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We discussed the Diversity Challenges in the last post. An important item in the diversity challenges is stereotyping, so let us start by defining it.
Stereotypes lead to assumptions and conclusions based on a person’s race, gender or sexual preferences. Making these assumptions and conclusions then leads us to discrimination. Stereotypes can be about race, religion, gender, age, disabilities, income, geographical locations.
Stereotyping, has its root in prejudice, is an unjustified negative attitude based on a person’s group or class identity acquired either through past personal experiences or through preconceived wrong beliefs. It includes having an attitude, opinion, perception, or belief about a person or group.
Stereotype is a mental picture developed as a result of a myth. People don’t often realize manifestations of their own bias and prejudice towards others.
A clear example is shown in the case of a Republican official, from Orange County, Ca, a couple of months ago; forwarding an email to some friends depicting an image of a family of chimpanzees, with the superimposed face of President Barack Obama over the baby chimp’s face. The caption read, “Now you know why no birth certificate; thinking it was just a joke. She apologized by saying that she has never been a racist; she just thought it was funny
While we are not judging the behavior, the morale of the story is that we can have our own bias and not even be aware of it, which is the real challenge when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and acceptance.
Important also to note that there a fine difference between generalization and stereotyping. Generalization is a starting point indicating common trends and patterns, for beliefs and behaviors that are shared by a certain group, to make it a bit easier to study its culture, and that there are individual differences even within the same group of people
While generalizing is a positive, stereotyping that might seem similar, functions differently, and can negatively influence interpersonal interactions. Stereotyping is an ending point and can be defined as the process by which people acquire and recall information about others based on their race, sex, religion, etc.
To understand the difference: If I assume that all Middle Eastern are Muslims is stereotyping as a good percentage is Christian, Jewish, Druze or Baha’i. But if I ask myself if a Middle Eastern is Muslim I am making a generalization
Gender issues often have a strong impact on a workplace because these types of issues elicit different communication styles and perceptions. These issues can also lead to sexual harassment and other types of discrimination and those that are very subtle. However, these issues are not limited to gender issues, but also include sexual issues, cultural issues and lifestyle issues.
Gender issues are excellent for exploring how stereotypes develop and discrimination occurs. For instance, women often feel undervalued in the workplace, while men often think that they cannot do the same jobs as them. This is a classic stereotype.
Age is another issue, including whether an employee is too old or too young for their position. For instance, Gen Y are presently in leadership positions at the workplace, some may wonder whether they have enough experience for their position as well as life in general.
Sexual orientation issues also arise causing stereotypes and discrimination. As more gay men and lesbian women make their presence known in the workplace and openly talk about their sexuality and partners, many people simply do not understand it. These people are often the center of disrespectful jokes and commentary. Organizations are also openly hiring these individuals into managerial positions. These types of situations often cause tension and even violence between these individuals.
Individuals with disabilities might also be stereotyped and discriminated against. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ensures workplace corrections so that disabled people can work easily in their positions, they often feel as though they are left out of the office culture.
Stereotyping and discriminating against certain people and classes that are mostly protected by law, not only affects the bottom line revenues of the workplace, but decreases morale, where employees are disengaged, increase absenteeism, diminishes the capability of recruiting and retaining talents. All these factors will not only decrease productivity, but also subjects the organization to major lawsuits that costs million of dollars in settlements and punitive damages, with a risk to tarnish its reputation forever and can be detrimental to small and middle size businesses.
Diversity starts at home.
Sahar Andrade, MB.BCh
Diversity Consultant – Social Media Strategist
Sahar Consulting, LLC. - Home of the D.I.A.L.O.G.™ Programs
Diversity& Inclusion in Active Leadership Organizational Growth™
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