for detailed information that he could analyze with his Extraverted Thinking so he could know what was going on. I could have just handed him a report. That would have worked (but this was pre-personal computer). He wasn't actually requiring me to pull the data off the top of my head.
- When trying to persuade / convince my boss to do something new, I should have showed him how something similar had worked in the past. But I was expecting him to believe in the new idea or new concept, based on theory. That usually does not work with ISTJs. Even brilliant Ph.D.'s like my boss.
- With ISTJs you should always start with the details using real data if possible and then work up to the big picture. If you start with the concept or the big picture first, they may lose interest.
In hindsight, I can now see that when my ISTJ boss quickly accepted my new ideas, it was because I gave him proof that the ideas had worked for somebody else, maybe in a different industry or different company. And I gave him details. Lots of details.
When I started with theory and new concepts, and when I wasn't able to offer historical proof, he lost interest in what I had to say.
So my boss and I drove each other nuts. He knew that I could go in and fix big problems and get entire pieces of the company working better, but then I couldn't answer a simple question like how much I shipped yesterday.
Now I see this as a classic difference between people that is easily explained by Personality Type theory.
The solution would be to have both of us trained in Personality Type so that we could spot the differences in each other and respect each other for those differences.
Instead we worked it out the hard, painful, frustrating way.
If you want to learn more about your Personality Type, I have a couple of choices for you:
1) You can take the official Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) which comes with a complete report explaining your Type and a quick phone debrief if you want it.
2) You can take the free Robinson-Shur Type Assessment (RSTA), which will indicate what your 4 letter Type is, but any reports you might want are sold separately.
Stay tuned because next month I will have another true Personality Type story to tell you.
As always if you have any questions, comments or ideas please
feel free to send me an email at Michael@CareerPlanner.com
To your success,
Michael T. Robinson
Chief Career Coach
MBTI, Myers-Briggs, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are all registered trademarks of CPP and have no relation to CareerPlanner.com and the personality tests we use.