Right Brain vs Left Brain in the Work Place

Have you ever noticed that some of your employees or fellow workers are easier to work and communicate with than others?  Have you found that some colleagues are easy to understand and you can follow their directions when they are explaining work-related issues?  Have you been confused by a supervisor’s description of a new job task and don’t really know what you are supposed to do or how?

The problem might be as simple as a difference in communication and learning styles.  With all the interest in dyslexia and being right-brained you might have come to the conclusion that you identify with some or many of the problems, qualities and traits of the right-brain thinking style.  Everybody has use of both sides of the brain unless there is some medical issue but most people tend to be inclined to process and function more from one side than the other.  There is nothing wrong with this but it can make your job a frustrating and stressful place to be.

Let me give you an example.  Joan is an accountant and is managing the accounting and production department of a entertainment industry business.  She was moving on and had hired Anne, a potential replacement for her.   There was going to be a lengthy training period of several months.

During this time Joan started to notice that she was having a difficult time trying to teach Anne her accounting system and office procedures.  Joan definitely thinks in a right-brain fashion.  She thinks about the “whole picture” of the company’s business system and then breaks it down into its individual components when she is discussing and strategizing work related issues.  She hates details.  She is intuitive, extremely creative,  problem-solving and sees everything from many directions all at once.  She is able to move from one task and quickly refocus on a completely unrelated issue such as  working out a budget and then shifting effortlessly to an expected emergency phone call from a client or vendor.   When she conveys her views to Anne she starts with the global or “big picture” and then discusses the details in a general fashion expecting Joan to intuitively fill in the blanks like she does. Everything starts with the “complete image” of the business and accounting department and then divides down into its main components.  Joan however,  puts less emphasis or time on the details.

Anne processes information and works in a completely different thinking style.  She was confused by Joan’s initial approach to teach Anne her job by starting with a description of the whole business and accounting system.  She was overwhelmed and confused and not able to handle the “big picture” with its multi-layered departments.  Anne was baffled by Joan’s daily list of seemingly unrelated tasks.  She didn’t know where to start and tended to not get more than one or two items finished in a day.  Anne was very detail oriented and fretted over small issues or the order that the jobs were supposed to be done in.

Joan got frustrated with her trainee’s concerns and quite frankly could not comprehend what her problems were about.    The two of them could not relate or communicate with each other on any level and Joan was getting nowhere training her replacement.  Months into the job  Anne was not any further ahead understanding her job.

Joan talked to me about the  problems she was facing and was desperate to find some solutions.  I suggested to her that Anne seemed to be working from a more left-brain learning style and Joan, of course, was operating more from the right which put them at cross purposes with each other.

We worked out a plan where she would start to describe the accounting system from the most basic details moving forward in a sequential ascending hierarchical order.  Her approach should  be completely logical.  Anne would therefore be working towards understanding the accounting picture through a step by step process moving towards an over all understanding of the whole system.  Also Joan broke her tasks down to shorter more organized lists and gave Anne a time frame for finishing them.  Joan presented every aspect of the accounting system from the first step and ending at the over all picture.

Anne started to respond to Joan’s new approach and began to feel more successful which opened her up emotionally and helped her to have better self-esteem.  She started to understand the business’s structure and how everything was inter-related.  Anne would always need to work out a task or a problem in a sequential order but she could now handle her job.

So the next time you find yourself butting heads with a fellow worker, supervisor or employee you might want to think about how you are approaching the job with them.  Consider how you might improve your communication with them by recognizing their learning style and yours and how you can come to “a meeting of the minds”.

Cheers!
Karey Hope deGraaf
Dyslexia Victoria Online