What kind of worker are you?

I have spent the last six weeks at various festivals and events where I have had the privilege of working with lots of wonderful people. The nature of these things is that everyone is working very hard under lots of pressure in difficult circumstances all while getting progressively more tired! Under these conditions who we really are begins to shine through. My reflection on the last six weeks is that I have met four kinds of people. I wonder if you recognise yourself in any of them.

The child

This person is easily spotted because of their constant use of sentences beginning ‘I feel…’. I feel hungry. I feel tired. I feel upset. They are incredibly focussed on their internal life and feelings and make decisions based entirely on their inner state. The world really does revolve around them. They don’t turn up when they should because they needed to sleep/have a deep chat with a friend/get some food/whatever. They are incredibly hard to work with because they are fundamentally self absorbed. I remember hearing one woman being told by four different people to ‘man up’. I am not keen on the gender politics but in her case the sentiment was bang on. Of course we all have days like this but part of growing up is to not be defined simply by our feelings or what is going on with us. I remember waking up one day feeling ill and tired, but with no one to look after our 17 month daughter but me. I suddenly realised that how I felt was one of the least relevant aspects of the day. Time to grow up.

The messiah

This person is the opposite of the child. They are completely aware of the context and all that needs to be done and they are the person who is going to do it…or die trying. They completely disregard their inner state and needs and rush around working unbelievably long hours and incredibly hard. Strangely they are also quite difficult to work with. They often want everyone to know that they are working so hard and saving the day. They end up disempowering others because they do work that someone else has done in order to make sure that it is right. Or that someone else should do. They are hopeless at delegation (after all when you are the messiah who can match your standards) and often adopt command and control working patterns with team mates. Lazy colleagues collude with the messiah’s because after all, they will do all the work, even if the price tag is sullen self-righteous suffering!

The rock

This is getting into the more healthy territory. The rock is balancing their inner needs with the demands of the situation and making choices about what they can contribute which turn into commitments that they follow through on. Their choices and commitments reflect strong awareness of their capabilities. They are rocks because you can really build with these people. They can bear weight, they turn up when they said, keep their promises, don’t melt down but communicate clearly what, when and how they will contribute. But the problem with rocks is that they have hard edges. The positive part about making choices and keeping commitments can turn into an autonomy that doesn’t particularly take into account other people. Rocks tend to be self contained and self controlled. Which leads me to my fourth type of worker.

The collaborator

This person adds relationships to the choices and commitments that the rocks make. They are aware not just of their inner state and the needs of the context but also who else is on the team and how they are contributing- or could contribute. They create joy because they value people. The work seems easier because they believe in you, help you, cheer you on and connect with you. They build team.

I started this article saying that I had observed these four different kinds of people. Of course the truth is that the person I was observing was me and I have been all four of these at different times. I am not proud of that fact and want to get better which is why I have been thinking about it all. In particular I have been thinking about what drives me towards one type rather than another at any given time? And what is my default position- the one I am most likely to revert to under pressure?

How about you?