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how others view us

August 23, 2015

The other day at work, a colleague was covering the reception desk, as the usual receptionist was on vacation.  This colleague commented that she feels that people interact with her in a very different way when they meet her for the first time as the receptionist vs her official manager role.

Whether there truly is a difference in how others treat us based on our social or work role, I haven’t done or read the research.  Perhaps there remains subconscious biases in how we interact with each other.  Or perhaps there are valid differences in the way we interact with people in different roles.  Or perhaps the differences are in the perceptions of the recipient not the other person’s actions.

The situation brought to mind something I have noticed about myself in the past few months.  I have always known that my job is a key part of my self identity.  A year ago I changed jobs, this change was a choice I made for a variety of reasons.  And it’s important to state, that I really like my new job.  But… I have noticed that I’m not as comfortable telling people what my new job is.  I feel my old job sounded more important and more significant, and I felt people were more impressed when I told them about my previous position.

Both as a culture and as individuals, we have trouble valuing all people for the jobs they hold and the contributions they make.  We have created by cultural and personal hierarchies where we see some jobs/roles as more significant than others.   These experiences have brought to light some of my individual biases and hierarchies related to work.  These are biases, I’m not really sure I like knowing I have.  I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do about them, or how to change them.  But I do know that until we identify and acknowledge a bias, we can’t begin to do anything to counter act it.

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