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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

June 2017

NIEHS administrative professionals event focuses on social styles

NIEHS celebrated administrative professionals with an event that honored their achievements and helped build new skills.

Every spring, NIEHS celebrates its administrative professionals with a special event to honor their achievements and offer new skills. This year’s gathering featured a workshop on how to recognize social styles and apply that knowledge to improve interactions with co-workers.

"Everything we do at this institute requires some sort of logistical aid to move forward," said NIEHS Executive Officer Chris Long. "Our administrative professionals are the folks who make that happen. Without their dedication, the mission of NIEHS would grind to a halt."

Charletta Fowler, NIEHS lead administrative officer, also thanked the administrative staff. She spoke briefly about her own career and the satisfaction of supporting scientific research, before introducing the speaker, Catherine Williamson-Hardy of Creative Approaches to Talent Development LLC.

Different strokes for different folks

Williamson-Hardy emphasized that studying someone's social style is different than labeling them as introverted or extroverted. It delves into recognizing their preferred behavior in various social situations, then engaging them using their own style.

"We don’t always get to choose who we interact with on the job," Williamson-Hardy said. "That's why understanding a person’s social style is so important. It can help us mitigate some of those experiences that might otherwise seem awkward or conflicted."

She described four primary social styles that professionals should know.

  • Analytical people are very organized, deliberate, and methodical about everything they do; low-risk oriented; and take their time to study all the facts and angles of a problem.
  • Drivers are strongly goal-oriented. They want the job done right, but in a timely fashion to keep progress marching forward.
  • Expressive individuals tend to be social leaders who need to be heard. They can be impulsive and risk-taking.
  • Amiable folks are also socially-oriented, but in a way that is more other-centered. They like to build relationships and foster team spirit, but can sometimes slow progress.

In some instances, these categories can overlap to create subcategories, such as an Amiable Driver or an Expressive Analyzer.

The Platinum Rule

In a unanimous show of hands, participants indicated that they understood and believed in the Golden Rule, or do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Williamson-Hardy described how this kind of me-focused philosophy can lead to problems.

"Just because you want to be treated a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean that the person in the cube beside you wants to be treated that way," she said. It was here that she introduced the Platinum Rule, or do unto others as they would have done unto them.

"As managers, it’s very easy for us to engage our employees in a style that’s natural to us, because that’s what we wake up with every day," Williamson-Hardy said. "It takes an entirely different skillset to step outside of that comfort zone and recognize another’s perspective."

Claire Long, from the Administrative Services Branch, said the workshop was extremely helpful. "Not only do I have a stronger understanding of why I react to certain circumstances the way that I do, but I also learned how to apply that when working with others," she said.

Social currency

"When traveling aboard, we don’t typically pay for things in U.S. dollars," Williamson-Hardy pointed out. "We pay for them using the currency of value to each country that we visit."

She extended the analogy to social encounters. "Once we know a person’s preferred behavior, we can engage them in a way that's valuable to them, not us," she said.

(Ian Thomas is a public affairs specialist for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison, and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)


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