I started a new job six months ago after being out of work during the pandemic. Everyone has been great to work with and I feel like I’m finally getting my technical skills back. However, during two years of seeing only my spouse in person, I’m afraid I might have gone a little feral. I sometimes feel like my co-workers are questioning my social skills. No one has said anything directly, but I share a lot of work with one person (I’ll call her Carla) and she’s making me question myself. Carla never seems to want to talk to me. She’s always rushing somewhere or in the middle of something. Sometimes she interrupts me to give me an answer before I’ve even asked the question! Now, she’s usually right (but not always!), but her behavior makes me anxious. Sometime before a meeting, she’ll tell me what to say when I haven’t asked for help. I swear I can feel her eyes rolling when I talk even though her face doesn’t move. We’re getting ready to work on a project together and I’m afraid that she’s going to steamroll over me and not even give me time to give input. What am I doing wrong?

Hello, Stabilizer. (I say you’re a stabilizer because you immediately assume you’re the problem).

Congratulations! You get to work with a Controller! She may seem bossy and demanding, but deep-down, Carla has the best interests of you and the team at heart. She gives you suggestions before a meeting because she wants you to do your best. Also, BTW, she won’t be upset if you don’t take her advice – it’s just something she thought of that might help you. If you don’t take her advice and it goes poorly, she won’t say anything about it because, as far as she’s concerned, you both know you should have listened. 

Carla would also be surprised to hear that your concerned about your social skills, because they are a pretty low priority for her. As long as you show up on time, do your work, and don’t derail meetings with a lot of personal conversation, Carla will think you’re fine.

Another thing to remember – Controllers need Stabilizers to get them to slow down and listen to other peoples’ opinions. Controllers tend to think that if something works for them, it will work for everyone. Stabilizers are there to remind them that each person’s life experience shapes their needs.

So what can you do to help your working relationship with Carla? Here are a few suggestions:

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