Let’s start with an example:
Aaron was annoyed with his boss, Craig. So annoyed, in fact, that Aaron went over Craig’s head and complained to Craig’s boss, Annette.
“Craig’s always breezing in and out. Never listens. Doesn’t have that ‘open door’ policy he brags about. And really tunes me out when I tell him about how Sarah isn’t needed on the project.”
Annette asked one question: “Aaron, are you seeing Craig and Sarah as people like yourself, or are you seeing them as objects who are somehow built differently than you?”
Leaders remind us that we should start by assuming nothing about the people we work with, and always remind ourselves that they are like us in many ways.
If we don’t see people as people, we risk seeing them as objects.
Objects can take three forms:
Obstacles (those who stand in our way), vehicles (those we need to help us achieve our goals), and irrelevancies (those who don’t matter at this time).
In the example above, Aaron saw Annette as a vehicle to do his work communicating with his own boss. Aaron saw Sarah as an irrelevancy. And his boss was an obstacle.
Once we see people as one of those three objects, we lose curiosity and empathy. We also start to compare ourselves to them, either favorably or unfavorably, and that often brings insecurity and/or ego, which keep people from being their best selves.
So the next time you’re in a conversation about other people, stop and ask each other, “Are we seeing people as people, or as objects?”