Do you work with someone who drives you crazy -- and seems to do it on purpose? Well, guess what: You're probably driving him crazy too, and he no doubt figures you're being just as deliberate about it.
But neither of you is a glutton for taking or inflicting abuse. Instead, you're probably among the millions of people at organizations large and small who deal with personality differences at work.
More specifically, you're quite possibly rubbing against your opposite on the Judging/Perceiving (J/P) scale of the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality assessment.
P's and J's Live Different Days
Dozens of books have been written about the MBTI and the Judging/Perceiving portion of the assessment, so it's impossible to discuss the J/P preference in the depth it deserves. Basically, the J/P scale measures how you prefer to operate in your daily life, especially when it comes to gathering information and making decisions.
If you're a Judger (J for short), you thrive on order and planning. You feel like you're more in control of your life -- at work and elsewhere – if, for example, you can create and follow a detailed schedule each day, keep your mind and space tidy and make decisions quickly so you can wrap up one task and move on to the next.
If, on the other hand, you're a Perceiver, or P, you prefer flexibility and spontaneity. You feel more in control -- at work and elsewhere -- if, for instance, you have enough time to gather the information you feel you need to make good decisions or if you prefer to deal with problems as they emerge, changing previously made plans accordingly.
Whose Way Is Best?
"We all think our way is the right way to be," says Renee Baron, a Berkeley-based therapist, writer and author of What Type Am I?
In reality, though, both personality types have strengths and weaknesses. But it tends to be those weaknesses that loom large in the respective eyes of J/P opposites.
If you're a J, for example, you might attach labels like "procrastinator," "irresponsible," "lazy" and "untrustworthy" to your P-leaning colleagues, says Jean Kummerow, a St. Paul psychologist and author of several MBTI-related books, including Work Types. Conversely, if you're a P, you may view your J-like coworkers as "anal retentive," "uptight" and "rigid," Kummerow says.
Compromise Is More Realistic Than Change
But at work, covert or overt name-calling won't get you anywhere with your J/P opposite. And you won't get far with trite platitudes either, such as "try to be more flexible" (the typical advice J's get) or "just come up with a plan" (typical advice for P's).
So what can you do to get along? Begin by losing the idea that you can simply change your colleague's personality leaning, on the J/P scale or any other. On this, the experts agree: It just isn't gonna happen.
You can, however, try to start compromising with your J/P opposite. That means both of you must take on a little temporary stress to establish and maintain an effective working relationship for the long haul.
Suppose, for instance, that you and your J/P foil must work together on a major project. If you're the J of the duo, "negotiate the real deadline, let the P do his/her thing, and don't check up on them every few days or minutes," says Kummerow. Meanwhile, if you're the P, "let the J know you're working on the project by giving them quick updates," she adds. "And make sure you complete the project by the agreed-upon deadline."
You'll never really be able to walk in the shoes of your J/P counterpart. But you can try to get inside his head, especially if you want your working relationship to grow beyond a war of words and actions.