Practice Management

4 Personality Tendencies of You, Your Staff & Patients

By Jennifer Jabaley, OD

June 13, 2018

There are different personality types, and then there are different personality tendencies. These inclinations dictate how and why we do what we do, so understanding them, and their impact on behavior, will help you better serve patients, manage staff, and even better manage your own emotions and decision-making.

Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project,” and influential writer on the subject of habits and human nature, has penned a new book, “The Four Tendencies.” She explores the four general ways people respond to expectations. A person’s tendency shapes their behavior, so understanding the framework, and where people fall, can help optometrists manage staff more effectively with less wasted time and conflict, as well as help us engage more effectively with patients.

Click HERE, or the image above, to take Gretchen Rubin’s Quiz: The Four Tendencies.

Additionally, understanding your own tendency can help illustrate the best strategies to help achieve goals for your practice and career.

While personality tests and categories are interesting and often accurate, they cram many different elements into the assessment. The four tendencies looks only at an narrow aspect of character: why we act, or don’t act, the way we do.

Understanding our actions, and the actions of our staff and patients, gives valuable insight into why people behave the way they do. If you’ve ever wondered why your office manager resists your monthly checklists, or why your patients are not taking their ARED vitamins, the four tendencies might interest you. If you’ve ever berated yourself for not updating your office like you planned or buying new equipment, or taking the step to hire an associate, you may benefit from understanding your tendency to not hold yourself accountable.

What are The Four Tendencies?
The four tendencies are categories that distinguish how people respond to both outer and inner expectations. An example of an outer expectation would be a work task, such as having a staff member make appointment-reminder calls. An example of an inner expectation would be a personal goal of accountability, for example, making an effort to mention the opportunity for a second pair of glasses to each patient.

What are the different categories?

Upholders respond well to both outer and inner expectations. They keep work deadlines, and they excel at resolutions. Upholders love rules, and are self-motivated. They are apt to identify what needs to be done, and follow through, whether they have a boss to hold them accountable or not. This category thrives as entrepreneurs, or practice owners, and are wonderful employees. Sadly, upholders make up the smallest percentage of people.

The downside of upholders is that they can be impatient and judgmental of others who struggle to be as disciplined. Upholders need to be reminded to practice empathy toward others who are not as innately self-controlled.

This group questions all expectations. They will meet obligations if it meets their own inner standard. Therefore, if you have an employee who is a questioner, make it clear why your request, or their work responsibility, is critical to the success of the practice.

Questioners can run into problems in the workplace if their repeated questions overwhelm, or annoy, their co-workers. Therefore, aim to nip their relentless hunt for information by giving them explanations and reasons for their responsibility right from the start.

Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations. Obligers are great team players because they thrive with instruction and a sense of duty. These compliant workers are great employees, but may struggle to be a practice owner because they have a difficult time achieving goals without outside accountability.

If you fall into the Obliger category, which is likely as Obligers and Questioners make up the majority of people, and you are a practice owner struggling to achieve goals, you might benefit from hiring a consultant to serve as a source of external accountability.

The least number of people fall into the category of a rebel. These people resist all expectations, both inner and outer. They want their own way, and are likely to resist any instruction.

If you have a rebel in your staff, know they will do well in a situation where there is not a lot of supervision, and there is a lot of variety and freedom. Rebels tend to thrive in sales positions, and therefore, may do well in the optical. A rebel would love the freedom of choosing which frames should fill the frame boards, and will do well with the variety of styles and options to present to patients.

Neither tendency is more successful or happier than another. Habits and behaviors are fluid and malleable. Rather than using the framework of the four tendencies to put yourself and your employees in a box, use this concept to better identify strengths and weaknesses and predict behavior. The four tendencies can shed light on office dynamics, and help develop strategies for bosses and employees to work together more effectively.

What have you noticed about the behavioral tendencies of your patients, staff and yourself? What areas of behavior would you like to improve in your office?


Jennifer Jabaley, OD, is a partner with Jabaley Eye Care in Blue Ridge, Ga. Contact:

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