Charlie loved his work. After graduating from college with his business degree, he began working for a large accounting firm as an account assistant. Charlie worked long hours, especially during the first five years of his career while he learned the business. He never really minded the hard work, for he took great pride in his efforts and felt responsible for doing things correctly and on time. His performance reviews demonstrated both his work ethic and attention to detail. He rarely made mistakes, never missed a deadline, and often completed work ahead of schedule. Charlie’s hard work paid off, for he moved up the career ladder quickly, becoming an accountant and then a senior accountant for his firm. He really enjoyed many aspects of his work. The focus on details and facts and the quiet nature of the work appealed to Charlie. He understood that accounting was the key to managing a business successfully and that many start-up businesses failed more often because of poor accounting procedures than any other reason. The facts and details managed and controlled by the accounting division often provided critical information about what was working (or not) within an organization. He felt that his work was an important and valuable part of the organization.
For the most part, Charlie enjoyed his co-workers. Most of them were also hard working and didn’t waste a lot of time with small talk and socializing. They were friendly and helped each other when needed, but as a group, they were not big on potlucks and parties. They were not big on meetings in general. While other divisions seemed to be endlessly in meetings, the accounting staff met only once per month, usually to review any new procedures or changes. Even these meetings were generally short since most of the staff preferred to quietly read new materials, rather than discuss them as a group. Tom, the division manager, seemed rather stressed at times, but rarely bothered his workers with concerns or complaints. Tom had a lot of confidence in his staff and generally left them alone unless there was a serious problem.
Aside from his accounting duties, Charlie was also responsible for writing new accounting policies and procedures. Though this task was painstaking, he enjoyed the challenge and believed that highly detailed policies and procedures were an effective way to ensure that work processes were kept up to standards.
After working for this firm for ten years and earning his CPA, Tom retired and Charlie was promoted to fill his position as division manager. He was very excited about the opportunity to manage his division and maintain the excellent level of service that they currently provided. Two months into his new promotion, Charlie was having second thoughts. Though Charlie had visions of spending his time organizing and planning the work of his staff, in reality, much of his time was spent in meetings with higher management or dealing with employee issues.
Just in terms of managing his staff, Charlie never realized how much time Tom had spent solving employee problems, conducting employee performance reviews, dealing with poor performers, and meeting with personnel management. Add to that all of the time he spent in management meetings, and Charlie was drained by all of the talking, talking, talking. It seemed to Charlie that he had very little time left to focus on the actual work of his accounting staff. Faced with this challenge, Charlie mustered all of his organizational skills and worked harder and longer, and longer and harder. The longer hours did give him the opportunity for some quiet time at the end of the workday to focus on accounting matters, but it was never enough. In truth, it was becoming quite an issue with his wife Sally, who began complaining that he was never home! Charlie was increasingly stressed and tired and frustrated. Come to think of it, this had been true for Tom too.
To make matters worse, six months into his new position, Charlie was informed during yet another management meeting that a reorganization of accounting was being considered. Charlie was stunned. As far as he was concerned, his division had always performed well, and he could not understand why any changes were necessary--especially a reorganization. However, the firm was interested in de-centralizing the accounting function, placing accountants in all key divisions in order to improve customer service and modernize accounting procedures. Charlie would still oversee all of the accounting staff, which would be separated and located directly within each division. In addition, Charlie would need to work more closely with each of the division managers to ensure that the accounting service was tailored towards each of the divisions’ needs.
He was overwhelmed and deeply frustrated. He did not view this plan as an opportunity for improving the organization, and secretly felt insulted by the implication that their division was under-appreciated. He was not alone in his feelings, for his staff reacted very bitterly to the suggested reorganization. Many of his staff had worked very hard over the years, and took great offense to the idea that they needed to improve. No one wanted the changes, and their unhappiness could be seen in their work productivity, which began to decline. Two of Charlie’s best performers were even looking for new positions in other companies. To make matters worse, the accounting staff was now out-meeting every other division in order to deal with the crisis. Charlie was becoming desperate to help his staff, but did not know what to do.
He decided to visit one of the personnel managers to get some advice. He met with Susan, a personnel manager he had known and trusted for years, and just poured out his worries. Susan patiently listened, realizing that Charlie was under a great deal of stress. After he ran out of steam, Susan asked him to take a moment and consider why the reorganization was being proposed. Charlie responded that he wasn’t sure. Sometimes he thought that the firm must be thinking that the staff’s current performance was inadequate, needing improvement. But he also wondered if management did not trust his leadership. Susan reassured him that the performance of his division as well as his leadership was never questioned. The real impetus behind the new plan was a simply to provide the accounting staff with an opportunity to better understand the needs of each division and give staff members a broader view of the business. Charlie was surprised and relieved. He then asked Susan what he could do to help his staff through these changes. Susan had several suggestions and Charlie was ready to better support his staff.
Starting the next day, Charlie met with his staff and explained what the firm’s intentions were, and then asked his staff to talk about their concerns. After his staff had let off steam and addressed their concerns, Charlie promised to meet with each staff member one on one to talk about what their needs were and help them through this transition. The effect was almost visible, and immediate. His staff was not yet thrilled with the changes but more relaxed and able to focus on possible opportunities. Working with staff individually, Charlie was able to place each of them in a position that best suited their interests and needs, and eventually they all adjusted well to the change. Charlie was not so sure about himself. This new position required him to behave and perform in ways that were often unnatural and difficult for him to achieve. He was dependable and responsible, and worked hard to fulfill his duties. But there were still days that he longed for the quiet time to just do the work.
As we have described Charlie, he is a highly effective accountant who is well-placed in that career, but has been asked to step out of that role for many of his working hours. Having done that, he is then confronted with a radical organizational change. This is stressful for a strong ISTJ to begin with, and the additional burden of believing that the change reflected a lack of confidence in his division simply piled on more strain. Management would have been wise to spend much more time at the beginning, helping the accounting group to understand why the change was being made. Charlie, however, would probably be wise to see his group through this change and then resign from the division manager position. We all tend to assume that more status and higher salary add up to greater happiness, but if temperament and job requirements do not match, this is simply not so. “Know thyself” is great wisdom.
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