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Office Species : Class on Workplace Personalities Pegs the Cholerics and Sanguines

December 22, 1988|HERMAN WONG | Times Staff Writer

On this chilly, overcast Saturday morning in a Rancho Santiago College classroom, 25 men and women meet to discuss a subject near--but not always dear--to their hearts.

Their all-day seminar in Santa Ana, dubbed "Interpersonal Relations in the Office," is about the agonies and ecstasies of their typical 9-to-5 existence during weekdays.

They're all here for one crucial reason: They want some tips on how to survive--and thrive--in an office jungle filled with all sorts of conflicting, confusing and combative human creatures.

"There's a lot of cutthroat politics in our office," says one participant, explaining why she is taking the class. "I want to know how to keep from getting dragged under by that sort of thing."

"There's the usual split in our office--you know, between the worker bees and the social gadabouts," says another participant, who admits that she is a disgruntled worker-bee type.

For others, they are here because of a job crisis. "My boss told me I have personality problems," says one young man. "He 'suggested'--very pointedly--that I take this class."

A woman depicts her plight this way: "I have a boss who I just can't stand. He's driving me nuts!"

"Hey," says another woman, sitting a few seats away, "I'm a supervisor, and maybe you're part of the problem. I'm in charge of workers who are driving me nuts!"

One of the most popular psychology classes on the college circuit deals with improving personal relationships in the workplace.

Rancho Santiago's 6-year-old Public Service Institute typifies the trend. Its weekday sessions and Saturday workshops run the gamut of business-oriented topics, such as "Effective Communications," "How to Be Interviewed," "Assertion Training," "Stress Reduction" and "Managing Conflict."

Its participants, usually working people with public agencies and private firms, take the classes on campus or at locales provided by the county, city of Santa Ana or one of several companies.

Saturday's interpersonal relations class, Rancho Santiago officials say, is the only one of its kind in the county that focuses on personality types in the workplace. (The same seminar will be offered as a two-afternoon session March 7 and 14. Fee for the entire session: $2.50.)

The importance of such classes, participants say, can hardly be overemphasized.

"Next to our homes, (the workplace) is the most important place in our lives," says one participant in Saturday's office seminar, Gail Feltman, a high school secretary from Cerritos. "We spend half our lives, or more, in the office. We better make sure we're doing it the best way."

The leader of the Saturday) seminar, business communications consultant R. Chris Wells, wastes no time in getting to the nitty-gritty. The basic species in the office jungle, he says, are these four: "Sanguines," "Cholerics," "Melancholics" and "Phlegmatics."

The Sanguines are born actors, highly demonstrative and easily the most social and appealing of office creatures. "Put them on a team and they love it," Wells says. "They hate working alone in cubicles. They are great talkers and engagingly enthusiastic and spontaneous."

On the other hand, Wells says, Sanguines are "extremely casual when it comes to schedules, not always the best in (project) follow-throughs, and they need constant, positive reinforcement."

Certainly the most driving, organized, aggressive species are the Cholerics. These people, Wells says, are born leaders and competitors.

"They love to win and to be challenged; the tougher the odds, the better," he says. "Give them a project, let them take charge, and then get out of their way. Their confidence is immense, their grasp of a project, from start to finish, awesome."

However, Wells continues, Cholerics "can be know-it-alls, aren't especially emotional, have a low tolerance for mistakes and are very manipulative."

To Wells, the Melancholics are rather odd and "the hardest to decipher." They are born perfectionists--"probably the most creative, analytical and sensitive."

But, he adds, they are the "moodiest, most remote and unpredictable. They set unrealistically high goals for everyone, including themselves. They are, not surprisingly, very low in self-image."

Melancholics are also obsessively scheduled, says Wells, who admits to being a typically impulsive, anti-schedule Sanguine. "Some of my best friends are melancholy types. But they run around with their little date books, always jotting down the exact day and time of things--right down to the second."

The lowest-key types are the Phlegmatics. "They're hardly the flashy kind. They're the calm, collected folk--steady as a rock, very competent, great listeners, quiet and not one for mixing in conflicts."

But Phlegmatics tend to be worriers, are weak in drive, enthusiasm and self-motivation, and "prefer to stay in their own groove and work at their own pace," Wells says.

Seminar participants say they find it helpful to have these academic classifications.

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