Understanding Diverse Perspectives and Other Lessons from Work Better Day

September 18, 2018
Blog, Workplace
By Kelly Barlow

I’m always on the hunt for opportunities to engage in conversations that broaden my perspective and challenge my assumptions. Most recently, I found just such an opportunity in DC at the Work Better Day conference, “an experience-driven event, bringing together curious minds, visionary thinkers, innovators, and change-makers.”

The Work Better Day experience centered on three topics: assets and obstacles to working productively, decision-making in a multi-generational workforce, and recognizing unconscious bias. Each conversation provided an opportunity to think critically, not only about how I work and the biases I bring, but also the perspectives and biases present when collaborating with clients and coworkers.

As a member of The Clearing’s Workplace Transformation practice, I was particularly struck by the conversations around a multi-generational workforce and the connection between a person’s motivations and their upbringing. In designing new workspaces and ways of working, we always start by considering who the space will serve and how they will use it. These conversations can devolve into a debate regarding Baby Boomers vs. Millennials and which generation’s work styles and preferences are more valid or efficient. What I’d never considered before is that these styles and preferences are often driven by the experiences of one’s formative years.

According to keynote speaker Gabrielle Bosche, Baby Boomers were more likely to have grown up in a military household, which often translates to being process-driven with a preference for structure and hierarchy. On the other hand, Gen Xers were often left to their own devices, which can show up as a more independent style of working. Having grown up with information instantly accessible at their fingertips, Millennials have a tendency to wonder “why,” resulting in an collaborative, feedback-seeking work style. As a Millennial myself, understanding the “why” that drives each generation’s predispositions inspired empathy and I think will prove an effective way to establish the human connection that allows me to “work better” both with my colleagues and with my workplace transformation clients.

The next Work Better Day conversation ensured that this realization was taken with a grain of salt and didn’t become an unconscious bias that I bring into every conversation. Our energetic facilitator on this topic, Lorne Epstein, explained how our experiences shape our biases. I learned that to work most effectively with others you must dig deeper within yourself, checking your biases and assumptions at the door.

Bringing these two perspectives together gave me new food for thought as I work with our clients in designing new spaces to serve their existing and future workforce:

  • How will different generations adapt and learn new ways of working so workspaces are balanced and provide benefits for all, while ensuring every employee’s success?
  • What biases might our clients be holding based on their previous experiences, and how can we uncover and reduce the impact of those biases on the work?

I’d love to hear what you’re thinking! To discuss what the idea of “working better” means to you, how generations and bias show up in your workplace, or begin a conversation on how physical workspace can be designed to support those ideas, reach out to me.

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