How Do You Work?
Susan was so frustrated with her new office manager Jim, she was ready to fire him! She said his habit of waiting until the last minute to begin jobs was driving her crazy. Whenever there was a project with a deadline, Jim didn’t even begin to work on it until the last minute. Somehow he usually managed to get the job done, but it was always in crisis mode, with a huge burst of energy and stress.
Also, the one-time tasks that didn’t have a deadline, such as cleaning out the supply closet, never got done.
Susan is the kind of person who likes to tackle a job as soon as she learns about it. She immediately sets out a work schedule, and is able to pace herself throughout the project, so that she eases up to the deadline with everything in order.
The Deadline-Driven Style
It’s no wonder that Jim’s deadline-driven style drove her crazy.
Unfortunately, Susan took Jim’s behavior personally and thought it was designed to irritate her. It became a power and control issue between them. She would speak sarcastically to Jim or nag him about how the project was coming, and he would become defensive and work even slower. Obviously, this was unproductive for them both.
Styles Of Functioning
As we talked, Susan realized that people have different styles of functioning. Once she understood that Jim was just doing things the way that worked best for him, she could acknowledge that he worked more efficiently when his deadline was near. She admitted that he always managed to finish the project on time, and that the stress was her own because she mistakenly thought that Jim’s high energy rushing around was an indication that the project was out of control.
Once she realized it wasn’t personal and that Jim did know what he was doing, she could let go of the power struggle and talk with Jim about their different work styles.
Together they worked out a way that met both of their needs:
- Jim agreed that when given a project, he would let Susan know that he understood the job, goal and completion date. He would share with her the steps he would take to complete the project, reassuring Susan that he knew what was expected of him and by when.
- He would then take some action each week to move the project forward, and check in with Susan on Friday at 3:00 to let her know where he was in the process.
- For projects with no deadline, they decided to create one. For example, they agreed that the supply cabinet would be cleaned by the last day of the month. They also agreed that it was OK for Susan to occasionally check in with Jim on how the project was coming along, as long as she didn’t nag or try to take control.
This method worked for both of them, because it supported each of their working styles. It made Jim responsible and gave him the freedom to work at his own pace without Susan looking over his shoulder, and provided him with accountability at their Friday meetings. It also provided Susan with the reassurance that Jim was aware of the project and making progress, so she didn’t feel that she needed to be on top of it every day.
Just like Susan and Jim, most of us have a style of approaching and tackling a project, a style that works best for us and fits the person we are. If you are functioning in a group, team, or family, it helps to understand your own style and those of the people in your office or home.
Once you understand the different styles and discuss them, you can let go of any emotion attached to the situation and create an action plan that meets everyone’s needs.
Please comment so others can benefit from your wisdom and experience.
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