Introducing Mr Red and Mr Blue, and the fight for Aphra’s Soul

I’m caught up in a doctrinal war at work.

Mr RedIn the red corner we have someone who is intensely delivery-focussed. (Forgive the jargon, it’s late and I don’t have the energy to translate). He likes to get in there, get stuck in, tackle the problem head on and just sort the fuckers out. He’s good at it. It’s a bull in a china-shop approach, but if what you want is empty shelves then it works.

Mr BlueIn the blue corner we have someone who is equally focussed on delivering results. However his approach is much more measured. He plans. He analyses the problem and works out how much time and effort is needed to deal with it. He discusses the options with the people involved to get their agreement. He looks at the risks and takes the same approach of planning, analysis, discussion, and so on fractally, until the thing is done. This way not only are your shelves empty, but someone else did the heavy lifting and the china is neatly stacked and sorted too.

And then in the middle there’s me. I was born a Red girl (ever the Scarlet woman) but experience has shown me the benefits of the Way of Blue. As the RAF so elegantly put it, poor planning leads to piss-poor execution.

On Wednesday I realised that this is a doctrinal issue; a matter of world-view and belief, that there really is no point in putting Mr Blue’s arguments to Mr Red or indeed putting my own azure viewpoints myself. Mr Red simply won’t countenance the unnecessary over complexity of what I propose, any more than I can accept the risky, dangerous, scarletness of how he wants me to work.

This leaves me with a problem. Do I do my work the Red way, in the belief that I will fail and the knowledge that my name is written all over it? Or do I fight Mr Red tooth and nail, even though he is my boss and ultimately what he says goes? Or, rat-like, do I leave the ship?

When I typed that I brought myself up short. The answer seemed pretty obvious. Look for a nice turquoise or aquamarine project to work on and stop banging my head against a red brick wall. So what’s stopping me?

The problem is I really like Mr Red; he’s fun to work for. We work well together when we do work together (he’s not just red, he’s invisible). He’s funny, supportive, energetic, helpful, positive, determined, optimistic, enthusiastic. The perfect boss in very many ways. Except for this foolish adherence to the Way of Red. (Mr Blue on the other hand is a dour bugger, and can be hard work to work for, but that’s another story). If I did leave the ship and scuttle off somewhere else in the harbour then I’d miss out on a lot of good things, including trust, by not working for Mr Red.

Interestingly, one thing I said on Wednesday brought him up short completely. I said “I don’t think I can fly by the seat of my pants for 6 months; I don’t think I can handle the adreneline”. There was an audible crashing of mental gears (we were on the phone – perish the thought we’d actually meet to talk these things through) and then he said “then I’d have to look at restructuring the team”.

He did soften that immediately, but I do find it interesting that we are both aware that the that task and the tool might not be best suited to each other.

Sorry about the over-flow of metaphors. It’s been a colourful week.

Had a meeting with Mr Red today. He pointed out that we are both itching to be able to turn round to the other and say “I told you so”. So we’ve each put down a fiver on it which we’ll drink when we know who was right, probably on an appropriate Friday in September. It is going to be an interesting summer. He seemed quite confused that I don’t view work as an extreme sport.

3 responses to “Introducing Mr Red and Mr Blue, and the fight for Aphra’s Soul

  1. This reminded me of a couple of things:

    Also – J has some stuff about personality types. In some work by J Clayton Lafferty for Human Synergistics, Inc -people’s behaviours were divided into three colours, being further described as Constructive, Passive/Defensive or Aggressive/Defensive. Interesting stuff which I don’t understand well enough to discuss here – but do get J to dig it out next time you’re here.

  2. Sorry – me again.
    Your post got me thinking about roles within the team. Have you come across this? And where would your Messrs Red and Blue fit in?

    Click to access Belbin_Team_Role_Summary_Descriptions.pdf

  3. Oh, intersting stuff you’ve got there. I’m off to Teuchter-land myself for two weeks, (I’ll give it your love, especially the bits at the top of the map). I’m blanking work till I get back, but I will look at these then.

    Lots of love, and many thanks.


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