Humans have a need to use labels and categorize. It serves us well in terms of organizing our world. We know where to find items because we use categories to group, say, pencils and pens together in the same location.

Look At Each Person Individually

Other times, however, categories can cause problems. The best example that comes to my mind is when we try to categorize our fellow humans. It’s paradoxical how we sometimes make decisions based on a single data point, such as when buying a car based solely on one friend’s experience with a similar car, and other times paint in very broad strokes such as lumping all blond haired people in a single category. In fact, a wise person will do the exact opposite. He or she will look at many data points when considering a major purchase, while evaluating a person based on their individual traits.

Applying Labels to People Can Be Misleading

We do something similar when we label groups of people together such as all end users, all customers, all database administrators, all coders, all Windows server administrators, or any other label. When we label people, we run the risk of starting to see with an “us versus them” perspective. Pretty soon, all people under that label are lumped together, often with undesirable traits such as immoral, unethical, unintelligent, uneducated, arrogant or mean. Certainly, people within a group may share certain characteristics, but such characteristics are not always universal within the group. Think about a social group of which you’re a member. Are all people within your group identical? Probably not.

It’s Not “Us” Versus “Them”

In today’s workplace, there’s no place for an “us versus them” mentality. Just like we’ve discussed before, each department exists to support the overall mission of the organization. Each department contributes to the success or otherwise of the organization as a whole.

It’s easy to hate a label, but not so easy to hate a person. In our jobs as providers of Information Technology services to our fellow humans, we must ensure to see our customers and colleagues first as our sisters and our brothers; individual and valuable human beings with their own unique traits and contributions for the company and the world. Wouldn’t we want the same?

What do you think?

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