I interviewed Gretchen Rubin about happiness and work

On this week’s episode of the Ask a Manager podcast, I talked with happiness expert Gretchen Rubin about happiness and work. Gretchen is a leading expert on the connections between habits, happiness, and human nature, and is author of multiple bestselling books, including The Happiness Project and, most recently, The Four Tendencies.

We talked about what people can do to feel happier at work, the idea of following your passions (and why that’s a disservice to people), and much more. You can listen to our discussion about it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or Anchor (or here’s the direct RSS feed). Or you can listen here:

Or, if you prefer, here’s the transcript.

* I make a commission if you use those Amazon links.

{ 43 comments… read them below }

  1. Murphy*

    Anyone else go take the Four Tendencies quiz?

    I felt like a lot of the answer choices didn’t really fit me. I ended up getting “The Obliger”, which probably does fit me a lot of the time.

    1. Kaboobie*

      The description of the Questioner was so spot on for me that I didn’t bother. And I suspect, like Alison, that I am married to an Obliger.

      1. Lissa*

        Yeah I’m a questioner to the point that i started taking the quiz and just laughing, it was the most spot on personality test I’ve ever taken!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m a Questioner, which definitely fits me. If you listen to the show, there’s a piece where I mention to Gretchen that I’m a Questioner and my husband is an Obliger, and it actually captures a tricky dynamic between the two of us really well.

    3. Captain Awkward*

      I’m a Rebel, which I suspected already and (though I really enjoyed Better Than Before!) a lot of the advice for us was “heyyyyy good luck out there, buddy.”

      1. silvertech*

        I’m a Rebel as well, I haven’t read the book yet, but that doesn’t sound encouraging :D I never thought of myself as a rebel, but my therapist used to say that I am, but I don’t fit in the “mainstream” rebel stereotype. This quiz probably adds more details to what he meant to say.

        1. Sketchee*

          The longest chapter in the follow-up book The Four Tendencies as about Rebels. Lots of really interesting strategies to use the tendency for the better

      2. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        It’s probably a little bit of a catch-22 to give advice to a Rebel.

        I do love the slogan of “You can’t make me! (And neither can I)” though.

    4. paul*

      questioner according to it, which isn’t surprising. IDK though, i’m always skeptical of those quizzes after all the Myers Briggs, Strength Finder, and OII’s I’ve taken over the years.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        I’m a Questioner too. My favourite part is where she says “If you’re questioning the validity of this quiz, that’s probably because you’re a Questioner!” :D

    5. Nan*

      I didn’t get a solid answer. I ended up a mix of dang near all of it. Most of the questions, I was like “none of these” or “it depends, can I get some more context?”

      So pretty sure that alone makes me a Questioner. And I’m always the one at work with the “but, wait…”

      1. Hm*

        Me either, I just went to try to take the quiz, and the vast majority of the questions do not have an answer that fits me. I needed to take this quiz 25 years ago though – I can see that I would have had better fitting answers back then.

      2. fposte*

        Yeah, I ended up as a questioner, but I’m nearly an obliger and an upholder, too; the one thing I’m not is a rebel. I guess I’m a shamrock!

      3. Sketchee*

        You do sound like a questioner! I bet if you’re questioning answers that hard, you’re probably a questioner or a rebel.
        Those two tendencies do overlap, both resist outer expectations.
        There’s a good diagram that shows how we all really have an affinity with 3 out of the 4 tendencies. One is just strongest. And one opposite.

        As a questioner, that made it easier to show the huge range in each tendency. And it only has to do with how we respond to expectations, it’s not trying to look at our whole personality.

    6. Lynca*

      That’s how I felt but the description of how an Obliger does things for others while not doing them for themselves? That’s me. 100%

      I’m not a people-pleaser but I definitely function well when the expectations aren’t mine. They always feel more attainable.

    7. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Definitely a “Questioner” which makes total sense with my personality. As a high school kid, I legitimately had to have a reason why my mom wanted to know where I was and who I was hanging out with. Once she told me that it was literally “If something happens to you, I want a place to start a police investigation(!)” I thought the reasoning made sense, so I followed her rule.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ha, me too! I recall cross-examining my mom about why she cared about my grades and insisting she come up with a reason that made sense to me. Once she did, I was fine with it.

    8. hermit crab*

      I’m definitely an obliger but the questioner-type statement “my constant need for more information exhausts me” in the quiz really spoke to me!

    9. Arjay*

      I definitely act like an Obliger outwardly, and that’s what I got on the quiz, but inwardly I’m a Rebel. :D

    10. DD*

      I got Questioner, but I suspect I may be a closet Obliger wanting to be a Questioner. Evidence: Being told that I’m a Questioner felt weirdly pleasing. But then, I felt compelled to examine that feeling. Does that questioning make me a true Questioner? Hmm…

    11. Becky*

      I ended up with the Questioner which pretty much seems on par for how I work both personally and professionally.
      Though sometimes it makes it difficult when at work I’ve brought up concerns and the answer is “yup we know it could cause issues down the line, we’re doing it this way anyway.” We dealt with one of those recently where two years ago I asked about a way we were implementing something with specifics of exactly how it could break something else. I was told we’re doing it this way anyway and now two years later it is breaking the thing I said it would.

      I feel like my entire job description some days could be reduced to “questioner” –I am a QA Analyst for software.

    12. The New Wanderer*

      I also ended up with Obliger, but from the descriptions and the questions I had no idea what the result would be. I felt like my answers were all over the board: there was no good answer for me most of the time and I couldn’t weight the few questions that had strong fit answers or discard the ones that did not apply.

      Interestingly on the Myers-Briggs, I’m INTJ which actually does fit me really well. Pretty sure I married one too.

    13. IT Dweeb*

      Yeah same… like with New Year’s resolutions, I don’t make them because it’s way better (for me) to make small steps to change my habits if I want it to be permanent, rather than a one-time declaration. So the last answer seems to fit until I get to the “when I’m only helping myself, I often struggle”, which, it has nothing to do with who I’m helping.

    14. The Tin Man*

      I took it and felt the same – it also seemed like most questions were basically “Which of the four types are you in this situation?” It was obvious which answer was for which tendency. Overall seemed not well put together. From the description I am absolutely an Obliger though, so I go based on that.

    15. oranges & lemons*

      I got Questioner, which I think is the best fit of the four, but I definitely have some Obliger tendencies as well–I do have a habit of prioritizing commitments to other people, but I also have always needed to feel like something makes sense to me before I can really commit myself to it. Not sure what that says about me psychologically.

  2. misspiggy*

    I’ve tried the quiz several times and never got an answer which rings true. I don’t know whether it works better for people using US English/in US culture.

  3. Matilda Jefferies*

    WAIT. Gretchen Rubin and Alison Green? In the same space? Talking to each other?? This is pretty much self-help/advice-column fangirl heaven for me! Can’t wait to listen to both of you later!


  4. Artemesia*

    This kind of quiz can be helpful to get people to think about differences people have in working in groups and how to make those differences productive and also just to facilitate reflection about one’s own behavior. But like Meyer Briggs and the dozen or so similar assessments used in organizations they are low on validity and documented research. The danger is always in taking them too seriously or making hiring and promotion decisions based on them. (I know people who do this)

    1. Becky*

      Yeah I find a lot of these fun to just self-analyze and help me understand working with others, but generally no one should use it for any more than that.

  5. AQ*

    Holy moly, this is an exciting surprise! One of my favorite blogs unexpectedly interviewing one of my favorite nonfic writers? I was not expecting this when I checked AAM today…can’t wait to listen!

Comments are closed.