Accommodating youth, age, style, and personality...while the job gets done (Proceedings)

Apr 01, 2010

Work is a place where people go to get a job done. Hopefully, they like it. Jobs don't exist (primarily) for personal growth, although good employers provide a positive environment for employee development. Smart employers invest in the development of their employees - - the team. That includes honoring diversity. Employers also must keep the business healthy; their employees are hired to do a job. How can employers do both?
1. Identify the five layers of diversity
2. Define 'culture' and 'diversity' on many levels, including personality, style, gender, and age
3. Clarify the difference between fixed attributes and changeable behaviors
4. Create clear expectations that apply to all
5. Improve systems and structure to improve individual behavior

1. Identify the five layers of diversity

At the core of diversity are fixed attributes such as gender, race, and age. The second level is one's personality. A third level of diversity includes environmental influences, socioeconomic background, and behaviors or habits. And the final, outer layer includes your role, title, and place in the business.

2. Define 'culture' and 'diversity' on many levels, including personality, style, gender, and age

What are we talking about when we say, "Accommodating youth, age, style, and personality while achieving desired outcomes?" What are we accommodating to, specifically? What assumptions are inherent in that sentence?

"Culture" can be defined as a set of assumptions and expectations about behavior, many of which are assumed and unspoken. Culture differs among people based on many variables: Family history (manners), social environment when growing up (generation), gender expectations (e.g., 'girls are quiet'), and economic background.

Generation has an effect on behavior. The political, social, and economic environment during your youth affects your behavior. This is a separate topic from gender.

With regard to employee motivation, is this only a "generation issue," or does the economy have an impact? Likewise, different generations view technology differently, although technology use and expertise are not as different among generations as is popularly thought. (Older people excuse their use of text messaging as "it's just to keep in touch with the kids," but they are using the technology nonetheless.) People of all ages want the same things: Respect; recognition; clear expectations; and feedback about how they are doing.

Gender also affects behavior. Men and women are different, but not the way you think. Accepted stereotypes create expectations. Many people say, "I'm not like other men/women," yet, actually, they are - - they're just not like the stereotype. Attitudes and actions have not caught up with political correctness.

Few gender "behavior differences" have held up under scientific scrutiny. Monitor your own reactions and responses to others - - are you responding to the individual, or an expectation?

3. Clarify the difference between fixed attributes and changeable behaviors

Be aware of your use of vague words. If personality 'types' were all that clear, there wouldn't be so many different 'tools.' The words 'style' and 'attitude' are even more vague. Personality is not behavior. Attitude is not behavior. What do you see and hear? That is behavior.

4. Create clear expectations that apply to all

Make assumptions explicit. Behavior is separate from style, gender, generation, personality, or attitude. Describe the behavior you want. Use job descriptions, a code of conduct, and a hospital/employee manual to make expectations explicit.

5. Improve systems and structure to improve individual behavior

How can you ask for different behavior? You cannot give a performance evaluation for 'generation' or 'style.'

"Appearing eager and pleasing the boss are not measures of performance."

"Without an objective performance management system, appraisal is based on subjective measures."

Training and Development 1/09

To improve the team, work with people as individuals. What does each person need? Perhaps they need differing amounts of structure, direction, praise, or training. What are their interests, obstacles, strengths and challenges that contribute to their job performance?

What are the expectations? Involve the team in creating descriptions for vague words, such as a "good attitude."

Evaluate systems. Just because someone doesn't get along, or 'doesn't fit in,' doesn't mean the problem has anything to do with that individual at all. Gender, generation, personality, and style matter less than the system in which people work.

"The failing of the talent myth is that people believe in stars because they don't believe in systems." - -Hidden Value / Harvard Business School Press

"Systems for managing people are the real sources of competitive advantage, even with 'average' employees." - - Lessons from the Financal Services Crisis / SHRM

In summary, define vague words with your team. Treat people as individuals, with clear and consistent expectations for all. Improve your systems to make everyone a potential star.


Client Satisfaction Pays: Quality Service for Practice Success. 2nd Ed, AAHA Press 2009. Carin A. Smith, DVM

Team Satisfaction Pays: Organizational Development for Practice Success. Smith Veterinary Consulting, 2008. Carin A. Smith, DVM