The Birkman and my former bosses

Understanding my former bossesI feel that it’s a little risky writing a post like this . . . like airing dirty laundry in public. But this is not about boss-bashing. I promise.

What I want to do is share a few insights that the Birkman has given me into the workplace tensions I experienced with my bosses. The Birkman Method scores many of its components on a continuum. The farther your score is to one end, the harder it is for you to understand that the other end exists, let alone that there might be benefits to a different way of doing things. It is such a good reminder for me to guard against my tendencies to think other methods are “wrong” when they could simply be different.

Authority Score:

Authority is one of the 11 behavioral components that Birkman measures. My authority score is extremely high (91/100). This is good and bad (as always – each end of the spectrum has its positives and negatives). The positives are that:

You show a healthy respect for established authority, whether verbal or in the form of formal procedure and control. It is relatively easy for you to take charge and direct activities, and see to it that pre-arranged plans are executed.


  • self-assertive
  • seeks to influence and excel
  • enjoys exercising authority

High needs in this area indicate that:

From others, you need personal and clear instructions as to what they expect to have done. You respect people who appear to you to be natural authority figures, and expect them to enforce strictly the boundaries of authority.

At first I really struggled with this score since I often feel that I’m actually a little bit anti-authoritarian as far as questioning the status quo and wanting to do things differently than established procedure (Freedom and Structure scores play into this).

But this score is really about verbal, visible leadership and that does make sense for me. I hate it when I’m not sure what someone is asking of me! I want someone to take charge and make a decision even if it’s just about where we’re going to lunch! This means that if I’m working with someone who prefers a  low-key democratic suggestive style, I might not “get it”, which leads to the negatives:

CAUSES OF STRESS: You can easily lose your respect for those in positions of authority when it seems that they are having difficulty showing strength. Your morale and enthusiasm suffer in these situations.


  • provocative statements
  • undue assertiveness
  • becoming bossy or domineering

Essentially, if I don’t think someone is showing “enough” leadership, I feel like I have to take over for them and it really stresses me out. I know I’ve failed to respect people for exactly this reason. As Lucy likes to call Charlie Brown – I’ve tended to see these people as “wishy-washy” rather than understanding that they simply have a different style of leadership.

People vs. Procedure

At one place I worked, whenever we ran into a problem, my boss would outline a new set of procedures for the team to memorize and follow. I couldn’t understand how he thought this would help. I kept thinking that we needed to work it out together to get a good system because we’re all human and another policy doesn’t fix everything!  On the “Preferred Work Styles” report, I found this:

Public contact: Prefers activities that involve social contact. Seeks solutions through people. Focused on people being central to organizational effectiveness.

Detail: Concern for the procedural and detailed aspects of work. Focused on processes as central to organizational effectiveness.

Guess what my scores were? 10 for Public Contact and 1 for Detail (on this report you score 11 between pairs of words – so basically I’m all about the people). I’m willing to bet my boss was a 10 for Detail and a 1 for Public Contact. For him binders of step-by-step instructions ensured efficacy and quality control.

Work Motivation

Perhaps the biggest insight into why I even have this blog comes again from the “Preferred Work Styles” report where one of the categories scored is called “Work Motivation.” A person with a high score has:

“A positive attitude toward work; exhibits a responsible outlook toward work rules an assigned functions. Able to find value in most jobs/roles.”

My Work Motivation score is ONE (the lowest you can get)! Yikes! This basically makes is sound like I’m a terrible worker! But thankfully, at my certification training, I learned that what this is really trying to measure is how much you need a “why” to work.

The comparison group for this factor is assembly line workers who are happy in their work. I didn’t even think it was possible for assembly line workers to truly be happy in their work. That’s because my score says it’s essential for me to understand how my work is serving a greater purpose. I have really struggled with this in all my jobs because sometimes there is just so much busy work that doesn’t seem useful!

So there you have it: this whole huge project of researching calling and trying to understand the meaning of work highlighted right here in the Birkman. It’s a good reminder for me, because I think understanding calling is so essential for everyone else and yet I meet plenty of people who don’t seem to care and I can’t fathom why they don’t. They probably have a completely different Work Motivation score than I do and that’s ok!

These are just a few of the insights that have helped me get a better perspective on my experiences with different bosses.

If this stuff intrigues you and you’d like to get your own Birkman done, just let me know. Or suggest bringing me in to do Birkmans and team-building at your workplace! It can have huge benefits. You can contact me with any questions or check out my services page to figure out where you’d like to start.