Jinny was beside herself. Frustrated. Devastated. Embarrassed.
She’d just left her boss’s office in tears.
Claire, her boss, was fair and she didn’t play favorites. Jinny trusted and respected her. So she went to Claire for help. Jinny was at her wits’ end. Overworked and over committed, she needed help prioritizing her projects. She prided herself in being a team player but sometimes she just couldn’t get it all done. This was one of those times.
Jinny went into great detail describing her predicament and associated stress level to Claire. As she went on, she could feel Claire’s impatience creeping into the conversation. Claire kept asking what the issue was, even when Jinny felt she was in the middle of describing the issue.
Claire’s interruption with a request to “cut straight to the heart of the matter” was the last straw for Jinny.
The tears erupted despite Jinny’s struggle to maintain her poise. Humiliated for losing her composure in her boss’s office, she darted out.
Claire was baffled. Jinny was one of her best employees. Claire had always prided herself in being a no-nonsense manager. She had an open door policy and she meant it. Anyone could talk to her about anything and she would listen. For a few minutes, at least.
Claire had been trying to help Jinny solve the problem, or so she thought. Her cut-to-the-chase style did not resonate with Jinny. In fact, it did quite the opposite. Jinny felt that Claire was being cold, aloof and impatient. What Jinny needed was tenderness and understanding.
My advice to Jinny: Get that from someone else.
My advice to Claire: Learn to adapt to the styles of others.
Claire’s communication style is that of the Director: Straightforward, unequivocal and right to the point. The Director’s “get-er-done” attitude does not naturally recognize the softer needs that some colleagues require. That’s not to say that Claire can’t address those needs. Absolutely she can. It’s just not her default style.
Sharing the problem with Claire in the most straightforward way possible would yield better results for Jinny. That’s not to diminish Jinny’s need to get emotional support from someone around her over-commitment and stress. That’s real and she needs to get support from someone who can freely give it. Once she gets that emotional support from someone else, Jinny could have a productive, problem-solving conversation with Claire that would, indeed, “cut straight to the heart of the matter.”
The next time you are working with someone who is the “Director” style, use the following steps to reverse engineer your communication and adapt to their preferences.
(If you’re not sure, consult this high-level diagram of communication styles and associated characteristics.