is apathy a personality type?

August 5, 2008 at 7:53 am | Posted in Professional Development | 3 Comments
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Lately me and some coworkers have had several conversations around those personality profiling tests (like DISC). I found it interesting that one of the attributes that it listed for my personality type was something to the effect of “gets frustrated when others circumvent or disregard authority.”

That would explain my utter disgust at things like being on an airplane and watching folks totally ignore requests to turn off electronic equipment. Or, just the other day I hit one of my favorites. We landed in Dallas, Tx, and it was 105-degrees. They asked that everyone put down the window shades to keep the plane cool for the next flight. About 60% did. Then they asked AGAIN when they saw how many were still up. Maybe another 10% acted. I reached over people and started closing them myself in the rows I could reach.

OK, so if that’s my personality type, I guess that explains it. But the question I’m asking myself is, “who WOULD be OK with that?” Is there a personality type that says, “This person is OK with everyone doing their own thing and not being civil to each other or obedient to authority.” At first I answered, “well, obviously those people!” However, I’ll bet dollars to donuts (which with today’s weak dollar might not be a bad exchange rate!) that there are things that utterly fry those people who choose not to turn off their equipment or shut the windows.

I do know this, it’s these kinds of differences in people that keep life interesting in the business world as well. Despite the many similarities, this is one area where coaching is different than work. I don’t think many HR departments in most countries would condone responding to a rebellious attitude by running the person until they threw up.



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  1. Actually, yes, personality type can explain the tendency to get irritated with some of the behavior you suggest.
    Actually, the “Perceivers” of the world (and this is a very general yet accurate statement)are likely to be the ones not that concerned with doing anything as asked. They (clinically) procrastinate, have no concept of time, but are more easy going, flexible, etc. To the extent the behavior matches the above then yes type can explain some of it.
    In fact, the vast majority of “Random” behavior, such as what you have referred to, i NOT random at all…it is highly predictable with knowledge of personality type. Particularly the Myers-Briggs approach as that instrument is the most accurate.
    Hope this helps!

  2. I was so surprised by my reaction to this that I held off on posting for a couple of days. I think I’ve figured out why I felt the way I did.

    First, airlines don’t exactly have a great reputation or a lot of political capital with their customers right now, and there’s some passive-aggressive pushback going on. I don’t fly as much as you, but I bet you’ve heard the same angry comments I’ve heard: these damn airlines charge too much, they don’t give any perks anymore, they charge for the most absurd things, etc. I’m not surprised that the “authority” of airline staff has diminished by a lot, or that the patience of the public has dropped as well.

    Second, I have a huge problem with someone asking me to help make up for their inferior product. Airplanes have sat on hot runways for over fifty years. This is not a new challenge we’re running into. Airplane manufacturers need to figure out how to keep their airplanes cool on the runways regardless of whether the windowshades are up or down. I get so pissed off every time I hear the cabin speakers announce that everything will be cooled down in another 10-20 minutes, or when we get out onto the runway, or when we reach a certain altitude. Warmth is not some surprise, unknown X-factor in airplane design.

    Third, the electronic device thing has been beaten to death: there are no known risks with using electronic devices in planes. If someone told me to take my shirt off to make sure the plane landed safely, I’d give them the finger. The only reason I shut my devices off (and I always do it before the announcement even comes on) is because I don’t want to freak out any uneducated passengers. Continuing to propagate the myth that a running laptop will kill everybody is an example of abused authority.

    Now, I’m all for authority. I rarely speed (when I’m behind the wheel, people call me Grandma), I don’t cut lines, I’m an excellent employee who fully obeys my manager (heh heh heh) but the examples you cited made my blood boil. Airlines need to wake up and admit to some nasty truths: electronics don’t cause airline crashes, and their products need work.

  3. Thanks, Brent. Very interesting perspective and helpful for me to hear. I think I’m looking at it a bit differently than you. Suppose I agree with your premise that the airlines should fix the problem. That said, it still seems the civil thing to do to help out the folks (like me and you) who are coming on next by doing something as simple as shutting the window shade. I guess your take might be that if enough people get sick and tired of being hot and complain, they’ll change it? If so, I’d be likely to weigh that happening against the courtesy of throwing a bone to those coming after me. It takes all of 1 second to do.
    Regarding your other point, I have never believed consumer electronics interfere with cockpit operations. (I do think there are good non-technical reasons to stow them, but that’s another debate.) But I do feel I should follow their instructions either way. I do have a choice, and flying on that airplane is not a constitutional right. If an airline has a rule to take off my shirt, and I throw them the finger, then they have an equal right to remove me from their plane. I think it would hurt them worse to vote with my wallet and not fly them anymore.
    I think civil disobedience has its place, but in my view it is a very narrow set of circumstances where I would choose to engage in it.
    As I said in the end of the original post, though, it’s the differences in folks that keeps life interesting! Thanks again for commenting with your thoughts.

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