Adults or Children in the Workplace

A number of books have been written about how what we learn at early age follows us through our lives.  Nature of our interaction with others, views of work, attitudes to authority, and level of ambition all form at an early age and follow us into the workplace.  Although some attitudes and behaviors change with maturity, there is a core that forms the basis for our personal evolution.

Although we accept that these traits evolve overtime, we attempt to define a discrete point in which we attain maturity.  Most human beings equate a certain age with adulthood.  Although adulthood may differ by culture or historical period, it is a common approach to establish a cut off for when someone leaves childhood and becomes an adult.  While we equate emotional maturity with adulthood, it is not something that miraculously activates as soon as finish our birthday cake with that number of candles. Our personality, life experiences, and upbringing all play a role in our level of emotional maturity.

As a result, by the time most of us enter the workforce, we are considered to be adults and assumed to possess the level of maturity necessary to be successful.  In working with employees in a variety of industries and areas, I have found that our assumption may not align with reality.  A common complaint among managers and employees alike is that they are “dealing with children.”  How many times have you heard a coworker accuse someone of “acting like acting like a child?” The behaviors they most often equate with this statement are: susceptibility to petty conflict, lack of responsibility, preponderance for gossiping, pervasive jealousy, overwhelming need to always get their way, as well as undeveloped communication skills.  Clearly, a workplace filled with these behaviors will be tumultuous and real work will not be accomplished on a consistent basis.

Conversely, a workplace where respect is shown to others, teamwork flourishes, personal accountability prevails, and productivity guides action is thought of as being mature and resulting in better results.  Since what are the characteristics generally associated with emotional maturity?  The person:

  • Accepts the presence of fallibility and treats failure as a learning experience
  • Commits to self-improvement
  • Uses communication to build understanding with others
  • Develops healthy relationships
  • Recognizes the importance of listening to others
  • Recognizes the weakness of working in extremes when viewing the actions of others or potential actions
  • Supports others when good things happen for them
  • Realizes that there are other points of view that may be superior to own
  • Possesses the ability to be adaptable to changing circumstances
  • Looks for positive elements in all situations
  • Uses rationality to govern emotion
  • Is able to differentiate between personal perceptions and factual information
  • Manages anger and does not project it onto others
  • Accepts personal responsibility for own actions
  • Understands personal strengths and weaknesses

As you recruit your workforce, it is important that you maximize these characteristics in your workforce as much as possible.  No one is perfect, but preventing the clustering of the opposite of these traits can go a long way to improving your organization.

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