What Language Are You Speaking?
My first question to you is– Are you speaking your boss’ language? And, I’m sure your answer is, “Of Course!” But are you really? One of the most important tools that I use to help people understand this problem is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. The Myers Briggs is a tool that enables great conversations about your personality and the personalities of others. It is one of many tools that can facilitate these conversations and investigations.. I like it best because of the research behind it, but it doesn’t matter if you use this tool. Just look at your own personality/behaviors/interactions through the lens of a tool that helps you evaluate yourself in the context of interactions with others.
Anyway, Myers Briggs divides people into 16 different types using four dichotomies:
- Sensing(S)——————————————–Intuition (N)
Myers Briggs assigns personality types based on these dichotomies. I am not going to go into Myers Briggs in detail here. Check it out on the Internet. Or pick a different tool, such as DISC, to apply what I’m saying here. The point is, a ESTJ (Extrovert/Sensing/Thinking/Judger) looks at the world very differently, processes information and needs to be communicated with differently than a INFP (Introvert/Intuitive/Feeling/Perceiver). The practical impact of this is that if your boss has a different type (or DISC profile) than you, then it is highly likely that the problem is not that you aren’t listening to each other. The problem is most likely that you are both sending messages out into the universe and they are falling into space without being “heard.”
What Type Are You?
For example, someone who is an MBTI “Extrovert” gets his ENERGY from interacting with people. He goes to a party and gets energized. An MBTI “Introvert” gets her ENERGY from being alone, from reading, from spending a quiet evening at home. An Extrovert might take a break at work and walk around and talk to people to get a second wind. An Introvert boss might see this as an employee who is wasting her time. A MBTI “Senser” boss needs hard cold facts to make a decision. An “Intuitive” employee will struggle to tell the boss how she knows what she knows. She just “knows” it.
I frequently do the exercise in class sessions where I divide the “Judgers” and “Perceivers” into separate groups and have them plan a vacation. The “Judgers” plan everything right down to when and where they are going to go buy new underwear for their vacation. The “Perceivers” are lucky if they actually come up with a destination and a mode of transportation. Both of these are adequate plans (for the ones doing the planning) and completely deficient and faulty plans for the other group. So, if you are a “P” and you have a “J” boss, your plan is unlikely to be considered a “real” plan. If you a “P,” the “J’s” plan is likely to be serious overkill.
These communication gaps cause more problems at work than probably anything else. I highly recommend the book, Type Talk at Work, How the 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job, by Otto Kroeger and Janet Thuesen, to provide you with examples and strategies to deal with these gaps.
So, Fix It
So . . . since this is a problem on both sides–boss and subordinate–why should you step up and do something about it instead of your boss? Of course your boss should do something about it. I tell all the leaders that I coach that they should (and of course, they have the same problems with their bosses, too). If your boss isn’t doing it, though, you have limited options. You can go on failing to successfully communicate with your boss (framed as “my boss won’t listen to me), or you can work on these skills, develop the ability to successfully communicate with any boss (framed as “my boss always listens to me) and you can succeed at what you’re trying to do.
I had a boss for whom I used to prepare long, detailed (and if I do say so myself) brilliant reports that answered all his questions. He would take them, set them aside and repeatedly ask me questions that were answered in the reports. I finally figured out that not only was he not reading them, he also didn’t value the time that I put into preparing them AT ALL. I started paying attention to the kinds of questions he was asking, and put together a VERY SHORT bullet list that answered the questions. (OK, this was a long time ago, and I’m a lot smarter now.) He stopped being so frustrated with me and I stopped being so insulted that he was ignoring my work and we became much better boss/subordinates for each other.
Stop being so frustrated with your boss and solve the puzzle of HOW to communicate with him. (By the way, if you have an employee who won’t listen to you, re-read this post substituting the word boss with employee and save me from having to write another post:-))