Personality Variables in Management Relationships

Betty Lou Leaver, 2000.
Excerpt from Language Program Management , forthcoming from Georgetown University Press.


Warning: this article describes the dichotomies E/I, T/F etc. according to the Myers-Briggs typology, not to socionics!
Next time, we will present at our site a detailed comparative analysis of definitions of these dichotomies in MBTI and socionics.


As mentioned previously, many psychologists, beginning with the Greeks, have noticed that there need to be "different strokes for different folks." Even two children from the same family can be very unlike. As infants, one will sleep all night and demand little parental attention, while another will fuss all night and want much parental attention during the day. Teachers who work with children notice these personality differences at very young ages. As children grow, they carry these personality differences into their home lives, play, and work worlds.

Some of the more common personality differences are introverted, extraverted, sensing, intuiting, feeling, thinking, perceiving, and judging psychological types. These differences correspond to the personality typology suggested by Jung (1971) and Meyers-Briggs (1976, 1993). Of course, as we have seen, there are other ways to "slice the pie," but we will concentrate on these in this chapter since they seem to provide the source for the greatest amount of conflict at work between bosses and language program managers. These four continua can be combined, of course, to make the 16 personality types, each of which differs from the other in important ways, that we described in Part 3 ("The Staff"). For the purpose of this book, however, we will be looking at only the underlying constructs.)

Introversion vs. Extroversion

Introverted Bosses

Introverts need space and quiet time. Introverted bosses complete reports with alacrity and spend much time in their offices. Before meetings, they need time to prepare themselves psychologically for a highly interactive experience. When meeting with employees, even one-on-one, they need some time to prepare for the meeting for the same reason: interactions drain them of energy and they need to gather all the necessary energy in advance. Their meetings tend to be short, and often employees do not feel that they receive enough information or have enough of an opportunity for team-building at these meetings. In reality, it may be the introverted boss has allowed the meeting to continue longer than he or she would otherwise like in trying to meet the needs of the extraverts at the table. Introverted bosses are also less likely to manage by walking about than extraverted bosses and more likely to manage by memo.

How to work with introverted employees, if you are an extraverted boss, was explained in Part 3 of this book. If, however, the situation is reversed and you are an extraverted middle manager working for an introverted boss, there are some steps you can to preserve your sanity as well as that of your boss.

First, keep in mind that no matter how low-key you consider your actions, you will almost always overwhelm your boss with your level of energy. Some extraverted middle managers have even been known to cause their bosses to nod off. They have taken so much energy from the boss in their interaction that the boss's body goes to sleep to re-energize! Therefore, if you are having a one-on-one session, carefully observe your boss's body language. If his or eyes become glazed or the body rigid, it is likely that you are providing too much input, at least on the level of energy. Reduce the amount of interaction you require, lower your voice, slow your tempo, and, if appropriate, leave, making an appointment to finish at another time.

Second, remember that your boss does not avoid you because of dislike of you. Your boss simply has a lower tolerance level for interpersonal interactions than you probably can understand, let alone predict. Interpret any distancing from you for what it is: a chance to re-charge batteries.

Finally, remember that there is more than one way to interpret management by memo. If your boss is an extravert and manages by memo, then perhaps it is fair to suspect his or her reasons for doing so. If your boss is an introvert, however, it may simply be a best effort to manage the amount of interaction time available and tolerable, avoiding long meetings that are draining. As long as your boss has good intentions, you should always be able to get the information you need by following up memos with e-mailed questions and opinions.

Consider that for an introverted boss, working with you might feel a little like living though a hurricane. The more you can make your interactions seem like the eye of the storm and not the gale winds, the better will be your relationship with your boss.

Extraverted Bosses

Extraverted bosses need to be among people. They often delegate report preparation and spend time on the shop floor talking to employees. Extraverted bosses can "wear out" an introverted employee who requires far less interaction and needs time between meetings to regather his or her energy. They are always ready to meet with groups, not feeling any special need for psychological preparation, and after meetings they need some time to wind down, having gathered much energy from participants at the meeting. Very extraverted bosses can go from meeting to meeting nearly non-stop.

How to work with extraverted employees, if you are an introverted boss, was explained earlier, in Part 3 of this book. If, on the other hand, you find yourself to be an introverted middle manager working for an extraverted boss, there are a number of steps you can take to make the relationship work better.

First, it is likely that your boss will find meetings helpful for resolving problems, passing on information, and otherwise developing team spirit. You might as well resolve yourself to attending more meetings than you would like and feeling drained by them. You can help yourself participate in meetings more comfortably if you ask your boss (or his/her secretary) for a meeting agenda in advance. Based on the agenda items, write up in as much detail as you need the things that you want to say and the ideas you want to impart. When the meeting is in full swing and the extraverts in full cavort, you will be prepared to join others, having words already prepared. Since introverts often do not appear to be as competent as extraverts at meetings due to their typical reticence in speaking before contemplation, if there are serious issues to be discussed, you might prepare a "thinking paper" that you distribute to your colleagues (with your boss's permission) ahead of time. That way, you get your full point across without having to compete with those who are more outspoken.

Given the amount of energy that large, noisy meetings draw from an introvert, if you suspect that you will leave the meeting exhausted, build into your schedule some most-meeting time alone in your office to reorganize your thoughts and replenish your energy. In other words, do not follow a meeting called by your boss by one called by yourself or establish office hours that abut meetings.

If you want your boss to understand you better or notice your contributions more, plan ways other than at meetings to communicate with him or her. One way to do this is to ask for a few minutes once a week when you can drop by your boss's office in order to provide an update on your program. Alternatively, you can prepare a weekly or bi-weekly written report of your activities and accomplishments. E-mail, too, is sometimes an easier way of communication for introverts. Questions and information can go back and forth between your boss and you via e-mail with a minimum amount of loss of personal energy.

Sensory vs. Intuitive

Sensing Bosses

Sensing bosses have their feet planted firmly in the soil of today. They want facts and statistics before they make decisions. The employee who offers only new ideas, theories, and insights is often considered lazy, no matter how much time it takes to come up with those new ideas and, often, no matter how good those ideas are. Non-sensing employees, on the other hand, consider their sensing bosses to be pedantic and too trusting of data. They often find the tasks given to them by sensing bosses to be boring, painstaking, and painful. Sensing bosses can seem quite obtuse to intuiting employees, and intuiting employees can appear to be "flighty" and capricious to sensing bosses.

How to handle sensing employees if you are an intuiting boss was explained in Part 3 of this book. How to handle a sensing boss if you are an intuiting middle manager can be a difficult but doable task.

First, make it a policy to keep good records. Set up a system into which you place specific facts about your program and staff. If you have a sensing secretary or a sensing assistant language program manager, all the better. Have that person help you set up the system and define its components. Keeping good records may sound like a matter of commonsense, but many intuiting middle managers simply do not find the time for this. The statistics, data, and facts that they have about any aspect of their program are often located only inside their heads. Having a file that you can pull out when your sensing boss asks a questioneven if you know everything inside that file by heartcan go a long way to making that boss feel confident of your work, and is well worth the daily investment of upkeep time. (You might want to come in a few minutes early or stay a few minutes late to update records on a daily basis. On a daily basis, such records maintenance is tolerable for an intuitive; if you try to do the same weekly, it will become a dreaded chore and may well not be accomplished.)

If you have a problem that your boss has asked you to take care of, a specific project to work on, or even, unfortunately, an employee whose employment your are considering terminating, put together a project book. This can be a 3-ring binder. At the front of the binder should be the description of the problem, an outline of the project, or the list of transgressions of the employee. Within the binder there should be an appendix with information in order on each of the points addressed in the introductory document at the front. These appendices, to the extent available, should be filled with data that delights sensing bosses (as well as lawyers and personnel officers): facts, dates, times, statistics, and anything else that could be considered a datum.

Sometimes intuiting employees are lucky. They have a sensing assistant. Pass along your boss's requirements that involve data management to that assistant. That assistant will feel like he or she has the best boss in the worldyoubecause you pass the plum work to him or her. (Little does he or she know that you are just making your own life tolerable!) Your boss will feel that he or she has a great middle manager because your sensing assistant will instinctively know how to organize and present the information that your boss is requesting.

Intuiting Bosses

Intuiters swing from the clouds of tomorrow. They often make decisions based on a thread of evidence and strong internal convictions. For them, data can be manipulated, but gut instinct is reliable. Usually, in their work experience, gut instinct has served them well. Non-intuiting employees, however, often have difficulty in understanding just what it is that their boss wants from them, and they are frustrated when data that they have painstakingly gathered are ignored.

How to handle intuiting employees if you are a sensing boss was described in Part 3 of this book. If the shoe is on the other foot, however, and you are a sensing middle manager with an intuiting boss, you may have to work in ways that are uncomfortable for you in order to keep your boss happy.

Decisions made by your boss, for example, may frequently seem baffling to you. Where are his statistics? On what facts does she base her reasoning? This kind of information may never be forthcoming, and you may have to learn to accept on faith, or on authority, your boss's decisions. Your faith may grow or your trust in authority may increase if you consider that intuiting bosses usually do not make willy-nilly decisions but are basing their judgments on internal factors and evidence that they cannot externalize in the form of data. Those factors, however, may be just as good, if not better, than actual data.

You, on the other hand, may quickly overwhelm your boss with facts. Your boss does not want or need the level of mathematical computation that you might like to give him, and even if you have impressed yourself with the quality of your data collection and analysis, it is not likely that your boss will see it for what it is. Rather, a full display might make you appear to be a less-than-brilliant number nerd. What your intuiting boss wants and respects are innovative ideas based on reasoning that makes overt sense to him or her. With some practice, you can covert your quantitative approach to work to a qualitative one. Go ahead and collect all that data. Make charts and graphs. Analyze it. Make decisions based on it. When presenting your decision to your boss, review your analyses and decisions and summarize them without numbers. Talk about trends, theories, assumptions, hypotheses, commonsense, logic, and possibilities. If you need all those numbers, you will be able to bring them later to show that you have done the homework. It is more likely, however, that your boss will be happy with your "intuition." You will have accomplished the decision-making your way and presented it your boss's waya win-win approach, if there ever was one.

Feeling vs. Thinking

Feeling Bosses

Feeling bosses focus on people and their needs and comfort levels. They value people over principle. They do not always tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, which can dismay a thinking employee who assumes that every word is gospel. Feeling bosses want to be rewarded for their efforts at work, and they assume that their employees want the same. In reality, however, many employees do not want to be rewarded principally for their efforts. Thinking employees want to be rewarded for the results of their efforts, not for the efforts alone. When they are praised for effort, they are often offended, assuming that the boss is being condescending. Feeling bosses engage feeling employees by asking about their families and remembering details of employees' personal lives. The same interest, however, can cause thinking employees to consider the boss to be too "nosy." Feelers, as discussed earlier, want their own bosses to show that they care with words, and therefore, feeling bosses will often say very flattering things to their employees, some of whom, the thinkers, may well reject those words as meaningless, especially if they are used profusely and where not particularly warranted.

How to handle thinking employees if you are a feeling boss was discussed in Part 3. If, however, you find yourself in the situation of being a thinking middle manager with a feeling boss, you may have to take some steps in order to establish and maintain rapport with him or her.

You may want your boss to be always truthful with you, and you may feel betrayed when your boss tells you little white lies. Attributing those "untruths" to a deliberate intent to deceive or to your boss's basic dishonesty is very likely both unfair and untrue. Further, it will do nothing to prepare the soil for a good working relationship. If you want a good relationship with a feeling boss, you will need to accept your boss's little white lies as an integral part of his or her personality or value system and interpret them as they are very likely intended: an attempt at kindness.

You may also want your boss to notice how good your results areand your boss probably will. In the process, however, your feeling boss will very likely comment on your efforts. While you may feel insulted by what seems to be condescension or an attempt to manipulate you, remember that the opposite is usually true: Your boss is trying to make you feel good about yourself and your work. He or she is just taking a different approach to that goal than you would take.

You may want your boss to mind his or her own business and stay out of your personal life, even in passing conversation. Your boss, on the other hand, may well consider that the welfare of employees is his or her businessand that welfare includes making sure the whole family is doing well. Chalk up your boss's actions to kindness, not voyeurism, and you will be able to react to it more naturally.

You may wish that your boss would "do" something to help you, rather than telling you how wonderful you are. Deeds are not the first thing that will come to your boss's mind, so if you truly do want those deeds you may have to drop a hint or simply state outright what it is that your boss can do to make you feel valued. Most feeling bosses will learn from those hints and statements, and you will end up with a better attitude toward work and a better relationship with your boss.

Thinking Bosses

Thinking bosses focus on principle. They value principle over people and, in fact, may often be heard to say, "It's the principle of the matter." Thinkers want to be rewarded for their competence at their work, and they assume that their employees want the same. Thinking employees, however, as we have seen, want to be rewarded for their efforts, regardless of the outcome. Thinking bosses, waiting to see whether or not the outcome will be satisfactory, often withhold praise far too long for the comfort of a populist employee, who then decides that the boss does not care about the efforts (resulting in demotivation) or does not care about the employee (resulting in alienation). Thinking bosses tend not to ask personal questions, which creates a comfortable working atmosphere for thinking employees but further alienates populist employees.

How to handle feeling employees if you are a thinking boss was discussed in Part 3 of this book. If, on the other hand, you happen to be a feeling middle manager, supervised by a thinking boss, there are ways that you can survive this relationship without superfluous emotional pain.

First, remember that your boss will put principle first. Fairness is very important to him or her. Treating employees equally is important, as well. In trying to be fair and provide equal treatment, your boss may end up removing a lot of personalization from the work environment and may even be unaware of a lack of team spirit among employees and between employees and management. People, to the thinking boss, are part of a larger system and, therefore, are another set of resources. This does not mean that thinkers are bad or callous people. They just look at the role of interpersonal relationships in the workplace in a different manner and as part of something more comprehensive than do feeling bosses (and employees) who think that the people and the system are separable, with the people coming first. Thus, the next time your boss offends or ignores you, try to look at the bigger picture. Personalizing the action as something directed against you is both unhelpful and very likely untrue. Try to see objectively where you fit in the overall system of people, mission, and other resources. You may better understand your boss's action or decision. If you think that your boss should not have ignored the personal element, talk to your boss. Explain your position. Even thinking bosses understand that systems do not work with unhappy employees. Rather than accuse your boss of an inappropriate act, describe the action(s) that would make you happy in the future. If your boss tries to adapt to your suggestions, make a point of showing him or her that you appreciate itnot with words but with a deed of some sort (perhaps by working late or finishing a project early or with greater skill than required).

If you would like your boss to show more interest in your personal life, show more interest in your boss's personal life. Ask about the photos on your boss's desk or wall, if there are any. Ask about your boss's family. Share information about your personal life, your spouse and children, and so on without waiting to be asked. Your boss will probably take the hint, and by starting this kind of relationship, you may open your boss to doing the same with other feeling employees.

Finally, if you want to be rewarded for effort without waiting for a final product, point out your efforts or the efforts of your staff to your boss. One way to make your point very subtly but clearly is to ask your boss's permission for you to start some kind of reward system in your program for teachers who display extra effort. Once your boss sees how you reward your employees efforts (because you share that information with your boss) through thank-you notes, small cash awards, flowers, and the like, he or she will be more likely to start noticing and rewarding your efforts. This kind of behavior can be contagious.

Perceiving vs. Judging

Perceiving Bosses

Perceiving bosses, often labeled as procrastinators judging bosses, need to explore all options and to keep all options open until the very deadline approaches. In turn, they expect employees to react to deadlines at the last minute; in fact, they do not often provide employees with project information until the very last minute. They feel no great need for closure and greatly value flexibility. They typically expect more flexibility than judging employees can muster. They also like to explore all options available, sometimes to the point that the decision that is made has to be a de facto one.

As mentioned in Part 3 of this book, it is very difficult for perceivers and judgers to work together harmoniously. One needs closure, and the other needs to explore all options. One needs plans and imposed structure, the other needs flexibility. The same is true of perceiving and judging differences between bosses and employees. If you are a perceiving boss with judging employees, Part 3 has already given you some suggestions for ameliorating the differences that will constantly appear. If, on the other hand, you are a judging middle manager with a perceiving boss, you will have to take some steps to make your own professional life manageable.

The first step you will have to take is to make the structure that you need. Waiting and hoping that a perceiving boss will impose some structure to the workplace can turn even the strongest optimist into a pessimist. Developing structure is well within your own reach, and it is certainly a talent that you will have. Make those calendars with deadlines that you like so much. Then, go to your boss and negotiate a completion time for each project that has been assigned. If not procedure has been developed for completion of a project, develop a procedures check list, or for larger projects, a procedures manual and give it to your boss to edit. Perceiving bosses, while not instinctively imposing structure, can respect it when they see it. Your organization will usually not be overlooked by a perceiving boss and may win you some brownie points, as well.

In decision-making, go ahead and make your own decisionor two or three options, if you are not sure. Present your decision to your boss as a strawman. Your boss loves to brainstorm, and this will give him or her a chance to explore all the options and play devil's advocate to your ideas. The other optionto go to your boss with a problem in the hopes that the boss will help you reach a decisionwill most likely be a strong exercise in futility and frustration for you. Your boss might love to brainstorm all those delicious possibilities with you, but it may be quite a while before any actual decision is reached.

In situations where you would like to reach a decision but your boss is relying on group concensus from middle managers or the results of brainstorming, respect that your boss has a different approach but that a perceiving approach also has valuable characteristics. Come to meetings prepared to brainstorm. You might even volunteer to write up the notes of the brainstorming sessionand in so doing, you can put some structure to that, too.

Judging Bosses

Judging bosses are closure-oriented bosses. They like deadlines, and they work to meet them early. They value employees who do they same. They respect employees who show a strong sense of organizationoften reflected in orderly desks with nearly empty surfaces. They make decisions quickly and easily. Where multiple options are possible, they will choose to conduct an experiment or pilot project rather than take the time to brainstorm and sift through all the possibilities.

How judging bosses can best manage perceiving employees has been described earlier. How you, as a perceiving manager, can best survive a judging boss is described below.

If you want to impress you judging boss, you will need to appear more like a judger and less like a perceiver. That might start with something as simple as the appearance of your office and desk. Mayer (date) in If You Don't Have Time to Do It Right, When Will You Have Time to Do It Over? makes many suggestions for time and paper management. Although he did not have in mind personality types when he wrote the book, clearly his suggestions help perceiving managers work within a typical judging organization. These include doing a quick inventory each morning and tucking away papers for later work (a file drawer), trash (documents that are not going to be needed), filing (secretary's inbox), and the immediately urgent small pile of papers (your own in box). While all the papers have not been handled, the paper flow has been temporarily managed, and the desk looks clean. Another suggestion is to weed through the file drawer with its paper stash each evening and prioritize the documents. Those that have become urgent go into the in-box, those that have been "overcome by events" into the trash, and those that have been more or less forgotten (requested actions that have had no nagging reminders in quite some time) into the files to be pulled out when needed, if ever.

Making deadlines can be a seemingly impossible chore for a perceiving middle manager, but you should be quite aware that your judging boss will consider making deadlines to be very important. Set up intermediate deadlines with a reminder system (your calendar, your computer, your secretary, your assistant) for working on parts of each project in advance. You may even have to set up an artificial deadline ahead of the actual one to trick yourself into working earlier and, therefore, getting projects completed on time. If you have a judging assistant, you are in great shape. Assign the projects with deadlines, as much as possible, to your assistant. You become the quality control person, not the producer of the basic materials, and therefore, deadlines can continue to amuse you while you impress your boss with your timeliness. .