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Stereotyping in the Workplace: Definition, Examples & Effects

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  • 0:01 What is a Stereotype?
  • 0:33 Negative Stereotypes
  • 1:36 Positive Stereotypes
  • 2:27 Limited Stereotypes
  • 3:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Orin Davis
In this lesson, you'll learn about stereotypes, or social assumptions, and how they're used in the workplace. Through real-life examples, you'll also explore positive and negative stereotypes, including how they succeed and fail.

What is a Stereotype?

Which ethnic group is full of really smart people? Unless your answer was 'none,' you just used a stereotype.

Stereotypes are assumptions made about a group of people and are applied to individuals, irrespective of their personal characteristics, because of their affiliation with a certain group. Stereotypes can be positive, negative or neutral. While both positive and negative stereotypes can be harmful, they can occasionally serve as a learning experience, as we'll find out at the end of the lesson.

Negative Stereotypes

Many common stereotypes are derogatory, in that they're based on negative references to a person's ethnicity and race, age, gender, politics or sexual orientation. The use of stereotypes prevents us from getting to know one another and interacting effectively based on individuating information. The term individuating information refers to the aspects of a person that make him or her unique.

For example, imagine your new coworker has a political affiliation that differs from yours. Based on the negative stereotypes affiliated with your coworker's political party, if you make assumptions about your new colleague, you might start off with a hostile and unfriendly relationship. This could significantly impede your ability to work together.

However, if you get to know your new coworker as an individual, you might be able to put aside any political differences for the sake of productivity. You might also develop some new political perspectives of your own and build a strong working relationship built on mutual understanding. This holds true for any individual and any potential stereotypes.

Positive Stereotypes

While it is obvious how a negative stereotype can be a problem, many people are under the mistaken impression that a positive stereotype, such as the statement that members of a particular ethnic group are smart, is a good thing. Yet, that very stereotype can cause people to place unreasonable expectations on members of that particular ethnicity, which in turn can lead to undue pressure and/or erroneous assessments of competence.

For instance, imagine failing when everyone expects you to succeed because of your ethnicity. Consider how much pressure you would feel to do things exactly the right way. Think about how much harder you'd feel you had to work, all because people have a preconceived idea of how capable and intelligent you are. Even though positive stereotypes may be intended as compliments, they have no place in a neutral or professional workplace.

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