How to profit from difference Reality TV survival lessons show how to discard stereotypes and motivate your staff
Verity Edwards on learning the office lessons from TV's Survivor
EVERY office building in every city is made leader, the gen-Y worker, the ambitious pup, the over-achieving mother, the cycling mamil (middle-aged man in Lycra), the jaded long-term employee biding his time.
Stereotypes, yes, but it is interesting to watch how they relate, whether they are compatible, and how they perform, or do more than their allocated jobs and motivate others.
The 30th season of reality television series Survivor: Worlds Apart is showing on Go! It is about how different workplace stereotypes get along, given it pits white-collar workers against blue-collar workers. Both tribes have gone up against no-collar workers and freethinking hippies who sell coconuts.
Survivor is vanilla voyeurism; it is about watching relationships fester or flourish. This time it takes people out of their working environments and puts them in a jungle to battle it out for $US1 million through a series of challenges and cut-throat tribal councils.
Some of the challenges have shown that those thought unlikely to be physical, the white-collar workers, have been highly motivated and triumphed against fitter blue-collar workers. It has shown blue-collar workers can excel at puzzles and lateral thinking. And it has demonstrated no-collar workers can be cunning and ruthless.
The series shows stereotypes can be misleading, particularly in the office environment. And it shows that educational qualifications do not make for nicer people, or smarter and strategic workers. Those who progress are the ones who get along with everyone and are strong but not threatening. The gen-Y worker can be highly motivated and particularly goal-oriented, bucking the image that they show up, do the hours and go home at 5.01pm. The jaded employee might be a bit lazy, but might have much to offer as a mentor. The over-achieving mother could probably learn to say no to some tasks rather than trying to be a superwoman.
Managers could learn from Survivor's social experiments by asking what motivates people and refusing to accept stereotypes. It could also teach them how to get the most out their workers by ignoring those perceptions.