The Cactus and Snowflake at Work Book Summary - The Cactus and Snowflake at Work Book explained in key points
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The Cactus and Snowflake at Work summary

Devora Zack

How the Logical and Sensitive Can Thrive Side by Side

4.5 (160 ratings)
23 mins

What is The Cactus and Snowflake at Work about?

The Cactus and Snowflake at Work (2021) offers a brand-new take on workplace relationships. It suggests that everyone falls into one of two personality types, the Cactus or the Snowflake, and that our types drive the way we think, feel, act, and collaborate. Learning your type – and how to deal with other types – can set you up for professional success.

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    The Cactus and Snowflake at Work
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    Key idea 1 of 6

    There are two personality types: the Cactus and the Snowflake.

    Let’s look at a hypothetical interaction between two colleagues – we’ll call them Susan and Ahmed. As you’ll likely see, one of these colleagues behaves completely reasonably, while the other is totally out of line. Here we go.

    Ahmed finds Susan tricky to deal with. Their departments work together closely, but she keeps declining his invites to the weekly department meetings. So Ahmed spends his whole Friday afternoon crafting a carefully worded email. He tells Susan just how important collaborating with her is for him, and that he feels their collaboration recently has been lacking. Then, he finishes the email off by once again politely inviting her to attend a meeting that he’s running on Monday morning. 

    “Can I count on you being there? All the best, Ahmed.”

    Seconds later, Ahmed’s email notification pings. Susan has replied to his invitation with one word: “Sure.”

    And with that one simple word, Ahmed feels dismissed all over again. He spends the whole weekend obsessing over Susan’s response. She didn’t even have the decency to soften that one-word answer with an exclamation point. And, to make matters worse, she then just shows up to the meeting on Monday morning like everything’s fine! Can’t she read the room?

    So, who’s in the wrong here? 

    If you look from Ahmed’s perspective, it’s obviously Susan. She shouldn’t respond so tersely to such an involved, nuanced message.

    But if you look from Susan’s point of view, this is definitely Ahmed’s problem. She has clearly read his message and considered his request. Not only that, she’s given Ahmed exactly what he wanted by agreeing to attend his meeting on Monday morning. That’s like the worst time for a meeting. Ahmed has no right to get upset. If anything, he should thank her!

    As you’ve probably guessed, there’s not a clear answer to who’s in the wrong. Ahmed is simply a classic Snowflake. He’s a “feeler” – he processes life through an emotional lens and lets his heart guide his decisions. He’s sensitive, empathetic, and diplomatic.

    Susan, meanwhile, is a textbook Cactus. She’s a “thinker.” She uses facts and logic to inform her decisions. She’s practical, analytical, and direct. 

    Obviously, you’re going to have an opinion on which personality type is “better.” Which makes sense! Both types have their strengths and weaknesses. And in a professional setting, both have a lot to contribute. But when Cacti and Snowflakes don’t understand each other's different styles of thinking and communicating, that’s when problems arise. 

    So when Ahmed wrote Susan his thoughtfully drafted email, her response – as short and sharp as a cactus’s spine – stung a bit. But if he’d known that Susan focuses on facts over feelings, he might have been satisfied with her direct answer – and saved himself a weekend of worry. And if Susan had realized that, to Ahmed, the tone of a message is just as important as its contents, she might have added an exclamation point to her one-word answer. Or, who knows, maybe even an emoji! 

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    About the Author

    Devora Zack is the CEO of Only Connect Consulting. A sought-after speaker and workshop leader, she’s also the author of several globally successful books on the topic of workplace psychology, including Networking for People Who Hate Networking and Singletasking

    Who should read The Cactus and Snowflake at Work?

    • Anyone who’s curious to learn if they’re a Cactus or a Snowflake
    • Workers who want to gel better with their teammates
    • Managers struggling to inspire their teams

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