So you know that your boss drives you nuts….but you’re not sure exactly why.
It’s not that you outright dislike him. And he’s certainly not an unreasonable guy.
And even though you often find him difficult to work with, it’s not like you have a horrible boss story to share with the world.
So just what is it that makes working with him so challenging?
Your Boss is Nothing Like You
Ever heard of behavioral styles?
Chances are that your boss – or anyone else you work with who drives you nuts for reasons you can’t determine – has a significantly different behavioral style than you do.
We generally make the mistake of assuming that others interact and think in the same way we do. But that just isn’t the case.
You have natural propensities that affect how you do things. Your boss also has them.
If his natural propensities are similar to yours, the two of you connect easily. In this case, he’s not regularly driving you nuts.
But if they’re not similar, you may regularly experience conflict or frustration. Or maybe you just find that interacting with him drains you, even when the issue at hand isn’t particularly challenging.
The Four Dimensions of Our Behavior
Instead of digging too deep into the science and methodology of the DISC Behavioral Style Model, let’s keep things simple.
First, understand that in this model there are four dimensions of human behavior:
- How we handle problems and challenges
- How we handle people and influence others
- How we handle change and pace
- How we handle rules and procedures set by others
Along each dimension is a spectrum, ranging from one extreme to another.
If your natural style is at one end of the spectrum and your boss’ is at the other, you’re going to have issues.
For example, let’s look at how you handle problems and challenges.
At one end of the spectrum is a person who exhibits driven, ambitious behavior.
At the other end, is someone who performs peaceful, agreeable actions.
In the middle you’d find a person described as responsible and conservative.
None of these behaviors – or their descriptors – are bad. Or wrong.
They’re just different ways of approaching a challenge.
And if you take some time to consider where your actual behaviors fall, compared to your boss’, you’ll begin to see some specific differences. Maybe some significant differences – some that provide a clue about why he rubs you the wrong way without even trying.
Even if you are both completely reasonable folks, are working toward the same goal, and really want to progress without any conflict, these significant differences are going to have you driving each other a bit nuts.
So take a look at this list of descriptors for all four categories:
How you handle people and influence others
One extreme: inspiring, magnetic
Other extreme: critical, moody
Mid-range: optimistic, reflective
How you handle change and pace yourself
One extreme: relaxed, resistant to change
Other extreme: impulsive, flexible
Mid-range: steady, stable
How you handle rules and procedures set by others
One extreme: careful, cautious
Other extreme: arbitrary, careless with details
Mid-range: independent, open-minded
How you handle problems and challenges
One extreme: driven, ambitious
Other extreme: peaceful, agreeable
Mid-range: responsible, conservative
Again, analyze where you and your boss fall along the spectrum in each area.
You might find it useful to have a co-worker’s input. Especially since we don’t always see ourselves the way others see us.
Remember, the point of this process is to discover your natural differences.
Differences you weren’t aware of. Differences that had you subconsciously throwing your hands up and proclaiming to yourself, “He just drives me crazy!”
But here’s the most important (and unexpected) part. You’re not alone.
Guess What? You Are Driving Your Boss Crazy
As soon as I learned about natural behavioral styles, I had an epiphany regarding my former boss. He had driven me crazy the entire time we worked together. What I realized was this:
I likely drove him completely BONKERS.
Now I can look back and see just how mismatched we were.
He’s energetic and lively, with everything urgent. I’m methodical, analytical, and show little emotion.
He’s impulsive, and I’m resistant to change.
I’m cautious and policy-oriented, while he is innovative, and breaks every rule in the book.
It’s funny to think that while I was focused on how crazy he was making me, that I was doing the same to him.
And with the two of us thinking that the other was entirely wrong in their approach to just about everything, our working relationship didn’t last long.
We didn’t attempt to understand or appreciate each other in any way. But we sure invested a lot of energy in proving each other wrong, resisting each other’s way of doing things, and trying to convince other team members to take our side.
How to Stop This Crazy Cycle
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to break the unproductive cycle of driving each other nuts.
- Acknowledge that his natural behavior is just that: natural. He’s not being that way in order to drive you up the wall. After analyzing his behavioral tendencies, you can better anticipate how he will respond in the future.
- Consider his perspective. Once you’re convinced that your boss isn’t actively trying to annoy you, it’s easier to see things from his point of view. Even when you completely disagree, seeing his perspective will help you understand his actions or decisions a little more.
- Adapt to his behavior. At this point in the process you might still think that he should be making an effort, too, but you’ve got to take the first step. Even little things like adjusting to better match his pace, his energy level, or his risk tolerance will catch his attention. And even lead to more productive interactions down the road.
Staying focused on how crazy your boss is making you doesn’t accomplish much.
But if you make the effort to figure out his natural behaviors compared to yours, you might just find a way of working together that makes you both happier. Good luck!
Image courtesy of Alisha Vargas.