Conway Daily Sun, June 2, 2010
By Michael Kline
If there was one magic solution to just about every challenge in every business, it would be better communication. Whether you need to improve sales, cut costs, increase productivity or morale, resolve conflict between employees, stop walking on eggshells with key staff or get your partner to understand your point of view, communication is key.
In marketing, we talk about understanding our customer; knowing our target audience. We know to tailor our communications to appeal to those people who are most likely to benefit from our product. We seem to understand the need to focus on those benefits that our target audience wants most.
Why then, do we not apply this logic when dealing with employees and co-workers? We know our customers are all different, but when employees present themselves in a way that is different from our standards, we see them as wrong, inept, out of touch, clueless, self-entitled, spoiled, etc. The young employee wearing an I-pod while working at their computer may strike us as completely unacceptable regardless of their productivity – kids today! The methodical and analytic worker may make us crazy while we just want results and we want them now! Perhaps it’s the no-nonsense, pushy supervisor that creates unrest among the natives. All these scenarios drive down morale and productivity, costing us money. All contribute to turnover, absenteeism and even passive-aggressive behavior. How then, can we tailor our communication style with co-workers the way we do with customers? Actually, the process is relatively simple with an investment in educating yourself, working together with staff to learn some new lessons together and practicing some new habits. Most work-related communication challenges are blamed on personality differences, followed by generational differences, and finally other matters relating primarily to self-esteem.
Every person is unique – that’s for sure, and we love those differences when they help us solve problems, plan events or tackle tough issues requiring multiple points of view and new ideas. However, the same differences make us crazy at times. In spite of the millions of contributing factors to our personalities, generally speaking, everyone fits into one of four categories that have been defined and redefined since the Greek physician Hippocrates introduced the concept. Of course he thought the four temperaments were somehow tied to bodily fluids. Through the centuries, (without discussing phlegm), others have used new terms and theories to identify as many as 16 personality types by using sub-categories. In general though, most ancient and modern wisdom points to four major temperaments. Everyone in each category has enough in common that once we know which category best fits us and those we work with, we know with amazing accuracy, how to delegate, supervise, motivate and communicate more effectively.
We benefit from having as many as four generations working together in the same workplace. If you feel you’re suffering rather than benefitting, it doesn’t have to be that way. Work ethic is a common topic of unpleasant discussion, along with arguments over what defines a sense of entitlement versus basic working conditions. Each generation defines respect from a different perspective and see results and activities as completely differing approaches to what is important at work and how we go about doing our work.
The answer to all these seemingly complex issues can be simplified when we know the basic personality types and understand some basics on generational differences. I invite you to explore this critical topic further at the MWV Economic Council Eggs & Issues meeting on Thursday June 10th from 9:00 am-10:30 am at The Tech Village. Cost is $10 for members, $12 for non-members. Call 447-6622 to RSVP.