Jennifer & Michael

One Monday morning Jennifer, the Marketing Director of Global Manufacturing International Inc. strides into the office of Michael, the company’s Chief Financial Officer. She urgently needs a report from Michael on last week’s production results. Jennifer usually tries to avoid going into Michael’s office, because Michael always starts a whole conversation about all kinds of non work-related issues, which takes far too much of her valuable time. Jennifer likes Michael a lot, and she always feels sorry for him when she has to cut him short because of her lack of time. But with so much work on her plate she simply doesn’t have the patience to listen him out. It makes her feel totally out of control, a feeling that she hates. This time however she cannot avoid meeting him; the report is too important.

With a lump in het stomach Jennifer walks straight to Michael’s desk, saying “Morning Mike”, trying to be as efficient as possible. As expected however, Michael greets Jennifer with a warm “Good morning Jenn! How are you today? How was your weekend away with the kids? I hope you guys had a really, really good time!”

Jennifer answers with a curt “Yeah, thanks”, hoping that Michael will not continue asking her about the weekend.  She looks Michael straight in the eye, and says: “Listen Mike, for our project meeting of tomorrow I urgently need a report on the production results of last week. I guess you can fix that for me, right? Tomorrow eight-thirty?”

Michael, in his typical non-committal way, answers: “Eh… yeah… sure Jenn! I will do my best to get that for you… Sure… I may be a little hard pressed to get this done within your requested time frame, and… well… as you probably know, my team is quite busy with the closing of the quarter… but anyway… sure! I’ll get it for you…”

Jennifer, irritated by Michael’s long idle answer, asks Micheal: “Mike, do I have your commitment?”, to which Michael answers with: “Sure Jenn, you know you always have my commitment!”. Jennifer responds with a quick “Thanks Mike”, and then thinks “I need to get the hell out of here before he starts another one of his stories…” She turns on her heels and walks out of Michael’s office in a fast pace.

After leaving Michaels’s office, Jennifer feels relieved and insecure at the same time. She is relieved that Michael cannot hijack more of her time with his off-topic conversations, but at the same time she always feels insecure about whether Michael will actually carry out the task as required, and whether he really understands what she needs in the first place. Michael often says “yes” and then doesn’t deliver, and he doesn’t always provide adequate feedback about progress. Jennifer knows that Michael is the kindest guy on the floor, and that everybody likes him for his gentle demeanor, but to Jennifer “yes” means “yes, and “no” means “no”, and with Michael you hardly ever get either of those answers.

The next morning Jennifer walks into Michael’s office to collect the report. She had actually hoped that he would send it to her by email, it would have saved her a potentially long visit, but she hasn’t heard from Michael at all since yesterday’s conversation. When entering Michael’s office, she immediately senses that he doesn’t have the report ready. Although she half expected it, it still makes her angry, and she thinks: “If he knew that he wouldn’t deliver, why didn’t he simply give me a call….?”

Driver-style people like Jennifer live in the presumption that if people need more details they will immediately ask for it, just like she always does. Jennifer expects people to come up with an instant “no” in case they feel they cannot deliver, but they should of-course offer an alternative. Clarity is of key importance to Jennifer, and she sincerely dislikes surprises or other situations that leave her out of control. Delivery must be timely and as agreed, and when something comes up it needs to be communicated immediately so that the course of the ship can be adjusted well in time. To Jennifer, commitment is all about the result. To Amiable-style Michael, however, the word ‘commitment’ means ‘effort’. Jennifer and Michael got lost in translation. It is crucial to understand the language of a person with a different Behavior Style in order not to let that happen.

Read this same case from Michael’s perspective →

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