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Rainbows In Your Office

Turning the office “colours” into a rainbow requires the skills, insights, and patience of a Van Gogh. Or a cat herder.

To recap: There are four colours — red, yellow, green and blue — within the language of colour, and they all see the world so differently that sometimes it’s difficult to believe they come from the same planet.

Given the same situation, here’s how each colour would react.

The company has been overwhelmed by orders for a few weeks, and the solution offered is to purchase the property next door and open a 10,000 square-foot shop.

Red: This was their idea Monday morning. No permits, no mortgage. No plan, just the end game. They’re not worried about it at all. It’ll get done. How? Doesn’t matter.

Yellow: They’re excited about it. Something shiny and new. Their main concern is whether there will be a nice coffee room to socialize with co-workers. By the next hour, they’re buzzing about something new.

Green: They need time, maybe a day or two, to process this new idea. They’re concerned. What’s the plan? Until they know that, it is unlikely they will be on board.

Blue: They need to know all the specs of this new place. How big? What will be the layout? How much will it cost? They want a spreadsheet and all the of the to-do list boxes checked to ensure accuracy and efficiency.

Image: Contributed by author

As if that is not enough, the different styles annoy each other, creating even more challenge when implementing change.

With their desire, need and even unawareness of constant change, the reds surge forward, leaving a wake of anxiety, particularly for the greens — their behavioural opposite.

To alleviate this angst, the reds need to slow down and communicate about the change — the rationale, the intended outcome. They are not particularly strong at identifying the process to get to the destination, but that’s where the greens come in.

The “rule of 72” applies to the greens. When change is on the horizon — new software, a reorganization, a new location — the greens become amenable to the change if it is presented with time to absorb the change.

This is how it plays out, albeit somewhat facetiously: • The first 24 hours, the green hates the idea of change. • The next 24 hours, the green thinks the idea might have some merit. • By the time 72 hours are closing in, the green thinks the change is their own idea.

Give them time to adjust to the change, or you will be dragging them kicking and screaming to the desired outcome.

The “rule of 72” is a respectful approach. It is not always practical, but that is overcome by simply stating, “Sorry for the interruption/the change in what was expected/not giving you notice, but….”

The yellows and the blues are behavioural opposites, and when it comes to change the yellows embrace it, not even noticing any potential fallout. The blues are fearful and only see what can go wrong.

I sat in on a marketing meeting in a law firm once. The committee had two yellows and a blue.

The yellows were thrilled with their efforts to date. They had ordered new branded pens, branded water bottles to be given out at charity golf tournaments and now were thinking of even grander marketing ideas.

“We could order embossed journals. And maybe we should be running some more ads in the daily paper.”

Finally, there was a break in the traffic flow of ideas, and the blue edged into the conversation.

“Do we have the budget for this? Does this fit into the strategic plan we did a few months ago regarding the building of our image?”

Indignant looks instantly landed on the faces of the optimistic yellows.

Silence. A moment of pause. An awakening as the quiet, practical words of the blue settled into the room.


As a leader, taking the time to recognize who your people are and what they need to be most effective in their roles makes life easier for everyone.

Be respectful, flexible, and aware.

Recognize the reds are impatient and focused on results. Give them clarity about the results and be factual and to the point in communicating those results.

The yellows are big-picture thinkers with little regard for the details. Get them support with the details and work together to see where they can have the most impact.

With the greens, be sensitive to their reluctance to change. Be low-key in addressing it, with ample time for them to start to visualize the change.

Show as much concern for the details as the blues do. They want time and opportunity to be thorough and correct. Their seemingly dark view of change is really a light shining into the cracks of too quick decisions.

Implementing change while using the language of colour will stop the confusion and the resentment.

And you will have the plans and the permits to move forward with flying colours — the colours of the rainbow.

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