What Would Shawn Do? Understanding Social Styles at Work

Q

The person we hired as a practice manager is very smart and good at her job, but her lack of communication is driving me crazy. She doesn’t respond to small talk, and I can’t seem to build a relationship with her. I keep reaching out, but she’s all about work, work, work. I don’t know if I did something to offend her, but I’m uncomfortable, and I find myself avoiding her. What do you recommend?

A

What we have here is a difference in social styles. Based on your behavior, it sounds like you’re an amiable. She’s either an analytical or a driver, depending on how assertive she is when she gets her ideas across. One style isn’t any better than another. Understanding how you’re different will help you approach the new manager in a more positive way.

Angry businesswoman

The main difference between you and her is how much you focus on feelings. Amiables are very concerned about feelings and want everyone to get along. They tend to ask questions rather than make statements. The worst amiable stereotype is a Chatty Cathy who never gets anything done.

Analyticals also tend to ask questions rather than give orders, but they are focused on accuracy almost to the exclusion of all else. The worst analytical stereotype is “detail-oriented.”

Drivers want to get things done. They’re task-focused and assertive. The worst stereotype of a driver is a workaholic. Neither the analytical nor the driver pays much attention to feelings, especially at work.

Remember that this IS work, and even though you’d really like it to be otherwise, you and the new manager are probably not going to be best friends. She may be overwhelmed by all of the friendly overtures you’ve been making. She may think you’re in her space way too much and not letting her get her work done. That doesn’t mean you need to avoid her. Try out some of these techniques and see if she’ll warm up to you:

  • Emphasize the rational, objective aspects of the issue you’re dealing with.
  • Speak slowly and quietly.
  • Be more formal in your speech or manner than you would be otherwise.
  • Present pros and cons, as well as options.
  • Don’t overstate or exaggerate the benefits of your ideas.
  • Follow up in writing.
  • Be on time, and keep it brief.
  • Show how your approach has little risk.

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