When Thinking and Feeling Preferences Collide

Thinking and feeling preferences are the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) dichotomies that influence how we make decisions. Those with a thinking preference detach and step away. They view the situation objectively and make decisions based on logic. Those with a feeling preference walk into the situation. They want to know how the decision will impact people. They base decisions on values and group harmony.

One of the biggest rubs I encounter in the workplace and my personal life is how I make decisions, especially when my decisions impact someone with a feeling preference. I have a strong thinking preference according to my Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) type. That combined with a preference for introversion means I love mulling decisions over in my head. I become so engrossed in the process, others have made fun of or insulted me, and I am oblivious to the slight. Maybe a week later I clue in, “Hey…wait a minute! What did he say?”

Here’s one of my favourite stories of thinking and feeling preferences colliding. Before I left government, I was approached by one of my colleagues about moving my division to another building to make room for a larger division. At the time, we were located centrally in one of the most sought-after office spaces downtown. The office was close to shopping, restaurants and transit and I was asked to give that up.

So, I immediately go into decision-making mode. No consultation. Just me in my head thinking logically about the request to move. It made sense. It’s easier to move a smaller division than break up a larger division. I worked in the building before. It’s across the street from a beautiful park, next to Edmonton’s outstanding river valley, we would have easy access to the legislature for meetings with the Minister and free parking for visitors.

To me, it was a no-brainer. I inform my Director, who has her concerns, but eventually comes around. One of my staff; however, was on vacation at the time. She found out about the move by text (not cool). Let me say we had and still have a great relationship. She is smart, determined, out-going, awesome and she has a strong feeling preference. Uh oh.

We went to tour the office space prior to the move. She could not hide her displeasure despite my efforts to point out the positives of the move. My other staff assured me she would come around, but I was annoyed. Why didn’t she see my logic?

A few days later I received an email from my disgruntled staff member. She called me out on my lack of communication and poor change management. She noted my decision meant I was taking her away from the only government office she had worked in and from the friendships she had made. She was not impressed that I had not consulted the team. Sounds like considerations someone with a feeling preference would have about a move.

There was the rub. I’m a certified MBTI practitioner and my Director had to point out this was a case of thinking and feeling preferences colliding. She was right and I responded to my feeling friend that I had dropped the ball. The move was going to happen, but I had handled the situation poorly. I did not prepare my staff and I did not give them an opportunity to express their concerns. We could have brainstormed some mitigation strategies to address some of their concerns, which after learning of them after the fact, were entirely legitimate.

I am grateful I have the relationship I have with this former staff member that she felt she could call me out on my failings. She reminded me to consider my opposite in my decision-making. Despite my training and education, I am on a continuing journey of self-discovery which sometimes means I need to be humbled and vulnerable. I’m good with that.