Professional elitism is alive and well in far too many startups, businesses, associations and larger organizations.
I won’t even get into the role(s) it plays in academia.
Where do pockets of professional elitism exist in your own organization?
This elitism takes many different forms. Often, it is communicated both subtly, as well as overtly. Unfortunately, this mindset enables and embeds elitist professional habits into organizational culture. Over time, elitism creates barriers to cross-functional workplace communication and collaboration.
Consequently, professional elitism impacts the quality of workplace output and outcomes. Subsequently, the organization becomes a factory where everyone is working full-time, but only producing at half capacity. If that much.
Why? Because professional elitism is a form of unconscious (if not outright implicit) bias.
- The supervisor who has been employed longer than her co-workers. And therefore “knows better” and lets everyone in her department “know.” Especially when she continuously micromanages their workloads and reworks their work because – in her mind only – it never is good enough.
- The small manufacturing company where only one of the employees graduated from college, with a 4-year degree. And that employee is not the CEO, either. The actions of this employee, and condescending contributions during meetings, make everyone aware of all that he learned at university. And also, what everyone else apparently does not know because they “only” have high school degrees.
- The human resources department that reflects a workforce strategy of rewarding employees with the longest employment records with promotion. Even though these long-serving employees do not have the professional bandwidth to serve in their new roles. Much to the chagrin of their departments.
- The knowledge workers who do not even acknowledge the manual workers in their organization. Partially because the dynamics of their respective job functions segregate them. Then again, also because communication across job tiers is not encouraged within the corporate culture.
- STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) colleagues who tune out and turn off during cross-functional meetings with colleagues on the business side of the organization. Why? Because they find business conversations unsubstantial and, therefore, irrelevant to their own priorities, which they perceive as being of greater importance.
- Or, business colleagues marginalize or completely avoid STEM colleagues during meetings, primarily because STEM colleagues intimidate the heck out of them. Instead, the business folks make fun of the way STEM folks think and their direct communication style which challenges the listener in more ways than one.
- Anyone in an organization who thinks than they are “better than” anyone else in the organization because of a myriad of misdirected self-perceptions.
Do any of these professional elitism scenarios sound familiar?
Does more than one of these scenarios sound familiar? Overcoming professional workplace elitism takes more work than reading a blog post, acknowledging there is a problem, and vowing to act differently during the next workplace encounter.
In my experience, organizations get real stuck – and unproductive and unprofitable – due to professional elitism. As a result, it takes a professional development program, not just acknowledgement, to overcome this unconscious (or implicit) bias.
Some questions for you. What is involved in moving everyone one millimeter outside of their current professional comfort levels in your organization? How comfortable is everyone swimming into what often is uncharted waters, the unfamiliar, the unknown, the untested? Are you ready to take your first step forward, and lead? Will you ever be?
Isn’t it about time to stop rationalizing your way out of making a decision? 😉 Instead, start moving one millimeter forward, today. With a little help from this friend. Take the next steps! Engage me to speak at your next association meeting or corporate event.
Babette Ten Haken, Founder & President of One Millimeter Mindset™, is an innovative speaker, strategist, and storyteller. Babette’s One Millimeter Mindset™ Workshops and Speaking programs leverage collaboration to catalyze professional innovation, workforce engagement and customer retention. Babette’s playbook of collaboration tools, Do YOU Mean Business?, is available on Amazon. She is a member of SME, ASQ, SHRM, ATD, PMI and the National Speakers Association.