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A Field Guide to Office Colleagues

A Field Guide to Office Colleagues

Rapport among a company's staff members can increase a firm's efficiency, says author and consultant Ichak Adizes, but harmony involves far more than employees' talking with one another. Co-workers need to recognize and respect the work styles of others, he says. This involves patience and meeting halfway those who work differently from you, he says in his new book, Mastering Change (Adizes Institute, Santa Monica, Calif., $19.95).

Adizes says work styles typically fall into one of several categories: Producers are people who work fast, especially in a structured setting, and they focus on details and results. They normally act as though they are under pressure. At the most, ask for five or maybe 10 minutes of their time. Get to the point. Don't rush toward this type with fact-filled paperwork.

Administrators move slowly and deliberately, says Adizes, because they are always processing what they see and hear. They organize everything and hate surprises. They are more interested in how than what. At the extreme, this type is known as a bureaucrat. Entrepreneurs are expressive and usually out of breath. They may interrupt a joke you're telling because it reminds them of another joke they've heard. They tend to be disappointed easily, dislike making appointments, and avoid other kinds of exactitude. They are usually at odds with administrators.

Integrators are "political animals," according to Adizes. They define "yes" and "no" depending on the speaker. And they listen better than others. These employees are always trying to resolve conflicts and be "sensitive." Their only undoing is they think everyone else is sensitive, too. One might think that communication among all these types of workers would become more difficult as a company grows. Wrong, says Adizes. In fact, the calculus works the other way, he told Nation's Business: "The smaller you go [in company size], the more complex communication becomes," he says, because it's hard to "hide" in a small business.

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