This stereotyping at work applies to many occupations. Medical doctors fail to listen to nurses and technicians whose proximity to the patient provides insights that the doctor, skilled as he or she may be, may not have. I have attended meetings where the words of salespeople, closer than anyone to the marketplace, were dismissed because they were only “low-level salespersons.” This casual dismissal of potentially important information would have been more difficult to do if they had been sales directors or vice presidents. In that case they would have been heard. Nobody at the meeting could afterward remember that they have been told by the salesperson that the customer had warned that the product line was in jeopardy because a competitor would soon be offering a superior product. Had we in charge listened better to that salesperson and acted quickly, the big account and product line might have been saved.
In today’s global economy those closer to the frontier of change may know much more about what is going on than the chief executive officer. They have the information we need to know to survive, whatever their position in the organization or job title.
Few people take the time to learn about the actual work those alongside us do. We make assumptions based on their job titles that never tell the real story. This is especially difficult in the digital age where so much of what we do cannot be observed. Output is invisible. Work done by a team member today may not be recognized as successful until the project ends years from now. No job description or title can tell the story. Dig deeper to gain a more full understanding of what your co-workers really do.
Job titles and the stereotypes they create inhibit communication unless we dig deeper. The more we know about the work associates actually do and the more they know of ours the easier it will be to settle difference and make sound decisions. It will also help in building rapport and stronger long-term relationships. People generally enjoy talking about what they do if asked in a non-judgmental and casual manner.