for release February 9, 2000
by Melodie Davis
Understanding Your Co-Worker From Mars
"Men are like dogs," said one young woman whose name I'll change to Sarah. "A guy can be great 95 percent of the time: loving, loyal, devoted. But then, put a bone in front of him, and he forgets everything else except going after that bone. All he can think of, is 'I gotta have it; gotta have it.'"
Please note this woman didn't say men are dogs, it is purely a metaphor. I thought she showed some pretty good insight. "All men have their dog moments," Sarah went on. It may be hunting, fishing, football, a new boat, or an old friend. Sarah was trying to help another young woman understand her newlywed husband. The newlyweds had had a tiff over the husband's friend. Ted tended to procrastinate telling his wife that he was getting together with his friend simply because he knew his wife didn't like his friend. "Ted's friend is his doggy moment," advised Sarah.
People are different. Joe is always late to meetings. Deb isn't comfortable unless she's ten minutes early. Pete likes order. Kay likes things to look lived in. How can we understand what is going on with differences in personality, and how do these differences affect our relationships? What we learn about getting along with each other in marriage can be instructional in workplace relationships, and vice versa. I observed different work styles between a married couple leading a workshop together. During coffee breaks, the wife wanted to pin down an exact timetable for the upcoming session, while the husband wanted to "go with the flow."
When asked later about differences in their own workstyles, Meg said she's the kind of speaker who prefers beginning at least three weeks ahead of time to plan things, consulting dozens of books, and drawing on the ideas of others before trusting her own. Craig, on the other hand, feels comfortable waiting until two or three days before a presentation to pull his notes together, confident in this own ideas and resources.
I found their differences refreshing, comforting and instructional. At home I'm frequently frustrated when my husband calls for my opinion or help on a woodworking or metal project as he putters in the shop. I know next to nothing about wood or welding, but he is the type of person who likes to double-check his ideas with someone else. He collects lots of information before making a decision. Over the years I've learned that he prefers teamwork to going solo. I, on the other hand, work best by myself. As newlyweds, you tend to think that these quirky twists of personality are peculiar to just you and your mate. Over time, you learn you have lots of company.
My ways of working are just as alien to my husband, and neither of us are necessarily "right." These are bona fide different personality styles. One consultant says that others seem like "Martians" to us because our heads simply work in different ways.
Patrick Fraleigh and Susan Gilmore are psychologists who have described four basic, common workstyles:
* The Human Radar - A person like this always keeps their antenna up for other people. The strengths of a person like this are sensitivity, tactfulness, sociableness and flexibility. Their weakness is the problem of saying yes to too many people, becoming a doormat.
* Turtle with a Computer - This is an analyzing person who needs lots of data before moving ahead. This person is full of questions about any idea, and will never be accused of being "half baked;" they can be frustrating to idea-generating people.
* Semi-Truck - Picture a semi-truck barreling down an interstate in the left lane and you'll get an idea of this workstyle: barging ahead and expecting others to do likewise or get out of the way. The positive thing about this type is they give you lots of room to come barging in with your own ideas.
* Bicycle Built for Two - This is the kind of person who gets much more done if someone else is around. She needs someone to check with, talk with, and bounce ideas off of.
So maybe it isn't so much that men are like dogs: human beings are each delightfully unique. The good news about all this is that understanding these key differences between you and your spouse or a co-worker can help you avoid situations where you are driven up the wall. We'll look more at this topic next time.
Send your comments to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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