Integrators in Hell: How to Stop Killing Their Potential

*This fourth post in a four-part series is about an Integrator (one of four Business Chemistry types), how the wrong work environment kills his potential, and what could be done about it. Read posts one, two, and three of the series, about a Pioneer, a Guardian, and a Driver, respectively (which are tagged #BCstories)

An Integrator we know and love, Hans, once embarked on a career journey that seemed like it could be the trip of a lifetime, but turned out to be a bust. He joined up with a boss who, let’s just say was not his ideal work companion. In fact, when things really started to heat up, Hans wished he’d never decided to work with him at all.

Things started out all right when Hans was hired. He was excited about the new opportunity he’d been offered to build out the company’s sales network and the work seemed interesting and engaging. His boss was smart and successful and, as Hans developed his own skills and career, he thought his boss would be a great coach. But as the first days turned into weeks, Hans soon grew concerned.

His boss never said, “Good morning” or “How was your weekend?” He didn’t ask Hans about his family or where he grew up or went to college. He didn’t even ask about his goals and aspirations. He didn’t ask much of anything at all.

That included not asking for Hans’s thoughts, opinions, or input. His boss told him things, and when Hans asked questions, whether work-related or a little more personal, the look his boss gave him seemed to say, “Why do you need to know that?” Hans felt his boss wasn’t interested in him as a person, or even as an employee, and he certainly didn’t seem to value what Hans might have to offer in the way of ideas. In fact the boss seemed to go out of his way to interrupt or talk over Hans any time he tried to speak.

Since Hans was new to the job, he wasn’t sure what the boundaries were for how he should spend his time, so he erred more toward checking in than not. He thought he was being responsible, but his boss just seemed annoyed and responded in a way that was brusque, or even rude if Hans was being honest. As one particular project was kicking off, Hans made a concerted effort to spend some time with key stakeholders, asking for their thoughts and input on how to proceed. Hans found it hugely valuable. Several people identified areas where the company had stumbled in the past, and one revealed a possible competitive threat that hadn’t been on the radar. When Hans shared what he’d been doing, his boss told him in no uncertain terms that he considered such efforts a waste of their time. Getting the project done was the only priority; there was no reason to bring others along for the ride. When Hans tried to say that it was about more than just that, his boss didn’t even let him finish the sentence. He just dismissed him and walked away.

Hans had accepted the job thinking he’d be working in a team environment with others in similar roles. He had expected they would collaborate and help each other out, learn from each other, and even become friends. He tried to pitch in and offer his assistance when he saw someone else was overwhelmed. He thought anything he could do to help the organization would be appreciated. But when his boss caught him doing so, Hans wasn’t praised for his helpfulness; instead he was scolded. The boss made it hard for him to forge any relationships to speak of, and Hans started to feel very isolated. Things really got uncomfortable when his boss started to criticize how Hans was managing some vendor relationships. He said Hans was too friendly, that he needed to be more aloof so the vendor wouldn’t try to take advantage of them.

Hans started to feel he couldn’t do anything right and he began questioning his own judgment. He stopped trying to take any initiative, because it always seemed to get him into trouble. He no longer reached out to collaborate with others, and when someone asked for a little bit of help with something, he apologized but said he just didn’t have time, which made him feel bad and not at all like the best version of himself.

This job just wasn’t at all what Hans had been hoping it would be and he shared his disappointment far and wide with his large network of friends and family. When he received a survey from one of those “great workplace” lists he shared this story in full, even agreeing to talk to an interviewer about his experience. When the list and accompanying article eventually came out highlighting the best and worst workplaces, it prominently featured one of Hans’s quotes about his organization: “While misery loves company, I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer my fate, even if it would ease my own loneliness. On the journey that is your career, I strongly recommend you skip this stop.”

Hans’s story is an excerpt from our book Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships (Wiley, 2018), in which my co-author, Kim Christfort and I have an in-depth, back-and-forth discussion about the strategies leaders and managers can use to create environments where Integrators like Hans can lean into their strengths and thrive.

Among those strategies are the following:

  • Support Integrators in their desire to help others and reward them for doing so
  • Provide opportunities to work in teams
  • Help Integrators see the meaning in their work
  • Spend time connecting
  • Use technology to make virtual teams and meetings more personal
  • Enable them to socialize issues and gather info from stakeholders
  • Be nice and say thank you

Dr. Suz

This is an excerpt from our book Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships (Wiley, 2018).

Suzanne Vickberg, PhD (aka Dr. Suz) is the Deloitte Greenhouse Experience group’s very own social-personality psychologist, which means she studies how people’s thoughts, behaviors and preferences are influenced by both who they are and the situations they’re in. She uses Business Chemistry to help leaders and teams explore how the mix of perspectives brought by their individual members influences their work together. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @DrSuzBizChem

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