Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Article excerpt

Understanding how your boss is wired may help you create a better working relationship.

Q: My boss is extremely taciturn. He never greets me and rarely tells me what he's thinking, but is critical if I don't do things in the way he wants - despite never telling me what that is.

A: Your boss is exhibiting the classic signs of an introvert as defined by Jung in the 1920s. Far from referring to a person's social preferences, this term relates to the source of an individual's energy, which, in his case, comes from his inner thoughts and feelings. The fact that he doesn't greet you in the morning is probably because the thoughts he is pursuing are far more engrossing than shooting the breeze with you. Introverts don't do small talk, unless they've recognised the need and trained themselves to engage in it.

Introverts tend to think through what they want to say before they open their mouths. By contrast, extroverts tend to work out what they think by talking about it, and sometimes regret saying what has come out of their mouths. They get their energy by interaction with others - which is why, if left on their own too long, their energy levels dive and they need to recharge their batteries by speaking to someone. Meanwhile, introverts work away on their own with great concentration for extended periods.

The theory says we're born extroverted or introverted. It's not better to have one mental preference or the other, but the world is a slightly different place according to which you hold - and both have implications for the workplace.

The positive aspects of introverts are that they often seem calm and thoughtful and offer a more considered point of view. They tend to be independent, self-sufficient and highly focused. On the negative side, they can come across as cold, aloof, even arrogant, because they are not joining in the knockabout conversation that extroverts enjoy. If I were a gambler, I'd bet Gordon Brown is an introvert.

Also, as you discovered to your irritation, introverts sometimes forget that, though they have sorted out what needs to be done in their own minds, they fail to communicate their thoughts to anyone else. And, once their minds are made up, introverts can be difficult to shift.

Similarly, people with an extrovert mental preference have their own strengths and weaknesses. Upfront, easier to get to know, more openly enthusiastic and energetic, they can also be over-loud, domineering and inefficient through endless discussion. …

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