Imagine this: You walk into work one morning, and your supervisor asks you to choose a “clean and chic” template for the organization-wide newsletter, which is set to go out at the end of the day. You run a quick internet search, and find three hundred templates available. Is your next step:
Begin looking through the templates, and find that the twentieth one fits the specifications of your supervisor. You send the link over and finish the task within twenty minutes.
Look through all three hundred templates and pick the best “clean and chic” option available to you. Send the link over and finish the task in an hour.
If you chose Option 1, you are what psychologists refer to as a minimizer (also referred to as satisficers). Minimizers are “those who make a decision or take action once their criteria are met”. As soon as a minimizer finds something that meets their standards, they make a decision.
If you chose Option 2, you are a maximizer. Maximizers are always searching for the best option that meets their standards. While they take longer to make that choice, the choice is usually the best given all of the options at hand. (Note: You can have different tendencies for different parts of your life. For example, I tend to be a maximizer while shopping and a minimizer while wedding planning!)
While this difference may seem trivial, it actually reveals a lot about your personality, and has implications on both your working style and how you interact with your peers. Let’s look at the example mentioned above again. What if you chose option 1, but your boss is a maximizer and thinks you were too lazy to really complete your task? What if you chose option 2, and your boss is a minimizer who would prefer you to choose a template quickly and move on with your work? Differences in maximizing and minimizing tendencies can have large implications for working relationships with colleagues.
So… how do we fix this difference? Here are 4 tips for working with different decision-making tendencies:
Know your (and your immediate colleagues’) tendencies
Are you a maximizer or minimizer? What about your supervisor, direct reports, and other peers? Understanding each of your tendencies will help reduce frustration when a task is completed in a different way (or a different time period) than you expect. Here are a couple of resources to learn more about maximizers and minimizers:
- Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project
- Elizabeth Bernstein's How You Make Decisions Says a Lot About How Happy You Are
- Nicholas Reese's Satisficer vs Maximizer Quiz
- Katy Walman's My Week of Satisficing
Recognize the value of both traits
It’s easy to get frustrated with someone with an opposite trait than you, but it’s so important to recognize the inherent value of both processes. Minimizers are great at completing tasks quickly with confidence in their decisions. Maximizers are great at choosing the best product or choice available. With proper guidance (see #3), both types can succeed.
Provide clear guidance
Once you know your team’s working style, you can provide or ask for clearer instructions in task completion. If you are working with minimizers, provide very clear and high standards for task completion. If you are working with maximizers, provide time bounds for completion (e.g. this should take you no longer than an hour). This may seem tedious, but this reduces frustrations during or after a project is completed. Once your team starts to understand each other’s working styles, this level of detail won’t be necessary anymore.
Even with your natural tendency, you can learn from others. Challenge yourself to take the best parts of the other personality trait to make your work even better. Minimizers, try to raise your own standards. You don’t have to find the best option, but find one at least three good options before making a decision. Maximizers, set time limits for yourself. Recognize that time is not infinite, and you need to make a decision and move past it.
How do you deal with different working tendencies? I’d love to hear your tips – leave a comment below!
Anisha Singh is a strategy analyst at GuideStar. She splits her time between the Strategy Team, Finance Team, and Office of the President/CEO. Anisha is a graduate from Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in International Studies and Economics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, finding the best restaurants in town, and annoying her brother with her philanthropy chatter. You can reach Anisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.