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Think or feel? It's your decision.

Why effective organizations need both.

OVER THE PAST SEVERAL MONTHS we have explored the impact personality plays in workplace interactions. We began with the identification of energy source--introverts, energized by concepts, ideas, thoughts, and extraverts, energized by people and the world around them. Next, we explored the information-gathering function--sensing, a preference for focusing on facts and details, and intuitive, a preference for the figurative, the big picture, looking for possibilities. This month, we'll explore the third dimension of personality--decision-making.

After information has been taken in through the data-gathering function, decisions are based on that information. These decisions are made in one of two ways:

Thinking--for those who prefer to be very logical, detached, analytical and driven by objective values. Thinkers tend to remain personally detached from the decision. The goal: justice, fairness and clarity.

Feeling--for those who prefer interpersonal involvement, with emphasis on decisions that promote harmony, consensus and equality. Feelers are most concerned with the impact the decision will have on people.

Obviously, differences in decision-making can create workplace conflict. Thinkers can view feeling decisions as soft, wimpy, lacking objectivity. Feelers can view thinkers as harsh, analytical and lacking in concern for people.

What are some indicators of thinking and feeling preferences? Thinkers tend to stay calm and objective in situations where others might be upset. They prefer to settle disputes based on fairness rather than consideration of how people might be affected, and they think it is more important to be fight than to be liked. They find reprimanding or firing people a necessary part of management.

Feelers consider a "good decision" one that takes others' feelings into account. They tend to overextend themselves in meeting other people's needs, and they operate from the philosophy of walking a mile in the other person's moccasins when making tough decisions. They strive for harmony and dislike giving people bad news.

When it comes to performance evaluations and salary increases, thinkers tend to place a high value on their time and worth. They provide periodic updates to ensure that management is aware of their accomplishments. When negotiating for salary in creases, they tend to have all the data laid out--profit and loss, yearly objectives, un planned activities, etc.

Feelers, on the other hand, tend to believe accomplishments will be naturally acknowledged and rewarded. They have difficulty placing a value on their worth to the organization--many times they feel the employer has the right to set their value or worth, and some would rather change jobs than deal with the prospect of salary negotiation.

We can find numerous examples of the impact thinking and feeling decisions have had on organizational effectiveness. The current wave of organizational downsizing and restructuring, for example, includes everything from employees coming to work on Monday to find their office keys no longer fit, to positive examples like Leaf Corporation's actions prior to closing its Chicago Milk Duds facility. Leaf announced the closing in advance, then introduced workplace skill-building courses to ease its employees' transition into other industries. A feeler must have been sitting at the decision-making table at Leaf.

Balanced decision-making can also make or break a new product introduction. Coca-Cola Bottlers found that out when it introduced the "New Coke." To be successful with any new product introduction, you need both the objective data (information pertaining to the product) as well as the subjective data (how the product will be perceived).

Coke found that its original soft drink was akin to motherhood and apple pie, and the public did not respond positively to the change. Coke would have benefited financially if its decision-making team for the New Coke had consisted of more feelers--whose responses may have been based more on "gut" and subjective data--than thinkers, whose responses tend to be more focused on objective, quantitative, analytical data.

Effective organizational teams need a balance of thinkers--to impersonally analyze cause/effect consequence--and feelers--to provide that "gut feel."

Trisha A. Svehla is president of Svehla Consultants Inc. in Downers Grove, Ill., specialists in human resources consulting. She has more than 20 years of experiences as a hands-on practitioner in all aspects of human resources, and holds a master's degree in management from Northwestern University. Svehla is a frequent keynote speaker and trainer at national and regional business and association conferences.
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Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:career counseling
Author:Svehla, Trisha A.
Publication:Food Processing
Date:Jul 1, 1994
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