Racial stereotyping is a serious workplace issue that can have a significant negative consequences to both the employees and the organization. Racial stereotyping is described as a crude generalization about a particular racial group that is not based on facts (Grant and Sinclair, 2003). People who practice this attitude sees people of a particular race based on a fixed and generalized point of view that can lead to discrimination and prejudice. Racial stereotyping in the workplace can have a significant impact on the ability of the organization to maximize its human resources because of the discriminatory practices that can hamper productivity among the employees. Racial stereotyping in the workplace is a major barrier that every organization needs to overcome in order to promote organizational progress. This paper will present the different types of social racial stereotyping in the workplace and its impact to organizational performance. The theoretical framework that can lead to an understanding why racial stereotyping occurs will be based on the literature reviews, underpinning the impact of each type of social racial stereotype in the workplace and employee performance. Recommendations on how to overcome racial stereotyping will also be discussed to help eradicate the discriminatory and prejudicial effects of racial stereotyping in the workplace.
Many organizations are trying their best to include racial integration in their workplace policy as a step of overcoming racial discrimination. However, as an organization grows, it becomes more diverse and this makes the employees more susceptible to racial stereotyping. The presence of discriminatory views about a particular race can lead to antagonistic and prejudicial treatment to the racial minorities with twofold negative effects, first on the employees and second to the organization. Stereotyping an employee based on race can limit the ability of the employee to grow professionally and it limits their ability to share their skills and make significant contributions to the growth of the organization. The culture of racial stereotyping can also limit the ability of the management to achieve progress due to the lack of opportunity of leveraging on their employee’s skills and knowledge to attain maximum productivity. As a result, organizations may suffer from decreased productivity, reduced revenues, and poor corporate performance. Harboring the culture of racial integration is essential in order to overcome the barriers of racial stereotyping and its negative effects to organizational performance. In order to determine the best approach to overcome the issue, it is necessary to identify the different kinds of racial stereotypes in the workplace and to underpin the theoretical background for each in order to fully understand the root cause of the problem.
Stereotyping is a serious organizational behavior that needs to be addressed because of its negative consequences on employee performance and organizational productivity. There are different types of stereotyping in the workplace and this may based on the account of one’s race, age, gender and religion. Gender based stereotyping is based on the perception that men are rational, assertive, and highly competitive individuals, making them fit to become leaders. Gender based stereotyping revolves around the dimension on the account of competence and activity (Itzen and Newman, 1995), thereby stereotyping women as the weaker gender, while men as the stronger gender and can become a better leader. This type of stereotyping can lead to misrepresentation of true talents and skills of the employees regardless of gender. Gender based stereotyping has the chilling effect of discrimination against women’s leadership ability.
Age related stereotyping, on the hand, involves different views. Negative stereotypes may see older employees as slow, weak, resistant to change, and with the difficulty in adapting to the modern technology used in the workplace that make them unproductive. On the other hand, some may also positively view older employees as good mentors, seasoned with experience, wiser and more dependable. Younger employees are also susceptible to both negative and positive stereotyping views. They may be viewed as goal oriented, with good potential for more career development on one hand, and they can be viewed as one with a lower stability in work performance and lack experience on the other (Brooke and Acker, 2008). As a result of age stereotyping, older or younger employees are not given the equal opportunity to participate in the major decision making process in the workplace or other major activities, giving the management the limited ability to make use of all the potential talents and wisdom that each of its employees possesses. Age stereotyping can also influence the management policy of hiring employees by enforcing an age limit as a requirement for employment.
Religious stereotyping involves the perception about an individual’s personal attributes based on their religious beliefs. This can produce prejudice behavior against an employee and can also be a potential source of harassment in the workplace The literature studies of Paludi, Paludi and DeSouza (2011) accounted for the negative consequences of religious stereotyping as leading to emotional and psychological distress to an employee, with the majority of the harassment and derogatory statements being done in front of co-workers and even with clients around. This could lead to social isolation, anxiety, depression, shame, frustration and the lack of self esteem that can affect the employee’s performance at work.
Racial stereotyping can result in the biased perception about an employee on the account of race. The common stereotyping based on race involves the perception of an employee as being lazy, not sociable, and quiet. Blacks in particular have reported to be prevalently stereotyped as lacking the basic skills in job performance (Catalyst, n.d.). Racial stereotyping results in discrimination in the workplace, leaving the affected employees trying harder to prove themselves to their co-workers and the management. As a result, racial stereotyping relatively reduce their opportunity towards career advancements, leaving them working harder than necessary to redeem their self confidence and find their place and value in their workplace.
A workplace environment that harbors negative stereotyping can threaten a target social group member’s aspiration towards future leadership and career advancement. Moreover, studies in the contemporary workplace revealed that the social racial discrimination remains to be prevalent, with many employers expressing stereotypical views about blacks having softer skills than the white employees and use this stereotyping views in their screening procedures when hiring employees (Bobo and Fox, 2013). As a result, many organizations hire whites more than blacks despite the applicants having equal educational levels. Social stereotyping can perpetuate the development of misinformation about a certain racial group. Evidence suggests that the cognitive activity of stereotyping can occur automatically (Devine, 1989) and in order to correct racial stereotyping control of the cognitive process must be observed and taught in the workplace. A typical example of this automatic view point of racial stereotyping is portraying Blacks as less competent than the White employees, rendering them less capable of handling more serious supervisory work and taking higher positions in the organization. Literature reviews also provide the common stereotyping in the workplace that involves Asians as better in physical science, engineering, and math, which allows this group of racial minority to dominate high ranking positions in these related fields in the workplace (Suh, 2009). The social racial stereotyping also occurs in televisions related to character variables, where blacks are dominantly portraying the roles of villains and criminals, while whites taking the role of executives and high profile characters (Lemon, 1977). Moreover, black women are given loud and boisterous characters than white female characters (Reid, 1979), giving the black race with the characteristic stereotyping of being disobedient, unorganized, unreliable, and noisy.
Paludi, Paludi and DeSouza (2011) conceptualize four theories why racial segregation is prevalent in the workplace. First, ethnic minorities are identified to have skill deficits as compared to whites. Second, racial groups often choose to take occupations that are similar to their ethnic group. Third, economic and organizational structure may have encouraged racial segregation, although it may be unintentional. Lastly, the organization itself engages in placement decision making that involves racial stereotyping. Based on the study conducted by Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, and Sanford (1950) on racial stereotyping, they formulated the authoritarian personality theory describing certain patterns of cognition among prejudiced or authoritarian individuals is characterized by intolerance, rigidity, ambiguity and over generalization. This psychoanalytic approach in theorizing about racial stereotyping give the inference that certain individuals see the social worlds in terms of superiority and inferiority. Individuals viewed as inferior (coming from the racial minority) tend to suffer from rejection and are perceived as less competent. Other theorists also associate prejudicial behavior with psychopathology, where the social identities and group processes may have an effect on individual cognition and biases.
Theorists also explore the contribution of social structures that influence the discriminatory behavior, perception, interpretation and judgment about individuals belonging to a particular race. This may also pertain on the perception of the social roles that certain racial groups occupy, thereby perceiving them as less competent or motivated as compared to other racial groups by applying the social cognitive theory. This may also be related to Bandura’s social learning theory, where the perception of racial stereotyping is learned through observation and reinforcements coming from the environment (Holt, 2010).
It is usually natural for people to have their own perception about certain individuals, but stereotyping can have a negative effect in the workplace. The main concept of racial stereotyping is the biased perception about an individual’s capacity to perform in the workplace, causing significant impact to the affected employee and the organization in general. Workplace injustice may occur, causing harassment on account of the individual’s racial profile and this may result in a hostile working environment that prevents employee productivity. Grubb, Roberts, Grosch and Brightwell (2004) describe another type of harassment in the form of workplace bullying where certain groups of workers are being offended and socially excluded that consequently deteriorates the interpersonal relationship among the employees in the workplace. Workplace injustice can also result from the biased perception on individual capacity to earn a promotion because an employee is stereotyped as incompetent and lazy because of their racial orientation.
The impact of racial stereotyping is great in terms of employee performance. The mere exclusion of certain racial groups in developing their skills and competence in the workplace can be a barrier towards achieving professional growth and development. The lack of opportunities given to certain racial groups can lead to depression, lack of self confidence, anger and the lack of motivation of the employees. As a consequence, the organization will also suffer low employee turnover, reduced revenues and operational productivity. It will also be more difficult for the management to improve employee teamwork because of the barriers caused by racial stereotyping. There has also been an increasing report about absenteeism due to racial stereotyping and discrimination (Alleyne, 2004), and social isolation is also another outcome of prejudicial racial stereotyping in the workplace. Among the negative impact of racial stereotyping is the relatively increasing counterproductive behaviors of the employee, such as lateness, lack of motivation to meet deadlines and diminishing their commitment to their job performance (Allan, Cowie, & Smith, 2009).
Because racial stereotyping involves individual cognitive perception, it is often difficult to quantify its prevalence in the workplace. In order to determine whether it does exist within the organization, a more accurate way of determining its presence is the conduct of a survey or an interview among the employees. According to some academicians, racial stereotyping may be camouflaged and deeply seated within the individual perception and this may only be expressed by giving an individual the opportunity to express what they “think” (Konvalinka, 2007). Overcoming the same can be more complex if the management does not know the extent of stereotyping that exists within the organization. Awareness is the fundamental step in planning for the best countermeasure to implement against racial stereotyping. Surveys and interviews can be a good tool in extracting biased perceptions of the employees that can help the management understand what type of problem they need to resolve to find more accurate solutions to it.
Communication can also play an important role in the development of racial stereotyping. By misjudging an individual based on a biased perception, racial stereotyping in the workplace occurs. Stereotyping is a natural product of the communication process (Zhang and Deng, 2009), and a better communication system must be observed within the organization to correct misconceptions and biased judgement about a certain group of workers. This makes the communication process important within the organization. Stereotyping on the account of race may be eradicated by communicating a clear policy against such practice and to develop human resource programs that will encourage employee interaction in order to promote a better quality line of communication and an opportunity for every worker to get to know each other better. Through interpersonal interaction and group activities, wrong perceptions will be corrected either expressly or by gestures through an objective observation about the other person’s behavior. Most of the time, the inaccurate information that we may learn from others influence our biased judgments that can impact on how we treat people belonging from racial minorities. By promoting an organizational culture of equality and uniform policy in terms of hiring and promotion, the management itself will communicate the policy of racial integration within the organization. Observing a performance-based promotion will help an organization define objectively every employee’s competence and this will nurture the culture of eradicating racial disparity in the workplace.
Racial stereotyping is a major barrier towards employee and organizational productivity. The biased perception about a certain group of people belonging to a certain race can promote discrimination that can affect the employee’s performance, with emotional and psychological implication that can affect their work performance. As a consequence, organizations may suffer from poor revenues, decreased employee output and slow productivity. Organizations should observe the diligence of preventing and eradicating racial stereotyping at the workplace by utilizing tools that can help them understand the extent of the racial stereotyping present and be able to define more accurate policies as countermeasures. The theoretical frameworks of stereotyping in the workplace may be caused by social, cognitive and individual differences that can be corrected by fostering a culture that gives an opportunity for every worker to correct their biased perception about a certain group of people in the workplace by introducing a more objective perception. By helping workers improve their interpersonal skills and promoting social interaction among them, it is easier to correct their unbiased perceptions through the introduction of a more objective way of judging an individual based on factual information gathered from such actual interaction and communication. This can help eradicate racial stereotyping and help in improving organizational performance and productivity.
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