An Unhappy Manager

When Daniel Adam came to the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, he was the Director of Payroll for the city in which he lives. His main responsibility was the direct management of the payroll process for over 22,000 city employees, and he had held that position for three and a half years. His last several jobs had been mainly managerial in nature, and he told us that he was never fully satisfied. He explained, “It was easy for me to slip into the role of the manager as I’d always done it, but I never really liked that role and I didn’t know why.”

Important discoveries

After going through the battery of tests, we were able to confirm some of his opinions regarding his strengths, such as his ability to logically organize ideas and his strong numerical aptitudes. However, of more importance, we discussed that he was only using some of his aptitudes in his current job. What surprised Daniel was learning about other aptitudes he had and that part of his overall dissatisfaction could stem from these unused abilities.

Unused aptitudes

One of Daniel’s main unused aptitudes was his Ideaphoria. Ideaphoria, an ability to produce a rapid flow of ideas, is useful in such fields as sales, teaching, and writing. He had virtually no outlet for his many ideas in his job. He wanted to do more writing of policy and procedure and enjoyed the opportunities for training personnel, but these weren’t his main responsibilities. He had also been contemplating doing graduate work in accounting or taxation but after discussing his ability to produce ideas, he realized that these fields were directly contradictory to his Ideaphoria aptitude. Accounting, although it would use his numerical abilities, would not provide an outlet for his rapid flow of ideas.

Change in approach

The other crucial new insight for Daniel was his score on our Word Association test. This test measures someone’s natural approach to working. People scoring Objective tend to be happiest working with and through other people to accomplish a variety of tasks. An Objective personality is useful for a manager, as the manager’s role is coordinating the efforts of a group of people. While Daniel’s organizational aptitude, Analytical Reasoning, was utilized, he discovered that his major role—that of the Manager—was contradictory to his natural approach to work.

Daniel scored Subjective on this test. The subjective approach to work is much more individual and specialized, such as a research scientist or consultant might have—someone to whom others come for expert knowledge. This subjective approach is not typical of managers, who more often have to be good at many different things, while the Subjective person generally prefers to be very good at something more specific or well defined. Daniel had been working as a generalist, while his natural tendency was to work as a specialist.


Learning that he was Subjective had a huge impact on Daniel. He told us, “That concept really resonated with me. I could see how all of my past jobs had forced me into an approach that wasn’t natural for me. I was good at being the manager but I didn’t like it. The idea of being more of a specialist was really compelling.”

Daniel reports that within five years he wants to offer consulting services specializing in financial policy development and implementation, which would be an excellent use for his pattern of aptitudes. This new position would serve to combine his abilities with experience in a field in which he is already working. He also told us that he “…hadn’t realized that my testing would provide me with not just knowledge of what to do, but how to do it as well.”

Update for Daniel

Daniel has been working as an independent consultant for over four years, focusing on organizational growth management. His clients include his former employer as well as new ones in the fields of education and social services. Daniel has worked on several different types of projects allowing him to apply a variety of creative and specialized approaches to help resolve issues around organizational growth.

Daniel just completed a contract in California, where he did work for a social services organization, and is optimistic about expanding his work opportunities on both coasts. He recently told us, “Finding out about my natural abilities, and how I like to work…has really helped me focus. I know which opportunities would be best to pursue, which would be frustrating…. I may be tempted by an auditing contract, or a permanent financial management position, but this new knowledge makes it clear to me that I’d be happiest doing what I am now doing.”