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After the Sonoma County Fires: How Can We Get Along at Work?

Dear Readers,

Getting back to work after the devastating fire is not easy. It’s most difficult for those who lost their homes and those that are still displaced.

But all of us in the NorCal fire region are experiencing collective grief and weariness.  Given that stress, how do we strive to get along? We are different and react differently to stress. The more conscious we are of our own behaviors and tendencies, and the more aware we are of contrasting styles, the better we can adjust and make the work environment more pleasant and productive.

One theory of work styles puts us in 4 different categories. Each style brings strengths and weaknesses. It’s helpful to know your style so you can adjust accordingly to make the team work better.  Try to identity yourself and how you might be more sensitive to working with others who have a different style. We are often combination of the styles but we tend to have a primary one, and that style tends to be even stronger when under stress.


  1. DRIVERS – Drivers like to be in charge. They like to take control of a situation, plan and move to action, fast! They are task focused, not people focused. They tend to be leaders; quickly developing goals, strategies and tactics and then looking to delegate and make things happen. Positive: The upside is that they are quick to get back to work; ready to solve problems and move forward, now! Negative: The downside of drivers can be moving too fast and not tuning into the needs of others. If you recognize yourself in this style, please read about how the other three groups are feeling and behaving, then adjust accordingly. A clear example of  a driver’s inpatience and insensitivity was told to me today: The manager of a local business that had been severely burned, pulled together his team of workers after being away from work for two weeks.  He welcomed them back and then handed out a long list of to-dos for each person and said Let’s go!” He turned on loud rock n’ roll music and started dancing, happy to be back in action. But most of his employees just stood there in disbelief. They needed time to share their experiences with one another, absorb the devastation around them, before focusing on the work. Needless to say, this manager has some very unhappy employees.
  2. EXPRESSIVES – Just as the word says, expressives like to talk. They like to share their thoughts, feelings and ideas as they are occurring, and they want everyone to listen to all they have to say. They are often very bright and alert and come up with ways to solve problems. They are typically sharing and caring and want to engage in dialogue and problem solving, talking their way through to solutions. Positive: They are alert and engaging,  people oriented and looking to solve problems. They are often friendly and  open and  want to share their stories and listen to yours, too. Negative: They can talk too much, be seen as too intense, and people can get tired of their banter. And they often are thinking out loud so it’s difficult to cull through to determine which of their ideas are valuable and which are just passing thoughts.
  3. AMIABLES – Amiables like to please. They like a peaceful and caring work environment. They want to make sure feelings are considered and people are getting along. They will compromise and acquiesce to get to a team solution. They are sensitive to the nuances and feelings of others in the group. Amiables are excellent listeners.They are often the social lubricants; acknowledging the good works of others and celebrating things like birthday. Positive: Yes, they are social lubricants and they will be the first to suggest that everyone have the chance to tell their personal fire experience story and they will listen well and respond with sensitivity and caring. A local non-profit leader is an amiable and she spent the first morning back to work with team sharing. Most of the team loved it but those Drivers were getting impatient! Negative: Sometimes they put feelings and the need for sharing before the big picture of getting the work done.. Amiables have been known to go along with a situation even when the work solution is incorrect, for the sake of keeping the peace.
  4. ANALYTICALS: Analyticals like data and the more data, the better. They are comprehensive in looking at all angles and considerations before making a decision. They are thorough and often intelligent, deep thinkers. They want the data points to lead them to a solution and they do not want to act quickly on feel or intuition. They are often relied on to do research and provide factual indicators. Positive: We need analyticals to hold us accountable to good, fact based decision making and we need them to provide us with the facts and hold us to logical decisions. We want strong analyticals involved in deciding whether our workplaces are toxic or not! Negative: Sometimes we need to make decisions before all the data is available. Sometimes a half baked decision on-time is better than no decision. Sometimes we need to move forward with a combination of incomplete data coupled with strong intuition.

Going back to work after a disaster is not easy. Some of us will bounce back more quickly than others. But if we are more aware of our own tendencies, especially our work style under stress, we can help to be a better team member and adjust better to the work styles of others.

Onward to working together with both sensitivity and productivity.

Coach Joan

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