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Function stack applied: Dealing with an ESTJ conflict

Thursday July 28, 2016

This is not huge, but it is.

I believe an extremely perceptive person might have a chance of straightening this kind of course by themselves, without any particular psychology knowledge.

However, for me, I would have probably quit.

I was reporting to an ESTJ. This person was marked by the following:

  • Si dress—hilariously efficient, could be mistaken some days for thrift store clothes, despite this person having a well-paying job
  • Si concerns: Getting things done most efficiently—find any waste and it’s gone
  • Si problems: Getting caught up in a sea of details, sometimes unable to separate the most crucial details from the rest
  • Te-dom attitude “sorry, I just need to talk it out here, that’s just…how I work.”
  • Ne fears “I just…I just don’t wanna have this turn out like this last project did, it was a disaster.” Catastrophizing
  • Practically zero / empty presence on social media, some kind of trait among my ESTJ friends, and maybe ESxJ friends in general. I would not attempt to type someone based on this, but it did send up a red flag initially when I saw people reaching out to this person via social media as if they were expecting an extravert reply.

The Ne fears collided early on with my inferior function, Se. I could feel this person’s concerns about a previous project with some other person carrying into our relationship without any good reason. I had not messed up their last project, someone else had.

I had a real ownership stake in my work—that was the beginning of my problem.

Taking a bigger-picture view, I was focusing on contributing from my inferior function, one of the most sensitive parts of my psyche. The more I researched Se, my inferior function, the more I realized what my problem really was—this issue of ownership and pride in my own ability to provide a well-executed work product.

After that, I realized that this ESTJ really wanted to contribute their get-things-done gifts and do things. They wanted to really contribute to the details, which I wasn’t used to. I never had a direct ESTJ client before this.

My Se was getting in the way. I wanted to be appreciated for my work, rather than just see it through and appreciate the outcome.

Finally recognizing this issue, I made the decision to let this person do as much as they wanted to do. It felt like a revelation!

This shifted the project dramatically, from more stressful and confrontational, with both of our hands feeling tied, to a more fun, collaborative relationship.

ESTJ reflected on some physical stress symptoms they were having. This was alarming to me; if I had those symptoms I’d consider a complete career change. It seems to me now that this person is over-emphasizing their core gifts without achieving balance. They probably feel very raw inside, with no rest. They may have to learn to force themselves to rest.

I noted, too, that my Ni was asserting itself in our conversations—ESTJ would come up with an idea, and I would think (perceive) quickly and say, “ah, so what will happen then you do that is outcome X. What do you want to do about that?” I was drowning this person in details. Details they love, but don’t have time for. I could see it was causing them frustration.

That’s been another hard part: Watching an ESTJ who is in a leadership position where Ni is actually very important. They can’t give up control of the minor details, but desperately need to focus on the big picture.

I can’t solve that problem, but I think I contributed to the solution of our problem.

There’s much more laughter now. I enjoy working with this person.

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