Functional Chauvinism

Respecting Other Talents: David Foster writes about the dangers of "Functional Chauvinism":
A person typically spends his early career in a particular function, and interacts mainly with others in that function. And there is often an unwholesome kind of functional "patriotism" which goes beyond pride in one's own work and disparages the work done by others ("we could get this software written if those marketing idiots would just stop bothering us.")
An excellent post (and typical of the work over at Photon Courier), Foster focuses on the impacts to the business world, but I remember this sort of thing being prevalent in college. I was an engineer, but I naturally had to take on a number of humanities courses in addition to my technical workload. Functional chauvinism came from both students and professors, but the people who stood out were those who avoided this pitfall and made an effort to understand and respect functional differences.

For instance, many of my fellow engineering students were pissed that they even had to take said humanities courses. After all, they were paying an exorbanent amount of money to be educated in advanced technical issues, not what some Greek guy thought 2 millennia ago (personally, I found those subjects interesting and appreciated the chance for an easy A - ok, there's a bit of chauvinism there too, but I at least respected the general idea that humanities were important).

On the other hand, there were professors who were so absorbed in their area of study that they could not conceive of a student not being spellbound and utterly fascinated by whatever they taught. For someone majoring in philosophy, that's fine, but for an engineer who considers their technical courses to be their priority, it becomes a little different. I got lucky, in that several of professors actually took into account what major their students were. Often a class would be filled with engineers or hard science majors, and these classes were made more relevant and rewarding because the professors took that into account when teaching. Other professors were not so considerate.

It is certainly understandable to have such feelings, and to a point there's no real harm done, but it can't hurt to take a closer look at what other people do either. As Foster concludes, "Respect for talents other than one's own. A key element of individual and organizational success." Indeed.