Type and Risk-Taking: Tolerating Uncertainty and Navigating Change Risky Business Taking risks is easy for some people and incredibly difficult for others. Some of us try to avoid risk as much as possible while others embrace risk and take chances frequently; inevitably, too much of one style can have detrimental consequences. So what makes some individuals risk averse while others seem to thrive on it? Shawn Bakker – an I/O psychologist here at Psychometrics – says that risk is related to one’s tolerance for uncertainty, which we know can be influenced by our personality preferences. Keep the following in mind for yourself and others, especially if a change is imminent or ambiguity in the workplace is present: NP’s – This type combination is the most willing of all to take risks. These individuals typically jump into new possibilities and are very willing to move in completely different directions, especially when hearing – or coming up with – new ideas. They also adapt quickly to changing circumstances since it gives them something new to explore. SP’s – These individuals will take immediate risks and enjoy them if the situation demands it. However, long-term security and a stable foundation, such as keeping a home and working with familiar people, are important. NJ’s – Intuitive-Judgers tend to take a mixed view of risks. They are willing to take a long-term risk if it fits with their vision of the future and is a high priority. However, if this vision is not clear, they are not likely to act. Action will only be initiated after careful analysis and preparation. SJ’s – These individuals are typically the least willing of all the type combinations to take risks. Since they enjoy having orderly and decided lives, the ambiguity inherent in risks makes them uncomfortable. Wanting to stick with what works, SJ’s usually only take moderate risks after long periods of thought and preparation, and when their chance of success is almost guaranteed. Understanding the relationship between risk and type can help in evaluating change, and in helping others navigate uncertainty. For yourself, consider whether you might be too pessimistic towards changes that require taking a risk. Or are you too optimistic and forget dangerous realities? Whatever your disposition towards risk, you may need to flex in order to consider important information and possible outcomes, before making an informed and mindful decision. Taking too many risks has its disadvantages, but never taking risks results in missed opportunities. From Risk to Change: Transitioning others From an organizational standpoint, much can be done – even in the presence of uncertainty – to help people move forward. As uncertainty is often associated with change, having a ‘checklist’ for what different people need to move forward is often very helpful! Especially if – and when – risk causes certain people anxiety. During times of immense and ambiguous change, consider the following: Extraversion requires: Time to talk about what is going on Involvement – they want something to do Communication, communication, communication To be heard – to have a voice Action, getting on with it, keeping up the pace Introversion requires: Time alone to reflect on what is happening To be asked what they think Thought-out, written communication and one-on-one discussion Time to think things through before discussions and meetings Time to assimilate change before taking action Sensing requires: Real data – why is the change occurring? Specifics about what exactly is to change Connections between the changes and the past Realistic pictures of the future that make plans real Clear guidelines on expectations, roles, and responsibilities around implementation Intuition requires: The overall rationale – the global realities A general plan or direction to play around with and develop Chances to paint a picture of the future – to create a vision Options – a general direction, but not too much structure Opportunities to participate in designing the future Thinking requires: Clarity in the decision-making and the planning Demonstration that leadership is competent Fairness and equitability in the changes The logic – Why? What will it do/what problem will it fix? What are the goals? What systemic changes will there be? Feeling requires: Recognition of the impacts on people Demonstration that leadership cares Appreciation and support Inclusion of themselves and others in the planning and implementing on change A consideration of how needs be dealt with going forward Judging requires: A clear, concise plan of action Defined outcomes, clear goals A clear statement of priorities A time frame, with each stage spelled out As few ‘surprises’ as possible Perceiving requires: An open-ended plan The general parameters Flexibility, with lots of options Information and the opportunity to gather more An attitude of trust in the process The challenge of a leader, decision maker or change agent is to ensure that any initiative has enough of all these characteristics that – regardless of whether or not they are aware of their followers’ preferences – individuals will receive what they need to navigate the transition successfully, and thrive in a new context. They also must be sensitive that some people are not as comfortable with ambiguity as others. Without special attention and careful consideration of these factors, we run the risk of resistance, turnover, loss of engagement and poor productivity. Alternatively, if individuals are given the resources, time, and information they need alongside a forum that is conducive to processing what is proposed, success abounds.