8 Barriers Worth Questioning

by  Leigh Steere  |  Workplace Issues
8 Barriers Worth Questioning

Do you hold on to opinions like a pit bull, even when new information suggests it’s time to rethink your position? Are you quick to say no to new ideas?

Do you hold tightly to corporate policies and procedures, even when it’s clear they aren’t working well?

If yes, you create barriers for yourself and others that may be damaging your career, your organization’s results, and people’s job satisfaction – yours included.

Here are ways you hold yourself and others back…

  1. Procedural Barriers – This is how we do things here.
  2. Barriers Of Refusal – That is out of the question. I will not do it, because __________. I will not listen to him, because _________. I will not consider this, because __________.
  3. Political Barriers – If I do this, I’ll burn a bridge I can’t afford to burn.
  4. Barriers Of Belief Or Assumption – There is insufficient time for this approach to work. The people we have now don’t have the right skill set to complete this project successfully. We need to do things in a certain sequence.
  5. Psychological Barriers – I’m afraid of failing. I don’t like the feeling of hanging out on a limb. This might hurt.
  6. Knowledge Barriers – I don’t know how to do this differently.
  7. Capability Barriers – This is beyond my intellectual or physical ability.
  8. Technical Barriers – No technology exists to help with this.

Each of us has the choice to create barriers or question them, to accept barriers or search for ways around them.

Consider these two portraits…

Let’s leave Corporate America for a moment to meet two senior citizens. At 105 years of age, Anna Stoehr was actively gardening—planting trees, cultivating strawberries, and coloring her world with lovingly-tended flowers.

At 113, she enthusiastically embraced technology. Rather than harboring an attitude of “that’s for young people; I’m too old for those new-fangled gadgets,” she wielded an iPhone and an iPad and eagerly absorbed how-to lessons from a Verizon rep.

At 80, and young enough to be Anna’s daughter, Billie Singer’s* world was shrinking. Her mind still sharp, she busied herself with a long to-do list, but rigidly insisted the list must be completed in a specific order. When her doctor prescribed physical therapy to improve her balance and mobility, she added it as #7 on her list, even though it would have made items #1 through #6 easier.

With a walker, Billie navigated the neighborhood to accomplish brief errands. But one day, road construction obstructed the sidewalk ramps at several intersections. Unable to navigate curbs with her walker, three-block jaunts became 12-block expeditions.

She stopped going to the library, rather than walk the extra distance, or get the prescribed physical therapy that might have eliminated the need for a walker. Her outings became shorter and less frequent. Wind, rain, snow, flu outbreaks, and unsolved area crimes became reasons to stay home.

A concerned relative sent an iPad as a gift so Billie could stay connected with family, friends, and breaking news. Her response? “It’s mean to expect older people to change their communication methods.”

What kept Anna forging ahead? And what caused Billie to postpone physical therapy and reject technology, allowing her mobility and connectedness to decline? Answer: the way they handled barriers. Anna did not let age, her husband’s death, or lack of know-how get in her way. Billie created barriers for herself by stubborn adherence to “doing life” in a specific sequence and dismissing technology.

Back to Corporate America…

Heel-digging is a habit, forged in childhood, refined in the workplace. And habits tend to harden with age unless you make a conscious, concerted effort to modify them.

Be brutally honest with yourself. What barriers have you created or accepted, at work and at home? What are the consequences of these barriers in your career and life? What barriers do you need to remove so that you and others can make their best contributions?

Note that Billie Singer is a pseudonym.

What changes in mindset would help you and your team achieve better results?
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

About The Author

Articles By leigh-steere
Leigh Steere is a researcher, product developer, and adviser in the field of people management. She writes on fostering creativity, employee engagement, and high performance in the workplace. Visit http://www.managingpeoplebetter.com/mpb/index.html for a free assessment of your management style and tips for managing more effectively.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

John Smith  |  27 Apr 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Leigh – interesting post.

You have hit on one of my “sore spots”. As an official older adult, I know that the stereotype of older adults being technophobic and unable to learn new technologies is just plain wrong. However, many people still believe the image of Billie for their thinking on older adults in the workplace and in life.

Your call for each of us to identify and take down the barriers of perception that stop us from interacting and achieving is not only timely, but almost essential. We cannot afford to let our mental models restrict ourselves or anyone else from full participation. While some natural differences exist, especially with regard to learning speed and so on, most older adults I know are . perfectly capable of being Annas … only their own barriers make them Billies.

Thanks for a timely and important message:)


Page Cole  |  28 Apr 2015  |  Reply

Great challenge to me about not accepting barriers, whether I created them or someone else did! Made my day!

Leigh Steere  |  29 Apr 2015  |  Reply

John and Page,

I’m glad the post resonated.

This week, there was a treasure in the newspaper–a story about a man who is retiring from his job as a fitness instructor at age 89. Look at his reasons: http://www.coloradohometownweekly.com/news/lafayette/ci_27999778/weightlifter-lafayette-rec-teacher-retires-at-89

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