Team-based discrimination LO5300

Dave Birren, MB-5, 608-267-2442 (
Thu, 1 Feb 1996 16:38 CST

Linda Dilliplane recently wrote about bias toward managers (among other
topics) and I'd like to share a recent posting from another listserv that
might bear some relevance. The list is teamnet-l ("Work Team Research
Topics") run by the Center for the Study of Work Teams at the Univ. of
North Texas.

The original post asked if there are differences in blue collar teams vs.
white collar teams. My response follows, for whatever it's worth.




My suggestions on implementing team concepts in white collar vs. blue
collar environments would have to do with status and knowledge.

Status: Blue collar folks aren't impressed (or rather are negatively
impressed) with status, so be very careful about anything that smacks of
power or the hierarchy. Stay focused on the task, and be very respectful
of the knowledge that is brought to the table. Also, be sure you really
mean it when talking about empowerment. If anyone can smell a rat, it's
someone who's lived with them.

Knowledge: I said part of it above, but the other part is to never, ever,
ever use knowledge as a weapon. If anyone can smell a rat....

I've made some sweeping generalizations here, but I think they're mostly
true. Actually, they probably apply to people in general, but in today's
power-based workplaces, there is so much polarization that it might be
useful to think of them in relation to blue vs. white collar.

My preferred advice would be to treat everyone as human beings. Do this
honestly and sincerely and you won't have to worry about class


David E. Birren                          Phone:   (608)267-2442
Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources     Fax:     (608)267-3579
Bureau of Management & Budget            E-mail:

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. (from T. S. Eliot's "Little Gidding")