Practical Consequences of the Communication of Stereotypes in the Workplace (Part One)

February 8th, 2013 | Categories: Uncategorized

People communicate stereotypes in the workplace frequently. Unless you are personally offended by one of these, you probably don’t often give them a second thought.

However, communicating stereotypes in the workplace can have subtle and important consequences. Particularly, they can affect communication, productivity, and ultimately profit. Because of this, employers should work towards helping employees to avoid communicating stereotypes in the workplace.

In this new blog post series at The Communicated Stereotypes, each week a consequence of communicated stereotypes in the workplace will be provided. To illustrate each consequence, several excerpts from first-hand accounts of communicated stereotypes will be provided.

Consequence #1 Accidental Insults

They looked at John and said, “we asked for the president.” John looked on them as if they were crazy and said, “She’s the President.” They looked back at me and I nodded my head and said, “Yes I’m the president. What happened? Is there a problem?” Then they said, “Isn’t the president male?” I said, “No, the vice president is male.” Then they told me that that is who they were looking for. I insisted to them that I could help them with whatever they needed since the V.P. was not around. They told me it was ok. I just shook my head and walked off.

Towards the end of the night two people came in. One was a gentleman dressed sharply. He was an older man carrying an array of folders and a leather briefcase. He walked sternly to the desk and two of the three people at the desk flocked to him. Next to him was a short woman, in her early 40’s. She was a little on the heavy side and seemed smallish next to the gentleman. She too was well dressed in a business suit, but seemed preoccupied since she was on the telephone. We all smiled at him and proceeded to check him in. He smiled and said, “I’m not your guest, Ms. Samuels right here is. I am the driver of her car service.”

A customer entered the bar, took one look at me, and began cursing to himself and his peers. Later he apologized for cursing me out and said that he was surprised that I had such a great choice and selection of hip-hop songs. It only seemed obvious that this statement referred to the fact that I was white. My question back to him was “What kind of music do I look like I carry?” The customer and his peers seemed hesitant to answer and kind of started laughing. They said that they thought I would play more club, rock, and more white music.

The problem with insulting someone is that you may never know you’ve done it. This is particularly consequential in the workplace because it can foster miscommunication, harm relationships, and hurt client relations.

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