Feeling vs. Thinking: The Head and Heart in Organizations

My picture nameMark and Tom both work in the same company. Mark stops and talks to everyone. People tell him things and he doesn’t know why. People find him friendly, willing to listen to their troubles and encouraging. Tom is quite different. He stays focused on his work, tends not to get involved in people's troubles, but tends to have a cleared desk by the end of the day. Tom thinks that a lot of Mark’s socializing is a waste of time, but he is sometimes envious that Mark knows and is liked by everyone. Mark thinks that Tom is too serious, but secretly is envious of his effectiveness and clear thinking. Each one thinks that he brings a lot of gifts to the company and has great hopes of great personal success.

However, who will be most effective in their job largely depends not so much on their own personality type, but on the personality type of the company. Is the company more thinking (logical) or feeling (values) oriented? This is a common problem for many people.

This is what we have been working on for the last several weeks: What kind of workplace are you in and how well do you fit there? Finding a comfortable fit between our personality and our workplace often takes us years to achieve. Many people just give up and struggle to survive.

I have said that workplaces can be focused outwards (extroverted) or inwards (introverted) and can be practical (sensing) or imaginative (intuitive). Now my question is: “Is your company focused on thinking (head) or values (heart)?” To help you figure it out let’s do another quiz.

Thinking (head) companies tend to:

  • Function in terms of rules and regulations.
  • Believe that criticism tends to lead to efficiency.
  • Emphasize an objective approach to things.
  • Decide on the basis of principles.

Where does your company fit in this picture? Do you think this is the way all companies should be or do you find this description grates on your nerves? If it does, you may be someone who focuses on values (heart) and who enjoys working in a company which focuses on the heart.

Feeling or heart companies tend to:

  • Make their decisions based on company values.
  • Think and function in terms of specific human situations.
  • Believe that support leads to employees being more effective.
  • Emphasize the importance of people and their concerns.

How does your company fit in this picture? The problem is that like head or heart people, head or heart companies tend to distrust the other side. So thinking companies like business, manufacturing, the police or military tend to distrust their own feeling, value oriented side, so they tend to distrust the feeling people in the company. Heart people tend to feel marginalized, discounted, and pushed out of the corridors of power. Also, when feeling types have to deal with the powers that be, they may find them hard, unfeeling, and rule oriented. The example that comes to my mind is the way police departments traditionally dealt with people who were sexually assaulted. Here you tend to have one mostly thinking organization (the police) reinforced by another predominantly thinking organization (the law), trying to deal with very emotional, fragile people and perhaps not doing the best job of it. Many people have said it would have made more sense not to complain, because they just felt assaulted again.

On top of that, heart people tend to find it very hard to articulate an argument that will persuade the thinking department’s managers to attend to values. Head companies tend to continue as head companies. For example, how many heart people have you heard about who have been broken by the military because they were not tough enough and able to take criticism? Taking criticism tends to be one of the enduring ideals of thinking companies. Suck it up, Deal with it, Tough it out, are thinking kinds of criticism.

Business is predominantly a thinking (head) activity, though there are some feeling (head) companies. A more feeling company would be something like a co-op or a community centre. There has been a great deal of criticism lately about the predominantly thinking, traditionally male, approach to business, claiming that it is responsible for an environmentally insensitive, money first/people last business approach. I find the most successful and balanced businesses tend to be the ones where the company has developed both sides of itself, head and heart, just as many of the happiest, most successful people have developed both of those sides in themselves.

Henry Sharam

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