Skip to content

How to better understand and get along with your coworkers (review of Surrounded by Idiots)

It’s actually easy being green.

What’s not so easy is having to work and live with us.

At our best, greens are a stabilizing influence on a team. We’re supportive, pleasant, relaxed, respectful and reliable. We’re good listeners, with a genuine ear for human problems. We won’t monopolize meetings for the sake of hearing ourselves talk. We don’t demand much, we’ll never kick up an unnecessary fuss and we’d prefer never to offend you or anyone else.

But we can also come across as stubborn, uncertain, complaint, dependent and awkward. We have a frustrating inability to change our ways and at times can seem indifferent, uninspired and unconcerned. You could look at us in a meeting and legitimately wonder if we still have a pulse. And don’t count on us to commit to, much less ever make, big plans outside of work. The bigger your plans, the more comfortable we’ll make ourselves on the couch.

The fun and fireworks begin when you mix us into a team with the other three behaviour types that make up the DISA (dominance, inducement, submission and analytic) system.

idiots“There are individuals around us who, under less favourable circumstances, we may find challenging to understand,” says Thomas Erikson, author of Surrounded by Idiots. “There are others we don’t understand at all, no matter what the situation is. And the most difficult to interact with are those who aren’t like us, because they obviously behave ‘incorrectly’. So much conflict could be avoided if we just understood why the people around us behave the way they do.”

Reds are bold and brash natural-born leaders. They’re quick to react and take direct action. They can also morph into impatient and unyielding control freaks who repeatedly and aggressively trample on everyone’s toes.

Yellows are creative and optimistic social butterflies with exceptional communication skills. They’ll also suck up all the oxygen in a room if given the chance and can come across as easily distracted, selfish, superficial and overly self-confident.

Rounding out the four personality types are blues who are analytical, serious, diligent and detail-oriented. They can also be slow to react, minimally interested in relationships, tedious, aloof and cold-hearted. A blue will not hesitate to remind you that being 95 per cent right still makes you 100 per cent wrong.

Blues and yellows in particular can quickly get on each other’s nerves while reds and greens are the other challenging and potentially combustible combination.

Yet we can all get along if we first recognize and understand each other’s behavior types and then adjust and adapt accordingly.  The majority of us are a blend of two or three colours while only a few us have just one behavior type.

“If you want to make headway with a large group of greens, you have to take command, get a firm hold on the steering wheel, and, in some cases, simply get into the driver’s seat yourself,” says Erikson. “Asking a group of greens to solve a task is as much use as trying to put a brake on a canoe. They won’t get started unless you put them on the track.”

And all of us should quit abiding by the golden rule. Treating others the way you want to be treated assumes everyone else is exactly like you. But the way a green wants to be treated is fundamentally different from a red, blue or yellow.

Erikson wrote his bestseller to help us better relate to and communicate with the people we work and live with. “Self-awareness, my friend, is the solution,” says Erikson.

His book will reassure you that you’re not actually surrounded by idiots and you’ll find practical solutions for better understanding and appreciating what makes each of us tick at work and home.

This review first ran in the Sept. 28 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: