Photo credit (above): Scott Dexter | Flickr
According to Oxford Dictionaries, a pigeonhole doesn’t just mean a small ‘house’ for pigeons to nest in.
It can also be defined as:
“A category, typically an overly restrictive one, to which someone or something is assigned.”
We encounter pigeonholes in everyday lives. However, in relation to our jobs, what does it really mean to pigeonhole?
An example would be something that is becoming very popular lately – the generalisation of generations. To a certain extent, labeling is needed when there is a lack of a better word to name a group of people.
However, along with the term “Gen-Y”, there tends to be a meaning behind it.
The group belonging to Gen-Y is thought of as the internet savvy, as they have grown up with technology all around them. Apart from that, this group of people is said to have ambitious, confident, and demanding characteristics in the workplace.
Whilst these are not necessarily bad characteristics to have, I believe that not every person who fit the Gen-Y age group have the same set of characteristics, nor do people who fall under the Gen-X or Gen-Z categories.
Apart from pigeonholing people according to their age groups, we may also be guilty of categorising others based on their appearance and the way they speak.
On one hand, these can be good indicators of their personality. However, we should also be wary of jumping to conclusions and assumptions.
Pigeonholing people may sometimes force others to subconsciously act according to the kind of person you see and treat them as.
This may also result in people not being able to advance in their careers as they are stuck in the small area of space that we might have accidentally categorised them to.
There are many articles on various ways to avoid being pigeonholed in your company, just as there are many unaddressed aspects in pigeonholing in this article.
Instead of providing the usual practical tips today, I’m appealing to those who are guilty of pigeonholing, something which all of us are probably guilty of – even those who are pigeonholed themselves.
For this week’s Try This, let’s try to put on a different perspective when we look at others. Breaking this bad habit of assumptions can help us learn how to properly converse and understand the ‘new’ and ‘old’ people in our workplaces.
Once these barriers are broken, only then can we properly engage our workmates.
Originally published in The Star’s MyStarJob pullout on 4 October, 2014.