How to Deal With a Difficult Boss or Employee
We’ve all dealt with a difficult employee, teammate or boss – someone whose personality seems to conflict with yours. It’s one thing when a teammate doesn’t share your extroverted or introverted nature, but what happens when the one you report to – who evaluates your performance – happens to be on the opposite end of the spectrum?  Could the perception be influenced by personality type?  If so, how can you deal with these differences without your work and annual evaluations going down the tubes?

A popular personality assessment, known as the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), measures different aspects of personality and personal preferences. It’s widely used in psychology and can be useful on team dynamics to understand each others similarities and differences. There are four different categories of the MBTI assessment:

  • Introverted / Extroverted
  • Intuition / Sensing
  • Feeling / Thinking
  • Perceiving / Judging

Understanding these different personality types can give you insight for how best to work with them. Here are my tips on how you can use this information to deal with a boss or employee with a different personality type.

Introverted / Extroverted

Introverted and extroverted depend on the ways you recharge. If you get motivated and energized by talking, connecting, and with other people you may be more extroverted. If you love to retreat to a quite place and recharge by an evening at home you may lean towards introversion. I like to think of the types on a spectrum.

Bosses: I’ve had both introverted and extroverted bosses.  The boss that was extroverted wanted to talk things out, expected constant communication and updates on projects, deadlines and details. This overwhelmed me to be quite honest. I am somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, but lean more towards reflection time to let my ideas, concerns, and objectives ‘bake’.  When misunderstood, this can come across as incompetent or timid or worse, ill prepared to an extroverted boss!  I’m a believer of meeting in the middle.

I had to communicate about needing time and selecting deadlines that would allow me to reflect.  Eventually we did get into a rhythm but not without much confusion. Extroverted people, especially bosses, need to take the time to understand how their employees work and remain flexible so all can shine in their natural state. Overtime, this will lead to more productivity. I’ve also had bosses who were more introverted than me and seemed to want to close the door and hideout when I needed direction.  I had to schedule time to talk and it was hard to guess their mood because there was a limit to access.  We got a lot of work done via email, to say the least.  Being aware of how you yourself operate and then how others operate takes commitment and time. It’s the first step to reaching a solution. Once there, communicating in ways so that both are heard is key, meeting somewhere in the middle.

Intuition / Sensing

Intuition is like that 6th sense. You know but you can’t really say how you know. Whereas sensing is understanding through taste, touch, smell, etc.   Some people want the facts, the hard details and some people read between the lines and rely on nonverbal communication.

First, get to know your boss. If your boss is more of a sensing person, make sure to give them facts before anything else. You’ll get further with a new proposal or idea if you support it with data. If your boss is more of intuition, they will most likely want context on how this is going to affect the team or organization as a whole. If your boss is more of intuition, be sure to connect your new idea to the bigger picture. This can often work in updating him or her on projects or responding in team meetings.

It’s important to understand your style as well. It’s easier to give someone else the very things you need as well. It will take more effort if there is a difference; however don’t let that stop you from making your ideas known. Plus, you may have to make the first move with your boss on this one. By giving them what they will most easily respond to, you will start building trust in the relationship and it won’t be as necessary once that trust has been established. Once again, come armed with data if your boss is sensing and big picture if your boss is intuitive.

Feeling / Thinking

Thinkers are logical and make decisions based on either strategic thinking or on external data.  Feeling types let the way the situation feels determine what the action should be. Thinkers will analyze multiple steps of scenarios and choose the best logical choice, even if it doesn’t ‘feel’ right!  This is utter blasphemy to a feeler type. Remember there is no right or wrong here, only natural preferences.

If your boss is a thinking type, make sure to bring them lots of choices, practices, thoughtful steps into why your project or way of getting work done, will work. If your boss is a feeler, bring in the big picture and give them a story as to why your plan will work. Remember that there is no ‘right’ way to do something. Be humble in recognizing your preferred method is just that, a preference!  It is not necessarily the only way.  If your are different than your boss in this area, try your pitch on a friend rather than the board room. It can be hard to follow a boss who is a thinking machine if you are a feeler. Feeling types want to see the connections on the broader scale or they just have a ‘feeling’ about something. Learn to trust this 6th sense and advocate for it. Also realize the need to think through the details and come up with contingency planning to execute.

Perceiving / Judging

Perceiving types are go-with-the-flow type of people when packing their suitcase for vacation, while judging types have called ahead, made reservations, chosen outfits for all possible weather conditions and put their toothpaste in an individual baggie the night before. Perceivers will figure it out as they go, whereas Judging will have a plan plus twelve contingency plans on top of that!

This one can be a point of major contention. There’s more annoyance with these two, it seems, than any other. One likes check lists and planning (judging). The other likes spontaneity and brainstorming rather than keeping with a linear progression (perceiving).  Again, here it is all about the approach. If you know your boss is a check-lister, write them a list and they will love you for it!  If they’d rather talk about many different points and you just want the next task, help them move into action. If you like the check list, you can write down what you believe the next steps are and confirm with them in the end. That way both are feeling heard.

For example, if your perceiving boss wants to talk (again) about how to improve a certain process, start writing down what you hear the actions to be in list form. Then repeat them back to your boss to confirm if this is how they’d like you to start. Ask a lot of questions and follow-up with specific actions. Or if it’s the other way around and your boss is the judging type, find others to brainstorm with and then present your nice neat package to your boss when it’s ready. Judging types will get easily anxious with a lot of information and no plan.

Remember that differences can often achieve the best results. There may be tension between people initially, but moving passed them in a civil way can open up a lot of creativity and productivity for your team or company. If your organization is interested in using MBTI to understand their team dynamics, please check out our employee engagement programs.


, How to Deal With a Difficult Boss or Employee

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