Don’t Work with People Like You

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This may seem counter intuitive — but I don’t recommend that you work with people like you. In fact, you shouldn’t work with those that make you feel entirely comfortable. (You don’t even need to like the people you work with, every minute of every day. But, liking all of your co-workers is a bonus.)  What you really need are people to challenge you and help you contribute to the limits of your potential. If you surround yourself with those of the same perspective — or temperament – or even in the same field or function — you are missing out on options for career growth and eventual success.

Most of us have a tendency to drift towards what we know — a completely normal response to an often harried world. We’ll travel the same path to work, and order the same menu item at a restaurant. This process becomes second nature and we don’t often question it. However, if we apply this to the workplace, things become problematical. You require exposure to differing opinions, experiences and work styles to excel.

Let’s imagine that you have the responsibility of forming a team to take on a problem or company initiative. You choose a team of  individuals whom you know and trust. What follows, is that you have a group of individuals that may certainly be strong in certain areas — but there is the possibly that they hold the same perspective or skill set that you possess. Consider the worst case scenario: that your team is just not robust enough to tackle the task in front of them. You now have a very serious problem. If you have indeed formed a team with similar perspective or skills as yourself, your team is now officially limited.

The same premise can hold for your career. If you have contact with only individuals who share your specific perspective, you’ll likely never be challenged. This can handicap you in so many ways.

The next opportunity you have to network or build a team, pause and consider bringing at least one completely fresh perspective to the table. Build your “team” with a wide breadth of both skills, temperaments and perspectives — being sure to represent all related functions. Add a mentor to your life from a completely unexpected background. Find out how that new co-worker, that you don’t quite “get” ticks.

You simply never know. That “odd man” may be holding the piece of the puzzle that you’ve been searching for.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. Connect with her and continue the conversation on Twitter and Linkedin.

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7 thoughts on “Don’t Work with People Like You

  1. 100% agree. Effectiveness of group of people with the same oppinion and working approach equals to one person. But the thing is that working with people not like you is a challenge and most managers decide to stay comfortable rater than grow…

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  2. Marla,Thanks for your articles.
    This article is straight to the point identifying one of the causes of stagnation of businesses (and careers). I have seen the discomfort (and felt it) when the team comprised a member that was prepared to challenge the group think and express different approaches to the problem without fear of rejection. It is confronting and challenging and ultimately can bring out the best.
    Conversely, I’ve worked in businesses where the senior management all came from the one background with the one perspective on their industry niche. Very difficult and challenging to open that perspective to consider alternate positions or techniques or approaches that are common in the wider world.

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  3. The problem as I have experienced it is that the people who put together teams often choose the “Echo Chamber” as their participants. What this results in is myopic approaches to problems and more “Same thing, Different Day” conclusions…

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  4. Group think is a serious problem in today’s work setting. The problem I see is that there is no personal/professional growth when you are not ever challenged by someone who thinks differently than you do. Great post Marla. M

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