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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Celebrating Differences

Published July 26, 2015 3:56 PM by Glen McDaniel

There are differences all around us: at work, in society, and even in our own family or circle of friends. We tend to focus on the differences a lot. Just look at the news and see how all of societal ills are being blamed on those who are different from us.


This weekend I have been catching up on my reading. I just read several Facebook posts on MLS-related pages where several posts are recounting negative interactions with nurses and doctors. As a profession we tend to make sport of the “stupid things” nurses and doctors say and highlight how they think differently from us. It’s always “us versus them.”


Psychologists describe how individuals develop and act on biases based on the concept of the “in group” (those like us) and the “out group” (those who are not like us). We construct in/out groups for individuals, cliques, communities, organizations, races and entire countries. Think of some countries which are like America. Now think of countries which are unlike America. Then ascribe negative and positive qualities (actions, expectations, morals, values) to each. See how we place higher values on countries which are more like ours?


The same thing happens in professions of course. It is especially tempting to make fun of, and demonize, professions that we think exert some imbalance of power against us.


I just happen to be reading a book called “Us Plus Them” written by Professor Todd Pittinsky. In fact, going back and forth between Facebook and this book is what prompted me to write this blog. Pittinsky explains in convincing, if obvious, terms why differences and diversity should be valued. We can capitalize on differences to make interactions more effective. When individuals with varying points of views, or representatives of different professions, serve on a team (in a lab, in an organization, for example) we can draw on the strengths afforded by the diversity.


One reviewer has this to say about Pittinsky’s book, “Us Plus Them upends the way we look at relationships. No more zero-sum games; no more clever nuancing around human differences. A key challenge of leadership is harvesting the gains that arise from the basic incongruities of our collective humanity. Pittinsky’s original perspective is destined to create healthy controversy and healthier organizations.”


I continue to suggest that we draw in multi-disciplinary teams whenever we can, whenever we want to get ideas or make changes. This way we build relationships, build up relationship-capital for later, get different perspectives and ultimately arrive at better outcomes. This is especially important in healthcare. where patients are the ultimate beneficiaries.


Each nurse-doctor/lab interaction which now forms the basis of a new joke and ridicule on Facebook can become a teachable moment. It’s a natural side benefit that we learn and become better human beings as well, whenever we teach or listen.


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