Make your job easier: Work within your preferences

Chris Reddin
Chris Reddin

Have you ever hated going to work because you dread the tasks that await on your desk? If you have employees, have you ever had hard-working staffers who, no matter how talented, just felt like they were square pegs in round holes? 

There are lots of smart, able people out there doing work that’s not suited to their temperaments. Consequently, they find their work draining, unfulfilling and frustrating. This doesn’t mean you or your staff aren’t capable of completing the job at hand. It simply means the work isn’t enjoyable and can even feel irritating or arduous. This poor fit happens to most people and can be hard to understand in the moment.

There are ways to navigate around this problem, however. A lot of the issue involves temperaments and how they affect the comfort and enthusiasm people have for their work.  I believe the key to a happy work life and productive team dynamics is in working to identify your preferred work style and temperament and to better understand what types of work are going to best suit your skills, talents and personality.

When making decisions, some people prefer to take into account the facts and previous experiences. They look to the past to see what has worked and use that to develop a plan for the future. Others are more likely to rely on a gut feel or intuition to make decisions. They prefer to envision the future and use that vision to guide their planning process. Neither way of making decisions is better nor worse, just different. Nonetheless, it’s not easy for people with one preference in decision making to understand why or how other people see things. 

People who love to dream about the future and potential opportunities aren’t energized by the work of reviewing last year’s results. A visionary company leader will find it frustrating the controller wants to drag through every detail of last year’s income statement before setting a budget for next year. On the other hand, the controller might feel irritated the sales staff creates budgets without careful analysis of last year’s sales figures.

That frustration and irritation can cause poor team dynamics, but come from two ways of looking at the same picture.  We need people who like to envision the future because they create new projects and enjoy working on new ideas.  We also need people who like to use the past as a road map so we don’t make stupid mistakes over and over. So let the controller analyze last year and let the sales staff dream up some ideas for next year. It’s best to use both viewpoints to create a strong and balanced team.

Some people prefer to work on a schedule and some people prefer to just focus on the work in front of them.  Neither is better or worse, but each work style is better suited for some jobs than others. If you like to work in the here and now, you’re probably pretty good at dealing with whatever comes at you. You might prefer freedom and a lack of planning. This means you’re well-suited to work that involves immediate and varying demands. On the other hand, if you’re like me and love schedules, plans and to-do lists, you’re good at working on big jobs with phases and deadlines.

Put a planner like me in a job like customer service and it just stresses me out. I resent phone calls that interrupt my focus. I feel stressed at not staying on my schedule. Although I can be nice and do a good job handling customer service, I dread it. On the other hand, I know plenty of folks who hate meetings, defined work schedules and itemized task lists. This kind of structure feels restricting to them and just zaps all their energy. It’s not that they can’t complete task lists or handle a heavy meeting schedule, it’s just no fun.

The key to enjoying your work is to avoid continuously trying to make yourself — or your employees — work in a manner that’s not suited to your and their temperaments.  Find a way to make the work fit your preferred style and things will becomes easier.

Understanding that you have preferences and that others also have preferences that could differ from yours helps us to see ourselves and those around us more clearly.  Having a preference for how to make decisions or how to schedule time is simply that, a preference, and not an assessment of an ability to do a job. Yet, when people are required to do work that’s not suited to their temperaments, they tend to become more easily tired or frustrated and just plain unhappy. 

Use an understanding temperament to find ways to make yourself and your team feel comfortable and at ease in their work.