Procrastination is probably on most managers’ “Seven Deadly Sins” lists. But don’t be too quick to assign the moniker of “procrastinator.” According to personality type theory, as described by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) instrument, certain work style and cognitive preferences, which look an awful lot like procrastination on the surface, indicate anything but laziness.
The MBTI instrument categorizes personality type along four categories, including Judging/Perceiving, which describes how people make decisions. Those with preferences for Judging (J)—whose work style dominates the corporate world currently—tend to make decisions quickly, and work more efficiently and are more energized at the beginning of a project.
Conversely, those who prefer Perceiving (P) tend to make decisions later, and work more efficiently and are more energized toward the end of a project. It’s easy to see how an outsider, who can’t see what’s going on “under the hood,” might easily dismiss this tendency as procrastination, which usually entails delaying something because you simply don’t want to deal with it. However, for someone with a preference for Perceiving, quite the opposite is occurring. Instead, these workers are likely taking more time to gather all the information possible in order to make the most-informed decision.
While those preferring J feel unsettled waiting to commit to a course of action and like to do it early on, those preferring P feel unsettled if they close off options before they’ve fully vetted them. Both approaches are valid and offer unique benefits. But it doesn’t take much vision to understand why—in a business climate riddled with the consequences of rushed decisions—the P approach might provide balance to an “I need it yesterday” culture.
Yet, this particular cognitive and behavioral orientation, while common in the population at large, is marginalized in business, education, and society—often from childhood.
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