Join Gretchen Rubin for an in-depth discussion in this video Obligers, part of Gretchen Rubin on Creating Great Workplace Habits.
- Of the four tendencies, the tendency with the most people in it, the most common tendency, is the Obliger tendency. You are either an Obliger, or you are surrounded by Obligers. Obligers readily meet outer expectations, but they struggle to meet inner expectations. Like my friend who, when she was on the track team in high school, never missed track practice, but can't go running now. Obligers, if they want to keep an inner expectation, the crucial thing for them is to have external accountability.
They could only meet an expectation if they're being held accountable. Now this has a lot of significance at work, because if you're managing people you need to make sure that you have deadlines, that you have systems in place to hold people accountable. Because for some people, if those systems aren't in place, it's going to be very hard for them to follow through. You can't just say like, "By the end of the year let's switch "to the new software program." Well, what are the deadlines? What's the supervision that's going to attach to that, so that an Obliger is going to be able to follow through? Also with Obligers, they often show a very destructive pattern of Obliger rebellion, which is when Obligers meet, meet, meet expectations, but then all of a sudden they sort of snap, and they think, "It's too much, I can't do it." And they refuse to meet an expectation.
Now sometimes this can be a small and symbolic act, but sometimes it can be hugely destructive. Like a person who just walks out the door and quits in one day because they've been so overtaxed. Because this is the thing about Obligers, they're often incredibly valuable employees. And I've even had people say to me, "Well I only want to hire Obligers, "tell me how I can only hire Obligers." Because Obligers are the people who readily meet outer expectations, and they're always going to come through for those outer expectations, but they're struggling to meet their own inner expectations. And so, they can be extraordinarily valuable team members.
I talked to a guy who was reviewing somebody who was an extremely valuable employee, he was an employee who was an Obliger. And he said at her review, "You're doing too much work too well. "I mean that as a sincere criticism." Because it wasn't sustainable. This was an Obliger who was doing too much work, taking on too much, and so the question for an Obliger is, how do you create those boundaries, how do you say no, so they don't become so overtaxed that they just give up altogether. So, if you're an Obliger, the thing to do is to figure out how to build in those boundaries so that you're not saying yes to too many outer expectations, but then also how to create external accountability for those inner expectations that you have for yourself.
If you're frustrated because you can't get yourself to exercise, because you can't get yourself to do the networking that you need to do for that new career move that you want to make, if you want to start your own business and you can't seem to move forward, the key is to figure out methods of external accountability. That's what's needed, and then Obligers can do an excellent job.