Task-Oriented vs People-Oriented: A Common Source of Conflict

Task-oriented vs people-oriented

In one way or another, I have commented on this common difference between people in this blog and in other articles. It seems that I have, in many cases, made the point in an indirect way. Today, I thought I would make a more explicit observation about one of the common differences between task-oriented people and people-oriented people (from the DISC model):

  • Task-oriented people generally “think” about things (including relationships).
  • People-oriented people generally “feel” about things (including tasks).

In a previous post, I shared the story about calling home while I was traveling. That story illustrated my task nature and how I made a relational effort (calling home) into a task. That story also illustrated how the way that I defined the task led me to ignore the relational aspect of calling home. I called home and I was done. No conversation. No real listening. I checked out when my task (calling home) was checked off my list.

A similar mental barrier can creep into the approach that people-oriented people take with regard to tasks.

For example, I once worked with an extremely people-oriented person on evaluating a potential business investment. As we talked through his options, we came to a logical conclusion about what he should do next. After we came to our conclusion, he paused and said that he had some reservations about being able to invest the money needed to move forward.

I said: “How much money do you have?”

He said: “I don’t know for sure. I just don’t feel like I have enough.”

I wanted to say (but, thankfully, I didn’t): “How much money you feel like you have was not the question. I asked, how much do you have?”

At that moment, we could have had a major communication breakdown. He felt rather than thought about a factual, data-driven issue.

My colleague in this story is a very intelligent person. We did not get into a conflict over this situation because we were both able to adjust our communication styles (word choice, tone, etc) to better connect with each other.

What if, instead of holding back my initial thought, I had said what was in my mind: “…how much do you have?” (With the accompanying sarcastic tone.)

How would our relationship have progressed from that point?

I think it would not have gone well.

The misinterpretation of intent that often comes from this simple difference in perspective and approach can create some pretty intense conflicts.

Task-oriented people can think that people-oriented people are not rational.

People-oriented people can feel that task-oriented people don’t care.

And both assumptions are often wrong.


  1. says

    Hello Guy.

    Change the names in the above article to me (“feeler,” who handles the family finances) and my husband (task-oriented, for sure), and you’ve pretty much nailed our general conversation about finances…. except that ours doesn’t generally end as well. So glad I found your blog! Thanks for the clear explanation.


    Catherine Fruisen

  2. Ross Pusey says

    I really appreciated the content of this article. It gave me some insight into practical relationship needs when two individuals find themselves operating on opposite ends of the spectrum of orientations.


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