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Workplace Prejudice & How to Keep an Open Mind

Leadership & Management

Several years ago I stood in a manufacturing facility and observed a worker from a distance that in my opinion seemed to have no heart for his job. I quipped to a colleague standing next to me that the company would be further ahead to pay him to sit on a bar stool at a local tavern and buy him a beer an hour and all the peanuts he can eat. Three months later that same employee gave me a suggestion that saved the company over $500,000 per year.

We are all burdened with prejudice about the way people look, the way they think, how they act, where they come from, etc. In my experience we obtain prejudice from two sources. The first is that from our earliest memories we have seen the faces of people who have loved and nurtured us. We will always be more comfortable around people who look like us and those we know best. This can be observed in the animal world ie. “birds of a feather flock together." The second is from the people we grow up with, our social influences.

A big part of leadership is issue resolution, the solving of problems. For this, you need creative input from your team and most importantly from the workforce you serve. My prejudice was on display with my comments about the worker, but I’m glad I took the time to listen to his idea. Many times in my career brilliant ideas have come from the most unlikely people. When it comes to creativity and who might contribute great ideas, may I suggest you put aside your natural and learned prejudice and keep an open mind.

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