Not Everyone Thinks Like You

By Pamela A. Scott

I don’t need to tell you guys this, but I will say it for those who aren’t engineers: Engineers are problem solvers. They see a problem. They want to fix it. And they tell you how to fix it if you don’t let them do it themselves. 

That “fix it now” mentality popped up last week with a client. Here is what happened and how it could have been handled differently. Read, learn, and definitely share with others, particularly young engineers who haven’t learned the lesson yet. 

Situation 

Tom, a well-meaning principal, saw a problem and told June, the office manager, to deal with it. When Tom came in the next day, the problem hadn’t been fixed. He wanted to know why. That didn’t go over well with June, who now resents Tom and is unlikely to help him in the future. 

A Better Way 

Tom needs to remember that not everyone thinks like he does. And not everyone is comfortable confronting a situation head on. Tom says he apologized, sort of. I doubt that June would agree. 

By telling her what to do, Tom “dissed” her, and June likely feels he doesn’t think she knows how to do her job. She probably also took the “deal with the problem” command as an insult to her intelligence. 

Had they had a conversation about the situation, June would have had a chance to admit that she knew the problem existed (saving face) and that she was prepared to address it. She could have offered her solution, which may have been the same as Tom’s. Even if her solution was different, they could have talked it out. She would have felt more respected and probably would work well with Tom in the future.

What’s to Be Done Now? 

Bob, the managing partner, needs to sit down with Tom and June. He can educate them about what really happened. 

Tom is a problem solver. and he takes action when he sees action is needed. His style is direct and can offend others unintentionally. 

June, being female, has a 66% likelihood of being a Feeler, using personality type language. She puts great stock in being respected and considering others’ feelings. Feelers also want to avoid conflict and will take comments personally. 

Tom didn’t mean to offend June and didn’t realize how his style would affect her. June also needs to accept Tom’s need to solve problems when he sees them and not take comments so personally. 

It’s going to be tough on each of them to change their thinking. Share this article with them to help out.


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