A Tale of Two Cindys
Understanding the needs of your employees
For one Cindy, it was the best of times. For the other, it was the worst. The winter of despair for one Cindy was the spring of hope for the other. When Cindy E. got to work, she was ready for whatever the day threw at her. She attacked meetings and sales calls with abandon. When Cindy I. got to work she spent the morning reading and answering emails before getting to work on the project strategy you tasked her with. Both Cindys are star employees. Both are a big part of your future plans for the company.
How do you keep both your Cindys happy and productive in the same shared office space?
A Day in the Life
Let’s take a look at the typical day for Cindy E., our extroverted high performer. Cindy E. pushes to the far extreems of extroversion. She gains her energy from socializing and chatting. She lives in a townhouse just outside of downtown with two roommates she met while working for the company. When the office is buzzing and frenetic in the middle of the day, you often look out to see Cindy E. in the middle of the hive. She stokes the flames of inspiration in her direct reports, and she is always the first to hop out of her seat when a customer enters the room.
Cindy E. is not perfect. She often upsets her peers by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. She means well, but you have to ask her to work on empathizing with her colleagues rather than trying to fix all their problems. It’s all normal and expected when you are dealing with someone like Cindy E. At least you never have to worry about her getting into her own head too much. She can adapt on the fly, and she never has a sales slump.
Cindy I. arrives to work on the same elevator as Cindy E. but her engine revs quietly. She is a Prius next to Cindy E.’s F-350 diesel. Cindy I. constantly blows your mind with her thoughtful, innovative ideas. She sees the world in myriad shades of grey and is always attentive and focused when she’s meeting with you. You don’t have to tell Cindy I. anything twice, and she always exceeds your expectations when she turns in her work, often early.
But as things get busy during your peak season, Cindy I. seems to have trouble keeping up. She gets frustrated with the colleagues around her, especially Cindy E. More than once, you’ve looked out to see Cindy I. ducking into a meeting room and closing the door behind her. You need her ideas and input on the floor, but her coworkers are driving her nuts. More troubling for you, her direct reports don’t always know where they stand with her. They are unfailingly loyal, though. She understand and remembers all the holistic factors affecting their lives, and when one of the direct reports is struggling, Cindy I. seems completely tuned-in and helpful.
Cindy I. needs a quiet room. She gets exhausted; her energy quickly depletes when she is in the middle of the office. Cindy I. wants to tackle one thing at a time. She will be wildly productive if she’s given ample space and quiet to accomplish her work. As things get uber busy, let her know that it’s OK if she works from home in the afternoons.
Her direct reports will benefit too. She is the best listener in the office, and they will grow under her quiet leadership. Best of all, Cindy E. will leave Cindy I. alone, which will help both of them in their interpersonal relationship. Make the reason for different types of offices or setups clear to your employees. They will appreciate that you are considering their needs, and they will grow to appreciate the different values and contributions of their colleagues. If you don’t explain your reasoning, Cindy E. might think Cindy I. is getting special treatment. The truth is, they are both getting special treatment.
Put Cindy E. right in the heart of the office. Encourage her to visit and chat with coworkers. For her, this is not a distraction, it’s way of brainstorming and gaining energy. You might give Cindy E. the company card from time to time so she can take a few colleagues out to lunch or to happy hour. She will see this as a reward, and her direct reports will get a chance to see the magic of her extroversion in the real world. Cindy. E.s have a way of finding other talented folks like them, so you want to put them in public positions.
Now Don’t Get Crazy
It is not likely that your office has many extreme introverts or extroverts. We are oversimplifying to make a point and to stoke some ideas as you layout your office space. Many people require a mix of environments and triggers. They enjoy socializing through the day and even at happy hour, but then they spend all evening and most weekends recharging quietly.
Before you do anything, and if you take away only one thought from this piece let it be this:
Thoroughly consider your people and their needs before you move one piece of furniture.
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