How many times do you think you’ve been stereotyped?

What do you think when you hear the word stereotype?

I would say that normally people think of the way someone looks, whether it is racial, or just the way someone  physically portrays themselves. A typical example – A blonde girl wearing fake tan is most likely to be thought of as a ‘ditsy blonde’ or just plain ‘fake’ which has been the classic stereotype for years. This judgement can occur anytime anywhere, whether you are just walking down the street and someone is simply observing the way you look. But the question is what happens when you are being stereotyped at work?

paul 1998

The definition of stereotype according to the English dictionary:

‘Widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing: the stereotype of the woman as the carer sexual and racial stereotypes.’

It is only human for us to stereotype, once a person has heard something negative regarding a person, they will automatically relate it with future observations.  Whether it is said out loud or just thought of, it will still go through your head, as we are just wired that way.

Have you realised that the country you come from may be giving you a misperceived reputation?

Image taken from creativereview.co.uk

Image taken from creativereview.co.uk

Here are just some of the most publicised stereotypical opinions I have come across, through both discussing the topic with people and analysing survey results.

The Germans – Controlling and demanding.

The French – Cold and find it hard to take orders.

The Americans – Exaggerators and loud – ‘Who came first the chicken or the egg….the American’

The Arabs – Lazy and money orientated.

British – Talk like the Queen, lazy with bad teeth.

Chinese – Hard workers but never shake hands to greet people.

Spanish – Always partying, so they need a good siesta.

It is completely unethical for people within a workplace to immediately make assumptions of co-workers because of their heritage. Not only do problems occur when we alter our own behaviour to fit our theory, (which may or may not be correct) but we also start making decisions about observations made. The dilemma is we miss the opportunity to let someone in and create a human connection, which marks a barrier when it comes to effective teamwork and relationships.

‘Familiarity corrects stereotyping. The better we know someone, the more we see the person as an individual.’ Marylin S. Kelly

Remember: Think before you judge, if you are English you would not like co-workers to assume you were just a lazy tea drinker with no ambition.

Lastly, have you ever been stereotyped at work? If so, how did it affect you?

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15 comments

  1. Janique · March 19, 2013

    I love the picture you used to illustrate this. I never realized how much stereotypes I actually participate in nonchalantly. I wonder where we get these images of ethnicities or assumed ethnicities from.

    • thisisfuerza · March 19, 2013

      Thanks for the comment Janique. Yes I definitely thought the picture was amusing, as well as eye-opening! I guess from just word of mouth, observing something negative and discussing it with others, then I imagine that particular assumption would have just been emphasised to ‘they are all like that’. I have definitely been stereotyped throughout my life for having Chilean parents, even if it is just the ‘Why aren’t you dark?’ question, I still find it odd. Have you ever experienced stereotyping?

  2. Marcus · March 19, 2013

    I always find it strange when people want to relate to you by using a stereotype. Occasionally, people who I’ve just met, bring up the politics of China and Korea. Usually, it has nothing to do with the situation that brings us together or anything else. Additionally, I’m Japanese, so its just more confusing. When I open my mouth, I’m obviously American and I sound like a valley girl at times (I’m from Los Angeles).

    Thanks Saby for reading and commenting on my comedy version of your article!

    -Marcus
    BaconKitty.com

    • thisisfuerza · March 20, 2013

      Thanks for the comment, yes I can imagine that must be quite amusing for you! I normally have a good laugh when people stereotype me for being Chilean. Do you know of anyone who has been stereotyped at work? I have heard a few stories of people not wanting to work with certain people because of their misperceived perception of their culture.

  3. alexvssociety · March 23, 2013

    I talked about stereotyping in my most recent post: http://alexvssociety.wordpress.com
    Having recently come out as gay, a lot of people have expected me to act a certain away, especially because in Britain (where I live) most TV and reality programmes portray all these sassy gay men, and as a culture we enjoy seeing this, because gay people ‘tend’ to be witty and clever and sassy (look at people like Louis Spence and Alan Carr). I in no way meet up to these expectations and I think people are slightly disappointed by this!

    • thisisfuerza · March 25, 2013

      Hi Alex, thanks for the comment! One of my closest friends came out a couple of years ago whilst at uni and he faced the same stereotype. People always assumed he was a style king, but in reality he is far from that. TV shows definitely embrace the wittiness and style of gay men, making them all appear to be incredibly confident. It is wrong to automatically put a certain person into categories and label them as a certain kind of person. It is the same with straight men, they can’t all be portrayed as footballers and rugby players. You said people seem to be slightly disappointed by it, how have you been dealing with the perception of gay men in Britain?

  4. EcoGrrl · March 27, 2013

    First, thank you for visiting my blog and your comments on my related post 🙂

    Second, very good food for thought and the graphics (especially the global map) is very powerful. There is something about traveling that helps so much in understanding cultures rather than believe what you see portrayed in the media. It was always a point of pride to me when I traveled that (until I spoke), most Europeans and Australians did not know I was an American because I am not like the stereotype you brought up. It’s why I bought my home in a diverse neighborhood and not the suburbs where everyone looks the same. We are better for understanding each other at a deeper level.

    As for my own experiences, I was often the youngest where I worked for a long time, and dismissed a lot because of it. Now, being a shade under 40, I am on the older side of the spectrum in my profession (tech) and realize that the fact that I look younger has kept me IN conversations I might otherwise be left out of. I see a lot of age discrimination in tech, even more than gender bias, and cringe whenever I hear clients pass judgment on engineers because of their age.

    On the personal side, I remember being the only white female in my black friend’s wedding party, and how they all ignored me when it became time to do hair and makeup, everyone cooing over the bride when they were taking out her braids, but because I don’t have the same hair and wouldn’t possibly fit in to their world (in their minds), I was literally relegated to a chair on the other side of the room and left out of conversations entirely. 10+ years ago and I still remember that.

    • thisisfuerza · March 27, 2013

      Many thanks for your comment. It was insightful to hear about your experience of stereotyping within your profession, as well as discovering that age was the biggest issue over gender and culture when it came to tech. Do you think there is a way that stereotypes can be reduced within the workplace, when it comes to teamwork and relationships? For example, through workshops and learning about colleagues cultures and background?

      Also, I am not surprised that you have never forgotten that personal experience, as it must have come as quite a shock. Not only being stereotyped, but being discriminated against your colour. Do you think if you were the only white female at a friend’s wedding party these days, you would still be treated the same way you did 10+ years ago, or do you think society has changed?

  5. skillsofpersuasion · April 1, 2013

    I would say that unfortunately, people are constantly stereotyped on a very grand scale. I do believe that it often stems from a deep need to understand someone, hence it doesn’t come from bad intentions but the act of stereotyping itself is something very negative. Both you and I, as women, are more frequently than we even know, stereotyped as less capable than men – sometimes when it comes to cliches like “women are worse at sciences than men” or “women can naturally cook and are better parents” and sometimes about smaller things like “when a woman sees a spider in her room she screams and runs out the door”. Beyond the sexist stereotypes, as you have pointed out there are plenty of racial stereotypes and ones based on sexuality. All gay men are flamboyant and all lesbians are butch? I don’t think so, but that is what stereotypes generally tell us. And then thing about it is that it takes a lot less effort to try and comply to a stereotype than it does to break it. Which is why so many people just can’t be bothered to explain themselves, over and over, to people who are so keen on judging them.

    Now I have no doubts I will be stereotyped at work as well. Starting from my very first job, where as I have discussed in my most recent blog post, I am highly likely to receive less than my male counterpart simply because I am female. Then, from my older colleagues’ perspectives I will also probably be judged as “the young, inexperienced” girl. And I can only guess that many of my course mates will have to deal with the same kind of treatment. I wish myself, and other people in the same predicament a lot of strength if they plan on sticking up for themselves and proving the stereotypes wrong. Because sadly, I don’t think being stereotyped can be avoided even in 2013. we are not as far ahead as we believe we are. The world has a long way to go.

    • thisisfuerza · April 4, 2013

      Thank you for your comment. You mentioned that you don’t believe stereotypes can be avoided even now. In terms of stereotypes within work, do you think there is way to decrease the amount of stereotyping? Possibly through workshops and activities to get to know another colleagues and find out about their background, especially prior to teamwork.

  6. Oana Stefancu · April 5, 2013

    Stereotypes are part of our culture. Good or bad, approved or disapproved, stereotypes will always exist. People just find easier to relate to you if they manage to put you in a certain category, so they know how to relate to you.

    I was born in Romania but I have lived for the past 10 years in Italy before coming to university in the UK. When I meet somebody and I introduce myself as Romanian, they associate me with ‘Dracula’, ‘immigration issues’ and ‘gypsies’ – which people still tend to confuse us with and is quite frustrating. If I say ‘I am from Italy’ then usually people’s reactions are ‘hmmm pizza’, ‘bella’ or ‘mafia’ and ‘Berlusconi’.

    At the end of the day, I am the same person, but people have different perceptions about me depending on how I introduce myself.

    • thisisfuerza · April 5, 2013

      Thanks for the comment Oana. Those stereotypes are definitely amusing! I do understand that at the end of the day you are the same person with or without stereotypes. However, how would you deal with being stereotyped at work? if someone was reluctant to work with you due to the perception they had on your culture, how would you overcome the situation?

  7. Noise Null · April 28, 2013

    Hello Everyone,

    Happy to join the talk. I think this allegory is appropriate and hilarious. http://www.cowries.info/funstuff/language/cows.html

    Thomas Nuth, noisenull.com

  8. move · May 5, 2013

    Nice job, its a great post. The info is good to know!

  9. Pingback: The concluding effect on our Youth | SES and Stereotypes: the unforeseen effects

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