Labels: Great for Produce, Not for People

I love going into the grocery store nowadays and walking up to the produce section.  In the produce section, virtually every item has a small sticker on it that you can use to remind what the code is so that when you do self-checkout, you don’t have to flip through all the items on the screen to find your item.  These “Labels” help immensely when expediting the grocery shopping experience.
However, putting labels on people, especially in your business, can be on of the most self-destructive things you can do as a business owner.  Let me explain.  

When a new team member enters the business, we take a look at that individual’s behaviors, and we start putting them into categories.   “She is such a social butterfly,” or “He is one of those analytical types.”  This leads to confusion on how we should be working with someone, and can contribute to misperceptions.  

Today many companies use behavioral and personality assessments such as Myers-Briggs and DISC to identify team member’s personality and behavioral types.  This is supposed to help everyone understand themselves and each other so as to reduce and eliminate communication challenges.  Sadly this is, many times, not the case.  

Why is that?   

It’s because now we use the tests to create labels for each other.  For example, now we use the tests to say “I’m a high Dominant,” or “She is a high Stable” to justify our behaviors and the behavior of others. Nevertheless, the fact is that we are not a component of our personality or behavior types.  Yes, we may identify ourselves as an “Expressive” or “Intuitive,” but our true behavior is reflective of the choices that we make on a day-to-day basis.  

It’s amazing, but we as humans have complete control on how we behave in all situations.  Our behaviors are a reflection of our skill sets, our beliefs, our values, and our identity.  This also leads us to the notion that our environment has a dramatic influence on what goes on in our lives.  If we surround ourselves with negative, backbiting people, what do we reflect?  That’s right, negative and backbiting behaviors.  Unfortunately, we then use labels to justify these learned behaviors, and presto, we’ve locked in a team of employees who are unwilling to change and adapt to the challenges of the modern workplace

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to develop a climate of no labels, and a culture of taking total responsibility for behaviors and actions.  So the next time you go to the grocery store, be thankful that labels belong on produce, not on people.

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