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?
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?
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?