Monday, December 10th, 2012

What Does Your Boss’ Desk Say About His Work Style?

Understanding how co-workers and bosses give and receive information is important, and knowing their preferences can help improve communications and general job satisfaction. Savvy professionals are always looking for clues to a person’s preferred style of communication.

Most social psychologists recognize that there are four basic temperaments or communications styles. One widely accepted concept for acknowledging the four basic styles is known as the DISC method. The DISC is easy to understand, learn, remember, and apply. Here’s what the DISC stands for.

  • The D stands for the Driving style and is a measure of how people respond to problems and challenges.
  • The I stands for the Influential style and is a measure of how people influence others to their point of view.
  • The S stands for the Steady/Stable style and is a measure of the intensity levels of a person’s behavior toward the pace of the environment.
  • The C stands for Compliance and is a measure how people respond to rules and procedures set by others and their need for information.

When you are looking for clues into a person’s preferred communication style, remember that the indicators will not always be verbal. You can uncover significant insights about a person’s communication style by looking at their office. I spoke to certified professional behavioral analyst Jane Roquelplot, owner of  JaneCo’s Sensible Solutions, to learn more about what office style says about a person’s communication style.

D: Driving (fast-paced and task-oriented individuals)
When entering “D” styles’ offices, look around! The overall tone suggests authority and control. Their desks may be covered with projects and papers, stacked in neat piles. Both their in and out-boxes typically bulge with busywork. They tend to surround themselves with trophies, awards, and other evidence of personal achievement. Virtually everything about the place suggests hustle, bustle, formality, and power.
This type often favors a large chair behind a massive authority structure known as a power desk. Besides non-verbally announcing, “I’m important,” the desk separates them from visitors, literally keeping them at a distance. The walls may include diplomas, commendations, and other evidence of success. One wall may have a large planning sheet or calendar on it … the better to juggle tasks with. If “D” styles have family photos, they may hang behind them or somewhere where they do not readily see them. To this type, their offices are places of business, and the fewer distractions they have, the better.

I: Influential (fast-paced and people-oriented)
When you enter the working area of an “I” style, look around his office. What does it look like? Even if you have never been to this type’s office before, you may recognize it from across the room. Remember Oscar Madison? He and other “I” styles may strew paperwork across their desks, sometimes trailing it along the floor, too. They react to visual stimuli, so they like to have everything where they can see it. Consequently, their desks often look cluttered and disorganized. If anyone comments, “How do you find anything?” they like to say that they are organized in their disorganization.
“I” style office walls may sport prestigious awards. They may be adorned with a broad range of decorations including liberal arts degrees, motivational or upbeat slogans, generalized personal comments, or stimulating posters. You may see notes posted and taped all over the place with little apparent forethought, rhyme, or reason. Overall decor in these offices usually reflects an open, airy, lively atmosphere that often reveals the personality of its occupant. Likewise, the furniture arrangement tends to indicate warmth, openness, and contact. An “I” style seldom sits behind a desk when he talks. He often opts for comfortable, accessible seating, enabling him to meet his goal of getting to know people better. He prefers to sit next to others at a table or on a couch so he can see and hear them.

S: Steady/Stable (slow-paced and people-oriented)

When you enter an “S” style’s office, be alert for conservatively framed personal slogans, group photos, serene landscapes and posters, and other personal items. Since S-types tend to seek close relationships, also look around for telltale family pictures and mementos, usually turned so they can view them from their desk chair.

They often favor nostalgic memories of stabilizing experiences and relationships in our increasingly high-tech world. These remembrances of a pleasant, uncomplicated past allow them to transform their offices into an environment of friendly, warm ambiance. They prefer to arrange seating in a side-by-side, more congenial, cooperative manner. No big power desks for them! If they do have one, though, they will typically come out from behind it and reach out, opting for a more personal touch.

C: Compliant (slow-paced and task-oriented)
“C” styles often carry their organizational tendencies into their work environments. Environmental clues include neat, highly organized desks with cleared tops so they can work unimpeded by clutter — clean, shipshape, and professional with everything in the appropriate place. Charts, graphs, exhibits, models, credentials, and job-related pictures are often placed neatly on their office walls or shelves.
“C” styles favor a functional decor that will enable them to work more efficiently. They tend to keep most objects within reach, readily available when needed. Where appropriate, you may notice state-of-the-art technology to further enhance efficiency. “C” styles are non-contact people who prefer the formality of distance. This preference is reflected in the functional, but uninviting, arrangement of their desks and chairs, usually with the desks physically separating them with other.