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Multidisciplinary Workplace

My Aussie relative, a business and marketing professional by training and experience, asked recently my significant other how he could succeed in his new job working with engineers. As an engineer, he answered: “Those who have chosen technical studies/professions are more project/object-oriented than those who work in the arts/humanities/social/business fields. Often, but not always, technical people are not at ease communicating, are more or less introverted, and do not like human interaction too much. But, one should not generalise”. He advised him to “get quickly to speed on technical knowledge because “E/engineers” do not like to waste their time with those who are unfamiliar with what they do.

Is it true that engineers are experts in their field of interest, and that’s it? Articles on this subject agree with my significant other. They are good critical thinkers but often lack communication and interpersonal skills, which are generally possessed by those in the social sciences. It’s not their fault; it can be attributed to the lack of importance given to these soft skills during their engineering education. So, what will you do if you belong to the humanities/social science domain and have to work with th ose in the other group or vice versa?

Does the stereotyping of professions help?

Stereotyping is a cognitive process that involves associating a character trait with a group of individuals. It is about making sense of the insufficient knowledge we have about people based on what we have read, heard or seen. For instance, artists are free-spirited, intelligent, passionate, and un-pragmatic. Bankers are super rich and do not like paying taxes. Businesspeople are charismatic but ruthless when it comes to sales and profit. Public servants are cool because of their job security. Programmers and IT personnel wear eyeglasses and are poorly dressed. Scientists are like Albert Einstein; they are brilliant but lack social and practical skills.

Personality experts and psychologists tell us that we use stereotypes to deal with situations without much thinking and to fit our social world, such as when we meet or work with a new person. Not all stereotypes are harmful, but they are always an incomplete picture of reality. Therefore, it should be taken with a grain of salt. (The same as “a pinch of salt” – accepting it with scepticism about its truth).

When you regard colleagues solely by the stereotype attached to their professions, you defraud them of other aspects of their individuality. Whatever profession you have and that of your workmates, what is needed is to supplant stereotype with a sense of conscientiousness. Psychology Today has this to say about conscientiousness: “comprises self-control, industriousness, responsibility, and reliability. A conscientious person is good at self-regulation and impulse control. This trait influences whether you will set and keep long-range goals, deliberate over choices, behave cautiously or impulsively, and take obligations to others seriously”. (''Psychology Today'' seen on 28/02/21). The article further says that consciousness is not only an essential ingredient for success in the workplace, but it is also a significant predictor of health, well-being, and longevity.

Conscientiousness, however, is just one part of our overall personality. Irrespective of our occupation, we should have a positive attitude, self-confidence, humility, and self-awareness (knowing our strengths and weaknesses).

(This article also appears in my website Rolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com)

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