More Difficult People!
How do analytical people and expressive people get along? When you are creating a team, how can you maximize the strengths of each style?
In my previous article, Dealing With Difficult People, I discussed the four personality types that are based on Merrill and Reed’s work on Social Styles: Driver, Expressive, Amiable and Analytical (with personality traits that you would guess would be associated with each just by their name!) There tend to be more Amiables than any other style type (approximately half the population). That article left off with the issues that frequently come up between Drivers and Amiables regarding communication and the perception of “respect”. As opposites, Expressives and Analyticals have issues with each other, but there are fewer of them in the population than there are Amiables. So their conflicts in the workplace might take a backseat to the issues between Drivers and Amiables.
Being Analytical, they ask questions- about a lot of things. Expressives consider Analyticals’ questioning of their ideas as negativity (“If I’m enthused about it, why aren’t you?”) On the other hand, Analyticals see Expressives as flakey due to a lack of data to support their arguments. These two types may walk away from each other annoyed, but are not typically at each other’s throats. The negotiation is over what amount of data are sufficient to convince the Analytical. The intuition that the Expressive used to make a decision is not convincing for the Analytical. Analytical’s questioning can help the Expressive narrow his or her focus to a do-able idea, rather than to continue generating option after option.
Expressives value having fun and being creative, which Analyticals see as frivolous- their value is getting it right and doing it perfectly. So while Expressives can seem flighty, not settling on one thing, Analyticals can get into analysis paralysis, there is never enough data to make a decision, so no decision is made (consciously that is- life does go on with or without them).
What difference do these different styles make in the workaday world? The manager of one organization I worked with let me know that they had a “problem person” who would be attending the workshop I was conducting on this topic. This was a social service agency, so I figured I had a Driver in the midst of a bunch of Amiables. At the workshop break the lone Driver came up to me looking exasperated with the personal contact needs of Amiables, and said, “Do you mean to tell me I have to talk to these people in the morning when I come in?” “Yes,” I said. “Are you afraid it’s going to take too much time?” “Yes!” she barked. OK, I admit to being a bit mean. “I don’t think you need to worry about that,” I said. All these people wanted was to be acknowledged as breathing in the same air space, the Amiables didn’t really wanted to chat with her!
Another organization asked me to deal with their group of Amiables who decided they hated someone in their department because she had gloriously sculpted nails (not my style, but who cares? They did obviously…) Female packs of Amiables can be truly mean, ala junior high school shunning of those they dislike, which is one of the lousiest forms of punishment. I asked that they change the rules of engagement and appealed to “How would you feel if a group treated you this way?” which appealed to their sympathy. Men play out these dynamics out differently, usually one-on-one by going behind the other person’s back and talking dirt, a tactic that is called triangulation.
I’ve seen out of control Expressives hold departments hostage with tantrums worthy of a 2 year old, and Analyticals who get their backs up because no one asked for their advice so they are going to withhold important information. All styles can go “bad”- that’s when they become difficult.
On the positive side, each style brings different strengths to the work and the process. Drivers are task oriented and natural leaders, Expressives are enthusiastic and convincing, Amiables are team-oriented workers, Analyticals are natural planners. When organizations hire only one or two types of personality styles they can get into trouble, both in terms of dysfunctional dynamics and absent skills. Certainly you want to match the strengths of the styles to requirements of the job. But it’s easy to keep hiring yourself; so pay attention to which strengths the team is lacking (as well as looking for a good match to the group). Consider using the strengths of the styles strategically when you are putting together project teams or task forces, especially when you introduce change.
Learn more about the author, Louise Carnachan.
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- personality styles