Is There A Cast System in Your Organization?

Recent travel to Hawaii brought to mind the cast system of air travel. As the aircraft was loaded, the thought of how much the onboarding system mirrors some organizations and how it affects how the employees may feel, and in what ways it may influence how people behave.

It was the little things during the boarding process that were reminiscent of the class system. The initial instruction was that only Global First and Business class were allowed to access the plane through the Global First line. Ironically this is a pole with a sign Global First on the left hand side and passengers other than first class were required to board on the right hand side of the pole. During the boarding process of another flight, a woman started to enter the plane from the Global First aisle and was told she had to go back and enter to the right of the sign! The witnessing passengers rolled their eyes and groaned. Once boarded on our flight, people walked through first class and business class to the economy seating. As a young man boarded, he commented as he walked by “We have to go back where the poor people sit.” Once on board the flight instructors instructed people to buckle their seat belt, but only those in Global First that had shoulder straps to affix before takeoff. What is the message there?

Understanding that airlines are trying to enhance the benefits of the different classes of services, what is being communicated to the customers? More importantly, are there things in your organization that are inadvertently communicating a cast system in your place of business? When trying to develop a team, everyone on the team should feel an important part of the organization, and much of this is communicated through nonverbal means. Let’s look at the way communication takes place in the work environment.

For example, if open communication is touted as an important part of your business and yet the layout of the organization makes it impossible to communicate openly, then the message is open communication is not really essential. Many “Great Places to Work” have open seating areas in which executives sit side-by-side with their people thus facilitating communication. Zappos executives sit in open cubicles next to the other departments which encourages people to interact. Others truly have an open door policy in which people feel their voice is heard. Do they receive feedback on their suggestions? Are they given recognition for their ideas? Do they receive timely information?

Next, often organizations boast the importance of every member of the team and yet executives have privileges that communicate otherwise. Everything from designated parking spots to dress signify some areas of the organization are more important than others. Organizations may have separate entrances for executives and hourly employees. Others may have separate dining areas for executives and hourly workers. What is being communicated at your organization?

Finally, how much space do various employees have and how does that designate importance? It is not that executives should not have benefits, it’s taking time to determine what’s being communicated by those benefits. In order to make sure you are sending the message you intend, take time to view things from all of your employee’s perspective. Is your communication helping people to feel part of the team?

With a little insight and planning, you can make sure your intended message is the message received. You want your people to feel an important part of your business, but it is through the nonverbal means that your messages are reinforced. Take time to think through what your behaviors are communicating to ensure that you are sending a message of importance to all of your team.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

What people are saying.
Beth Sears provided her time and expertise to assist us in resolving a difficult and emotionally charged situation regarding our next work season in Africa … Beth was able first to empower us to honor the fact that there was major conflict in our thinking and helped us define a process to deal with the differing opinions. … In our final meeting, it was amazing to see the most entrenched and angry member of the group changed their demeanor. We came to a fine resolution and are a stronger body because of the experience. Beth deserves much credit for guiding and encouraging us and giving us the tools to meet our challenges. I recommend her work without hesitation.
Nancy Joiner Reinert | Chair, Communications Committee | Water for Sudan (Now Water for South Sudan)
The Pike Company is a large General Contractor serving the Eastern USA. Beth was able to interact very well with our long-term employee and getting them to realize the need to mentor our youngest employees and the different skill sets needed to communicate with the different generations … Beth’s program kept the group focused and engaged with one another. Beth was very helpful getting everyone primed for the next phase of our meeting where we analyzed our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. I would highly recommend Beth Sears for your events.
William J. Ketchen | Executive Vice President | The Pike Company
I want to express appreciation for the positive outcomes you provided our key leaders. The results exceeded my expectations! … I have seen marked improvement in both team communication and collaboration with the tools you provided. Your open and honest feedback and recommendations for continued organizational improvements are much appreciated …We look forward to continuing our work together on future investments in our people and workforce.
Joe Bridgeford | President | Blackbox Biometrics
Thank you for presenting at the NYAAEL/PaAAEL annual conference. We received many excellent comments on your presentations … Your material was well prepared and well accepted. One evaluation added this comment, “ I like the focus on interpersonal skills… Anything that challenges us to ‘think outside of the box’ is great. This keynote fit that description as a bunch of science geeks and nerds would not typically partake in this topic … I hope to work with you again soon.
Judy Graves | Executive Director | NYAAEL
I would like to express my gratitude and sincere appreciation for your time and efforts in promoting women in corrections. Your speech was well received as it was on point and delivered in a manner that invoked a positive reaction from an audience of nearly 500 participants.
Sandra Amoia | Administrative Coordinator | New York State Department of Corrections
Beth established instant rapport with our employees and leadership team. She honors confidentiality, doesn’t shy from conflict and encourages conversation. Beth was extremely responsive to any requests during our project always going above and beyond the scope of the project. She was quick to identify areas to improve at all levels of the organization and provides great insights and recommendations … It was a great pleasure to work with Beth, and I would highly recommend Beth to work with any organization.
Karen Fairhead | VP of Human Resources | CHS Mobile Healthcare
Beth has been working with our organization this year and the results of her work have been nothing short of remarkable! Beth’s warm and engaging personality lent itself …to quickly garner a level of trust that allowed for significant input from the staff – all of which has been valuable in promoting new levels of communication and accountability within the team itself. This has been an especially enlightening experience for our team and one that has brought with it insight and skill building well beyond what I initially imagined when we embarked on this journey. I can say with confidence, respect, and gratitude that Beth Sears is a coach, mentor, educator and consultant all in one incredibly valuable package of professionalism. I encourage you to consider enlisting her expertise as you seek support in taking the next best step for your organization. You will be glad you did!
Kelly A. Reed | CEO | Huther Doyle
The courses you presented were wonderfully presented and had an immediate effect on my staff. It was evident from the beginning that these are topics you believe in and were able to communicate honestly and effectively with us. Every participant from SIDDSO had positive things to say about the program and most importantly how well you presented it. Based on your seminar and all the positive feedback I heard, I will be recommending your services to others who ask me about effective training that may help other organizations in this area. I also hope we will be able to use your services again in the future.
Michael J. Stanley | Director Staff Development | SIDDSO NYS Office of People with Developmental Disabilities
Beth Sears provided group coaching to our accounting staff and we were very pleased with her approach and the results. She set the stage by interviewing each staff member to identify issues … then closely worked with the staff over the next month to raise the bar on communication. Each person who participated said that coaching helped them grow as an individual, not just at work. I’m confident you’ll find the investment in your staff to be as worthwhile as we did.
Claire Fisher | CEO | Fisher Associates
Beth conducted communication training for our front-line supervisors and was very thoughtful in her approach by collecting information on our goals for the training. As a 3-shift facility, she accommodated our various shifts, and even a major snowstorm did not stop her from delivering the training. The feedback from our managers/supervisors was the program was excellent. They learned and had fun doing it. The sessions were very interactive and relative to our business and incorporated company specific examples which helped base the training in reality. Beth was very professional and positive, and I would recommend her for any type of communication training!
Sarah Miller | Director, Human Resources/Plant Operations | LiDestri Food and Beverage
Her demeanor and her style put everyone at ease and the conversations start to flow and with Beth’s direction we started moving in a positive direction.”
James Sydor | President | Sydor Optics, Inc.
Beth is an excellent presenter and those attending her seminars find themselves engaged and energized to make positive changes afterward.
Kathy Richmond | Sr. Director, Human Resource Services | Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce
Beth is easy to work with and really cares about helping people improve their interpersonal communications. Her straightforward and direct manner was not only effective but pleasant at the same time. You didn't have to guess at what she is trying to convey, good or bad.
Michael Naselaris | Director of Business & Corporate Development | Sydor Optics, Inc.
I am thoroughly comfortable recommending Beth Sears to work with your company. Her analysis of the opportunities for improvement; obtaining valuable input from employees and her ability to work within all levels of a corporation is unmatched. Her integrity is beyond reproach.
Richard G. Phelps | Owner | Allen-Bailey Tag & Label, Inc.
Beth managed to turn what I envisioned as another dreary training session into, not only an educational awakening, but an eye opening enlightenment of what may be to come and how we might better deal with the future. Keeping the group openly engaged with material that we all were currently involved with opened opportunity for each of us to better understand some different perspectives with not only those we supervise, but also with all who we interact with on a daily basis.
Sharon Ceurter | BorgWarner
The overall value of our conference was increased when Beth tailored her presentation around our theme for the event. She was engaging and knowledgeable and layered in personal experience and real life experiences that further added to the presentation. I particularly enjoyed the exercise of determining who/what commands “respect”. All in all a real pleasure to work with.
Steven M. Chizuk | Director of Budget | Erie County Medical Center Corporation
Beth Sears has been an adjunct faculty member with Cornell University’s ILR School since 1993. During this time, she has taught a wide variety of college credit courses and training sessions related to workplace communication and interpersonal behavior…Thanks to Beth’s teaching skills, hundreds of working people in Upstate New York are now better able to manage their anger, interview for new positions, resolve interpersonal conflict, lead groups, and convey their intended message. In my 25 years with ILR extension, I have never worked with a more effective instructor than Beth Sears.
Linda H. Donahue | Senior Extension Associate | Cornell University ILR School
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise with our members. We are so grateful to have a caliber of talents such as your self enhance our slate of programs.
NHRA Board, Rochester, NY
I have found Dr. Sears to be ethical, sincere and focused on the honesty it takes to follow through with a quality service from concept to completion. She is a professional and is able to be compassionate for the purpose of presenting the best product available.
Kenneth Siegel | Deputy for Prison Programs | Rural Opportunities, New York Division
Ms. Sears has an uncanny ability to listen, and to analyze a situation – her suggestions were organized, straightforward and on point. I am very grateful for her assistance and would not hesitate to recommend her services to any company or individual seeking conflict resolution or effective communication training.
Barbara Bird | Senior Program Manager | VESID Facilitated Application Program
You got rave reviews on our evaluations – overwhelmingly rated “excellent" in every category. Comments included: • Beth is awesome! Great lady – time well spent! • Very down to earth and refreshing. • The class exceeded my expectations
Joan Collins Lambert | Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations
I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed watching you work on Wednesday morning at Locust Hill. I don’t see very many people as accomplished as you are working with a group of total strangers and keeping them as fully engaged as they were this morning. Both Jim and I agree we would be privileged to have you work with us at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Mike Cook | Founding Partner | Vital Works, Inc.
Read More

Download Beth's eBook

4 Communication Keys of High Performing Organizations for New or Seasoned Leaders

Whether new to the position or having done it for a while, a leadership role takes a shift in perspective and skills to create followers. Through communication, this book will outline foundational skills to align your people with your vision by creating an engaged high-trust team. This expertise will reduce turnover and help to create a sustainable, profitable organization.
Get the eBook!
Let’s work together
Find out how Beth can help you and your organization achieve extraordinary results.
Contact Beth
Our latest blog posts
See All Posts
Stay connected to Beth for High Impact Results.