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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone, this is going to be a bit long, so please bear with it. I'm not trolliing I genuinely need some advice on how to get the best out of some people I work with, and I'm struggling to understand some of their reasoning.


I work for a large company designing products. I work in a small specialised technical team that I co-run with another experienced colleague (HC). I'm actually surrounded by ISTJs: HC is an ISTJ, the two people that report to me are both ISTJs, my boss (BM) is an ISTJ, and his boss is also an ISTJ. Our team design these products and then send them to the builder team, and it is a person in this team (AK), who is also an ISTJ that this thread is about. Well her and my boss.


AK is a very abrasive person. This is nothing new to me, you find them everywhere, but AK can be particularly difficult to deal with. She thinks she's in charge of all other people (she's not a manager, but she tries to act like she is around others of the same grade like myself), fails to try and build any personal relationships, and thinks that everyone around her are people she can step on in her bid to get to the top. She is very hard working, a stickler for detail, and has great product knowledge, so she should be a great ally for the company but ends up being very difficult to work with (not just from my perspective) because she will stab you.

BM, my boss, is a good boss overall although like everyone he has a few weaknesses. The main two are that he doesn't listen and he doesn't understand people - he just can't read them. He can also be abrasive, but only to people that he does not respect. I'd say my relationship with him was overall very good as we have a lot of respect for each other, although at times our different viewpoints can cause our relationship to become quite formal. We'll never be good friends for example, but I'd not avoid his company outside of work.


So the problem that I have is that my company is very focused on heirachy. My team does not have a manager in it (BM was the manager but was promoted, and instead of filling the spare manager role myself and HC were promoted to co-run the team). Now HC and I can run the team fine, but other teams see us not having a manager as a bit of a free for all - none more so than AK. Although the same grade she thinks she is in charge of others and will act in that way. For example she will pick and choose the emails that she wishes to reply to, no matter how many reminders you send.

And it is about this that I want some advice. AK sends very assertive emails, to the point of being so blunt and direct that they (without tone) can come across as aggressive, even abrasive. When I first read these sort of emails when I joined the company a year and a half ago I was pretty taken back. But then I realised that she doesn't mean anything by these emails, particularly, it's just her style. Now nobody was looking to change that style so it's something you have to adapt to. I'm normally not one for conflict, but I am very protective over my team, so I don't let emails like this just slide because they are often full of a distorted viewpoint of what occurred / was agreed / needs to be done.

About 6 months ago I changed my approach from writing 'nice' emails in reply. They weren't nasty but I became more direct. I realised that AK reads emails like she writes them, so when she is direct it's just because she is a direct person and not because she means to insult. Nothing wrong with that, but the problem is that other people reading these emails thinks that world war 3 is about to kick off.


This all came to a head this week. Around 2 months ago she and I with some others agreed a new approach to our testing strategy (basically the building team don't test anything they build when they need to and the agreement was that they should). After the meeting I sent an email to get the ball rolling - no response. I sent one every week, but again at no point ever had an answer. In order to bring the issue to light I tried to book a meeting, but she declined to attend, stating that someone else (who wasn't at the original agreement) would go in her place. So I sent an email to her asking if the other atendee had been properly briefed, but again I got no reply. So 3 hours before the meeting I resent my request and did the terrible terrible trick of forcing her hand, by copying her boss into the mail.

I received a reply, but it was very direct. It also contained a lot of detail that was incorrect (such as the nature of the agreement that was made). I replied pointing out the parts where I disagreed, also in a direct manner. That's when my boss sent me an email telling me to tone it down, because he thinks that we're just attacking each other over email.


So the problems that I have are this:
a) How do I make my boss understand that I am only writing direct emails to mimic AK because that's a language she understands?
b) Is there another way to get AK to respond other than by being direct? I've tried appealing to her sense of duty but have not been successful.
c) Is there a way that I can sell to BM and HC for us to have more protection for the team without having a manager - it's not that HC and I can't cope with the crap that comes our way as we can, it's just it would be nice if there were less of it.

--I know that emails are a terrible way to communicate, but I don't have much of an option here as anything talked about verbally she will change at a later date to suit her, so anything discussed needs to be recorded. :(


Now I know that all ISTJs are not the same, and I'm not trying to imply that anyone here is like either AK or my boss, but you might have some insight into them that I have missed that could really help me.

Thanks to those of you that managed to get through that mountain of text!!
 

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MOTM May 2011
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Good Grief--Too much drama. Cut to the chase already. Have a meeting about this with your boss, AK and her boss, and get this behind you.

All these people are ISTJs? Really? How did you determine this?

You basically have a personality conflict that has not been addressed and has been allowed to escalate. Stop the email crap--it's just an unhealthy way of dealing with conflict, almost feeling like triangulation. Go have your meeting with the two of you and your bosses.
 

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Regardless of type, there is too much drama. I agree with Niss that email is an unhealthy way of dealing with the aforementioned conflict. It's good you have the earlier emails, so you can show your boss/manager your perspective, but at some point the emails need to stop.

I realize that you perceive sending direct emails as the "direct" thing to do, but in this case, the "direct" thing would be to address the conflict/issue you have with this person and this project. I don't see anything direct about sending the same types of emails that no one responds to (it seems to me that you're imposing something where there was no real detailed/outlined agreement. perhaps the others were considering your new approach, but hadn't really decided on it, i don't know. but either way, there is way too much drama going on, and like Niss said, a meeting is needed).

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

In this case, this translates to no more drama, no more emails... try to arrange a meeting.
 

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Around 2 months ago she and I with some others agreed a new approach to our testing strategy (basically the building team don't test anything they build when they need to and the agreement was that they should). After the meeting I sent an email to get the ball rolling - no response. I sent one every week, but again at no point ever had an answer.
This seems to be the crux of the problem. Consider that new approaches take a while to implement and consider that if no one responds to your weekly emails, maybe this idea is not something they are interested in. From my experiences, a discussion that someone "should" do something, does not translate to an agreement that someone "will" do it from that point on. It seems that this approach is something you are more keen about, but not so quite by your ISTJ coworkers/bosses/managers.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
All these people are ISTJs? Really? How did you determine this?
I know they are ISTJs because my company places a lot of emphasis on diversity, so they encourage people to go on self improvement courses to understand each other better. Myers Briggs is the tool of choice.


You basically have a personality conflict that has not been addressed and has been allowed to escalate. Stop the email crap--it's just an unhealthy way of dealing with conflict, almost feeling like triangulation. Go have your meeting with the two of you and your bosses.
It's interesting that you mentioned that you think there is a personality clash. That's what my boss puts it down to, and he doesn't listen to me when I say that it is nothing to do with personality. The problem is not a personality clash as I have no issue with AK's personality. My issue is with how she deals with other people, specifically my team.

We have had two previous meetings on this issue, both at my request, in the hope that it would clear the air. Things are fine for the first couple of weeks but then AKs behaviour slips back to it's old form. This was when I altered my approach and it worked for a lot longer than either of the meetings did. I had hoped it was a long term solution, but unfortunately not.


I don't see anything direct about sending the same types of emails that no one responds to (it seems to me that you're imposing something where there was no real detailed/outlined agreement. perhaps the others were considering your new approach, but hadn't really decided on it,
Specific detailed agreements were made on who would be doing what and when. These agreements were minuted and actions placed against them. AK has failed to meet any of those deadlines, and has since tried to alter the version of what was agreed. My email directly and specifically commented on what she had said, and referred those points against the agreed actions. This is what my boss felt was too direct on my part.


This seems to be the crux of the problem. Consider that new approaches take a while to implement and consider that if no one responds to your weekly emails, maybe this idea is not something they are interested in. From my experiences, a discussion that someone "should" do something, does not translate to an agreement that someone "will" do it from that point on. It seems that this approach is something you are more keen about, but not so quite by your ISTJ coworkers/bosses/managers.
Actually my boss is the main driver behind this, it's just that he has given me the responsibility of making sure that it happens. He has chased me up weekly on why the process has not started, but when I try to explain the situation he just cuts me off and says to get it done (hence my comment that he does not listen). The meeting where the agreement was made was at the bequest of my manager. Actions were placed for the first week to ensure that the new process had a gradual change over to the new team rather than being just dropped in their lap with no support.


Really appreciate the help so far.
 

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Of course it is a personality conflict. There are aspects about AK's personality that do not set well with you and vice versa.

Get your ducks in a row (data together) so that when your boss next asks his set of questions about why it isn't done, you can accurately answer his questions.
 

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I just get the sense that you are expecting the ISTJs you work with to change how they are and how they approach things, which is basically a personality conflict.

Like niss suggested, maybe you can try to get your ducks in a row. You can use this thread as an opportunity to "practice" before you present to your boss maybe? If they are all ISTJs like you said, their reaction will most likely be similar to Niss's.

Something else: maybe this is a "J" thing, but it's not really clear what exactly you want. Before you try and figure out how you can oblige the other ISTJs to think/understand things a certain way, maybe you can clarify (in a very clear, simple, brief manner), what you want first.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I'm not sure why you are insisting it's a personality clash. What exactly do you think the clash is personality wise? I get on fine with her from a personality point of view, and we have many areas of commonality. The problem for me is in how she deals with other teams. Of course it's none of my business how she deals with teamsother than my team, which is why i have given this example. I don't see this as being a personailty thing, but a work behaviour thing, so am interested in why you think this is personality driven.


Also I'm sorry if it did not come across clearly in my request as to what I wanted. It's basically answers / thoughts as to my points marked a, b and c.
 

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maybe it just me but the fact you posted IN the ISTJ section might be because it a personality conflict because if it wasnt why post here ?

and i think that the fact you are trying to see it from an ISTJ perspective mean that you are not sure how we "work"
 

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a) How do I make my boss understand that I am only writing direct emails to mimic AK because that's a language she understands?

"Boss, I am writing direct emails to address AK because that seems to be her preferred form of communication. I just wanted to clear the air on this."

b) Is there another way to get AK to respond other than by being direct? I've tried appealing to her sense of duty but have not been successful.

"Boss, is there another way to get AK to respond other than our current form of communication? It seems that I have been unsuccessful with my current attempts, but I wanted to see if there was a more efficient way of working together on this. "

The above two ways have worked with the many ISTJs I know -- close friends, co-workers, etc. This will, however, require an actual face to face conversation or a phone call if physically not possible. Note, however, that all of the things you request are addressed to your boss. It is better to have a conversation with everyone present. Before you go to your boss, I would also suggest you try to contact AK one last time, "AK, is this new approach working for you? It seems to me it is not, and if it is not, I would like to see what would work."

c) Is there a way that I can sell to BM and HC for us to have more protection for the team without having a manager - it's not that HC and I can't cope with the crap that comes our way as we can, it's just it would be nice if there were less of it.

No comment on this (i've dealt with office drama before. and i've also dealt with working with different types of people, but i haven't dealt with requesting a team restructuring/team change, so i don't have any experiences to relate to.)
 

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I'm not sure why you are insisting it's a personality clash. What exactly do you think the clash is personality wise? I get on fine with her from a personality point of view, and we have many areas of commonality. The problem for me is in how she deals with other teams. Of course it's none of my business how she deals with teamsother than my team, which is why i have given this example. I don't see this as being a personailty thing, but a work behaviour thing, so am interested in why you think this is personality driven.
The following statements clearly describe a personality conflict:

"AK is a very abrasive person."

"... AK can be particularly difficult to deal with."

"She thinks she's in charge of all other people..."

"(AK)...fails to try and build any personal relationships..."

"(AK)...thinks that everyone around her are people she can step on in her bid to get to the top."

"She... ends up being very difficult to work with (not just from my perspective) because she will stab you."

"AK sends very assertive emails... to the point of being so blunt and direct that they (without tone) can come across as aggressive, even abrasive."

"My issue is with how she deals with other people..."
And that is why I see this as a personality conflict. Everyone can get along when discussing trite things that they really do not care about, or do not care to engage in conflict over at that particular level of polite conversation. It is when we feel something near and dear to us is being threatened that we become willing to engage in conflict.

Also I'm sorry if it did not come across clearly in my request as to what I wanted. It's basically answers / thoughts as to my points marked a, b and c.
You were clear, but the questions are not the correct questions to address the conflict. They are questions of how to get others to do what you want them to do. The questions need to be about how to resolve the conflict so that the focus can return to the project at hand.

a) How do I make my boss understand that I am only writing direct emails to mimic AK because that's a language she understands?
It would seem you are trying to control AK by mimicking her style of communication. A much better approach would be to seek clarity by asking follow up questions and communicating in a way that is normal for you. A poor tactic that will not win you any points with the boss.

b) Is there another way to get AK to respond other than by being direct? I've tried appealing to her sense of duty but have not been successful.
Still seems to be trying to control AK. Clear and concise communications are always good. Restate questions and answers to ensure clarity. Don't try to appeal to anything but getting the job done.

c) Is there a way that I can sell to BM and HC for us to have more protection for the team without having a manager - it's not that HC and I can't cope with the crap that comes our way as we can, it's just it would be nice if there were less of it.
You are still trying to control others and your environment. Your boss is less impressed by that than he is by getting the work out. Spend more time on getting the job done and worry a lot less about all of the other things you can't really control.

I don't mean to be harsh, but based on the limited information at hand, this is how I see it.

HTH
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Hi nisss - not taking it as harsh at all, and if I didn't want your perspective I would not have asked! I appreciate that it's very hard to fully understand the situation so I am interested in what you pick up on what I say - because I'm obviously not aware of the things that I do / say that will be picked up on by others with a similar viewpoint (which is why I'm posting in the ISTJ section!).


It's very interesting that you point out the thing about controlling. I think that maybe I have moved towards that end of the spectrum. I've tried all of the suggestions mentioned here previously, such as just plain talking about it. I've tried asking my boss for advice but he has given none other than saying to get drunk and resolve our personality clash, or just sorting it out. I've tried finding the middle ground but every time this happens the agreements are broken, and nobody does anything about it. So yes you are right I do think that I am trying to use my influence to change the situation to something that is better for my team and myself, rather than allowing all the drama to continue.

Thanks for the replies everyone.
 
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