Back to work today! I’ve been off for three weeks for a combination of business and pleasurable reasons and it’s been a good break.
Frosty mornings are here
On my way home, I listened to an episode of Happier podcast during which they read a letter from a listener who said that she writes a user’s guide to working with her when she starts working with a new team. It was timely because, after being away for a few weeks, I had several moments of astonishment today when I realized just how little the people I work closely with know about how to work with me.
I often feel like this guy when I’m at work
I’d heard of this practice before, but something about the presentation on the podcast made it seem more reasonable. My first response to it had been that it was arrogant, one-sided and came across as “here’s what YOU need to know if you want to work with ME.” When I thought about it more today, it seemed like it could actually be a tool that could help. If we all had these personality resumes, then we might be able to know what to expect, what makes someone else tick (or ticked off) and avoid some workplace landmines without ever having to actually discover them.
I’m intuitive and I’m observant, but I’m learning that not everyone is. I can figure out someone’s work style and be flexible in our relationship so that we can be as effective as possible. I used to think that people were careless and were almost doing it maliciously, but I’ve started to realize that many people often just simply do not pick up on cues. And when it comes to work relationships, we spend a significant amount of time and are forced to rely on people that we often don’t even get a say in selecting. Sometimes we are on totally different pages, at different speeds, have different goals, but I’m adaptable to that. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve found solutions to a few really contentious relationships and developed them into some of the most meaningful professional relationships I have today – and that I truly enjoy. I haven’t sacrificed everything to do it, but I did realize that things needed to change and that I was the only one whose decisions I could control.
More and more frequently, I’ve found myself saying things like, “we’ve worked together for so long – how has he not figured out that doesn’t work for me?!?!” Well, maybe he needs to be told and I’ve never done that.
I got home and I googled writing a user’s manual for the workplace and I found this article. It contains a lot of arguments for this practice and it even provides a few guideline chapters for a personal manual.
- My style
- What I value
- What I don’t have patience for
- How to best communicate with me
- How to help me
- What people misunderstand about me
The writer advises to add a few bullet points for each topic. Even if you never actually distribute it, I think it’s a great exercise to identify your work style. If nobody else ever reads it, I bet you’ll learn something you never knew about yourself.
Here are a few things I would include in mine:
- I am fiercely independent – I get the most satisfaction and produce my best work alone
- I socialize minimally – work is for work and I’d (mostly) rather spend the time I’m there getting shit done
- I don’t appreciate “helpfulness” – I am more than capable of expressing my expectations thoroughly and concisely and if I need something from you, I will let you know what, when and how
- I value efficiency, decisiveness and productivity more than any other qualities
- I don’t take work personally – it doesn’t matter if you like me or not, if you agree with me or not, if I am right or wrong; it’s all just part of my job
- I like me office cold
If I spent some time with it (which I think I might) I’m sure I’d come up with many other additions. All of them can be weaknesses as much as they can be strengths, but these are truths about me when I’m at work. When I ruminate on the statements, they’re pretty true of me at home as well, of course. Trying to be different in the two places where we spend the most time would be exhausting. Perhaps I should give Kevin a copy when I’m done…or I could ask him to write it.
Have you ever written a user’s manual for your work? If you did, what would be included in yours?
I believe that developing working relationships is about understanding. When trying to understand someone, I find value in assessing the five major personality traits. These are my quick explanations beside the five (that give you the acronym of OCEAN so it is easy to remember):
Openness – how open is the person’s mind to learning new things, considering new ideas
Conscientiousness – how organized are they, how much value do they put on efficiency, effectiveness and productivity
Extroversion – where are they on the social comfort scale
Agreeableness – are they inherently agreeable (but too agreeable and you are a door mat) or disagreeable (to an extreme, then they are a mean person)
Neuroticism – how negative are they, how fearful of change, how anxious, stressed
People are all of these on a sliding scale – and can vary along that scale depending on environment and other circumstances (like fatigue, hunger, stress). But we are inherently who we are unless we become aware of who we are and WANT to change. I believe you have the natural you and the adaptive you (the adaptive you is the you after some awareness, desire to change, growth and development into the desired you). I believe that if we took the time to get to know those we work with by looking at them through these five frames, we would have much healthier and happier relationships at work. The trouble is, few people take the time.
I love this, Lesley! I’ve seen a personality framework that is closely related to that or it at the very least includes the A and the N. And I understand in the business of everyday work it’s hard to try to tailor your actions to the person that you’re dealing with and to find balance between two (or more!) personalities. You can’t walk on eggshells, of course, but you can’t do whatever the opposite of walking on eggshells is either – impose only your preferences, perhaps?
I didn’t mean to imply that people can’t change. I think we are all evolving, for better (if we’re empowered) or for worse (if we no aspirations to be better.)
So, what would be included in your user guide??