Sunday, 24 February 2013


Mpole, the production manager, is perfectionist by nature. He is considered one of the most serious members of staff.
He likes to think things over and tends to ask a lot of questions before coming to a decision.
His keen attention to detail often drive the staff under him mad because he always finds fault with their work and makes sarcastic, negative comments about them.
He finds himself assigning a lot of work to Kidole, one of his most reliable officers.
He prefers Kidole because she is known to work tirelessly for hours in order to get an assignment done, and has little time for socialisation.
Those who have worked with her know her to be committed, efficient and conscientious in her work. She is also known for her hot temper. She complains a lot, but still completes her assignments.
The one person Mpole avoids giving assignments to unless it is absolutely necessary is Jacinta.
She is the office chatterbox who is always getting into trouble because of the controversial and often exaggerated statements she makes about her colleagues.
Jacinta craves attention and is fond of gossip about others. She often gets emotional and upset whenever challenged to substantiate some of the stories she has peddled around the office about others.
One of the few people who can tolerate Jacinta’s gossip is Susan. The latter is a good listener and is very patient with Jacinta and finds her many stories entertaining.
Susan is also loyal to Jacinta and avoids confrontations. It is her need for security that first drew her to Jacinta.
As a worker, Susan prefers assignments that do not require her to make decisions or take risks. She does not like conflicts and is often indecisive.
According to David Merrill and Roger Reid in their book, Personal Styles and Effective Performance, everyone has a social style based on their degree of assertiveness and responsiveness.
There are four categories of social styles, namely, analytical, amiable, driver and expressive.
Drivers like Kidole are action-oriented individuals who tend to focus on the present, seek power and want autonomy in making decisions.
They prefer to base their decisions on facts and have little time for individuals with the expressive social style.
An example of an expressive is Jacinta. Expressive workers tend to make decisions based on personal opinions. They are communicative and tend to be impulsive.
They make good followers and supporters but they are often undisciplined. Even though, they may have a vivid imagination and can be creative.
Susan has an amiable social style. Such people tend to place a lot of importance on good relationships and interpret the workplace from a personal point of view.
Because of this, they prefer to forge relationships than use force to achieve objectives. As a result, they may put off action because of fear of confrontation with colleagues and tend not to take risks.
Because of their need for security, they approach new situations with caution.
Merrill and Reid refer to analytical workers as those who are driven by the need to be logical and factual in their undertakings.
They focus on detail and need time to ponder on issues. For this reason they are slow in making decisions and cautious in forming friendships. They do not rush things.
If you are dealing with a driver, stick to the point and do your homework. When dealing with an expressive, don’t put down their enthusiasm and excitement. Avoid being too detailed.
Amiable workers, on the other hand, prefer that you are flexible and emphasise a team approach.
Don’t press too hard to change things and do not ask them for too much detail. Allow time for bonding. Analytics will appreciate your logical and well organised presentation. They will not want you to rush things. Just don’t be too personal with them. 
Dr Kithinji is a trainer, researcher and consultant at the Kenya School of Government

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