Technology to Match Employees and Managers?

Have you ever had a manager you didn’t click with? By “didn’t click with,” I mean you didn’t understand each other when communicating and too easily aggravated one another. That’s what I’ve been experiencing for seven years now, and it’s a shame.

I often think of all the things we could accomplish—or I could accomplish—if my manager and I were better suited to each other. My manager is a man, and I often joke to my female friends that it sometimes feels like the stories I hear unhappy wives tell about their husbands. He has joked about his wife’s confrontational nature—how she enjoys confrontation (something I hate). I marvel that there seems to be someone for everyone’s personality type, at least personally speaking. This woman, who is most likely less sensitive and more aggressive than me, must do well with my manager’s insensitive, critical personality.

That got me thinking about how so many people find their life mates using online dating sites, some of which have assessments people take to determine the personality traits that go best with potential matches. Could that same technology be applied to a company’s intranet to match managers with employees?

I found out years ago that I’m a Myers-Briggs INFJ. For those of you with knowledge of this personality assessment, what does that tell you about the kind of manager I am most likely to do well with?

I looked it up on a site called 16Personalities, and the description of how I typically fare in the workplace was impressively accurate. I’m not nearly the judgmental, ethical watchdog the profile gives me credit for, but most of the rest of it is on target. For instance, it notes how I chafe at criticism, especially when it’s unwarranted, and that’s true. Thus, when my manager, who often is ignorant of the work of our department, has criticisms, or “notes,” to offer, I bristle. If it came from a person who was on top of everything, I still wouldn’t love it, but I could at least respect it, makes changes, and move on. But coming from a source unqualified to judge, it’s nearly intolerable.

What if, when I joined the company, I had taken the Myers-Briggs assessment, and then a computer, which could have chosen from a few different people as manager, determined which would be the best manager for me, based on how well my personality, and theirs, complemented each other?

To make a system of matching employee and managers personality-wise possible, a company would need to have flexibility in its hierarchy and assignments. For instance, it might mean having an experienced employee in the department, rather than the department head, serving as an employee’s manager. Or it might mean bypassing the middle manager, and having an employee report directly to the department head.

Having a personality that is compatible with a manager may seem like a luxury, or just a nice-to-have. But it’s more important than that. If an employee’s personality is at odds with that of her manager, top performance and career development become nearly impossible. Directions and goals for assignments are not effectively communicated, resulting in errors and a final product, or delivered service, that the customer may find adequate but won’t love. The manager also may not be able to empathize enough to find the assignments, and career path, best suited to the employee’s strengths. When your own strengths are so different, is it possible to understand what that employee needs? It’s possible, but most managers realistically won’t be able to do this.

What would it take for your company to develop, or purchase, manager-employee match-making technology, and then make managerial assignments based on what the technology tells you? What are other ways to increase the likelihood of good matches between managers and employees?

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