Reality Check: Working with different people

Workplaces usually focus more on their business—producing products or delivering services—than worrying about how their willing workers are getting along.

However, “getting along” at work isn’t just a feel-good concept; it can have a significant impact on productivity.

At work, it’s unlikely that you will be surrounded by people just like you. It’s also improbable that your colleagues were carefully chosen to complement your specific strengths and preferences!

In other words, you may find yourself working with folks who are different from you in ways that you find annoying, aggravating, or just plain unhelpful.

Jim is a thoughtful, introverted guy who prides himself on making good decisions. He likes to take his time, do his research, and get the facts. When Jim does finally make a decision, he’s confident that it’s well-thought-out and appropriate.

In contrast, Jim’s supervisor, Jill, is an extravert who makes decisions by talking her way through them. She tosses out ideas a mile a minute, fully expecting that many will prove to be unworkable. She prides herself on getting started toward solutions right away, even if she has to revise as she goes along.

The interaction between Jim and Jill is challenging, to say the least.

In Jill’s perception, whenever she asks Jim even the simplest question, he hems and haws and can’t come up with an answer when she needs it, which is right now. She jokes that if she asked him what’s for lunch, he’d flash up a spreadsheet and analyze nutrition, cost, and availability criteria. He’s a great guy, but boy, he’s impossible to work with!

In Jim’s perception, Jill always waits till the last minute to ask for input, and then gets irritated when he wants to take a few minutes to think! He jokes that if she had to make a decision on how to save the world from a giant meteor, she’d try to talk it into changing its path. She’s a great lady, but boy, she’s impossible to work with!

What could help this relationship? A combination of honest communication and a little respect could set the direction toward improving productivity.

Jim and Jill make jokes about each other, but don’t directly discuss their complaints with each other. Instead of wasting time and goodwill with backstabbing criticism, they could change by choosing to talk to each other about what they need to work effectively.

Another important change is to demonstrate respect. Despite Jim and Jill’s criticisms, when pressed, both acknowledge the value of the other’s approach. Jim knows that he would be hard-pressed to handle the fast-changing circumstances that Jill easily sails through. Jill knows that when she needs to make a fact-based decision, there is no more trustworthy researcher than Jim.

Respecting each other doesn’t require giving up your own methods; just give credit where credit is due.

Who “should” initiate the change? If you want to see a change happen, then it’s up to you to start. If either Jim or Jill choose to start respecting and communicating differently, their whole dynamic may change.

Do you see wasted productivity because people don’t get along?

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