Impacting Behaviors and Personalities

Changing human behavior may be the most difficult aspect of managing individuals. Recognizing our own actions and tendencies is a first step toward contending with those of others.

Within any organization, no matter how big or small, there will be diversity among the members. Most companies would consider such variety amongst its employees a good thing. After all, different perspectives, outlooks and views can promote creativity, improve knowledge and enhance skillsets. The problem, however, with having a diverse workforce often becomes management of the team. In a complex, aggressive and sometimes brutal work environment, how do we get the best outcomes from different personalities?

Personalities make us unique. Unlike emotions, which can fluctuate, personalities tend to be a more static mishmash of our upbringing, surroundings and influences. Let me clearly state that I am not a psychologist, and I certainly do not want to become the next Dr. Phil. However, it’s clear to me that differences among personalities are more prevalent and easier to recognize than similarities. When managing different personalities, I believe we should not focus on the disparities, but on ourselves. 

I like to believe that every individual is made of things good, helpful and fulfilling. What is more helpful for me personally, however, is to focus on the shortcomings that I have amassed over the years. I have exhibited some erratic behaviors in my day and will most likely commit some form of them in the future. What is important is that I recognize them and grow from them. 

Me, the Collector

The first professional “behavior defect” I can remember is what I refer to as “the collector.” I was running a machining cell that used a specific cutter isolated to a highly profitable job within the shop. Instead of taking only what I needed out of the tool crib, I took an entire box of inserts. I was saving myself the time of returning to the tool crib when I needed more inserts; but it turns out I also cost the company money. I failed to return the box of inserts to the crib prior to the end of my shift. When my day-shift partner could not find inserts to run his job, production stopped. We lost nearly an entire shift’s worth of parts due to my selfishness. How I felt when I found out I was responsible for so many hours of downtime is hard to put in words (unlike the one-way conversation with my foreman the next day).

Me, the Smug Professional

One of my more humbling examples comes from a time when I thought I was starting to come into my own. I call this the “smug professional” incident. I had just landed a promising new job that I was very excited about. I had convinced myself that I needed to showcase my talents immediately and become an impact player. I figured the best thing for the company was for me to go about my job asking few questions and doing things my own way. I was eager to impress and focused only on myself. It was a few months before I realized that my actions came across as brash and it appeared that I saw myself as more important than others. The focus in my work emphasized weaknesses rather than elicited praise for performance. 

Me, the Meddler

Complementing the “smug professional” (like muscle rub substitutes for toothpaste), was my stint as a “meddler.” This started with the common misconception that I was trained and disciplined, and therefore thoroughly prepared for success. Because I continually thought that the processes previously taught to me were superior to those being implemented, I sought to change each and every process that did not conform to what I had learned, no matter how time-consuming this was. The proverbial reinvention of the wheel is often mistaken as continuous improvement. Yet, not taking into account the time needed to make a change sometimes means it’s not worth the cost. 

Managing human behavior is the most difficult aspect of working with individuals in a result-orientated environment. As managers it can help to recognize our own conduct. If we, as individuals, have no regard for our own behavior, then we have no right to attempt to impact the behavior of others. Whether we are managing corporations, teams or merely ourselves, the most important behavior is our own. 

About the Author

Tim Sanders

Tim Sanders is the operations manager for Titletown Manufacturing, a metalworking and fabrication shop located in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Email tim@titletownmfg.com or visit titletownmfg.com.