Overgeneralised beliefs about a category of people or a thing are a major hindrance to achieving heterogeneity and inclusivity. Stereotypes are imposed upon people based on their race, nationality, sexuality, etc. Most importantly, stereotyping can have strong, lasting effects on people subject to the practice, causing negative changes in mood and behaviour even after the event. This practice is embedded in the minds of the people and occur anywhere and anytime.
One major avenue that has become subject to this pernicious practice is the workplace. This not only causes workplace tension, but also silently destroys productivity; considering that the success of any organisation requires cordial relations between the employers and employees on the one hand, and between the employees on the other. The notion of labelling people creates an assumption about the particular person without any prior knowledge, hence, guiding future behaviour towards them.
Stereotypes are expressed not only at the time of hiring but even when a person has been a member of the organisation for long. These can range from gender stereotypes to those of race and caste; more recently, there has been a rise of age-related stereotypes which marks the creativity vs experience debate.
Women at the workplace are the worst victims of these overgeneralised beliefs that have no basis in reality as they have to deal with sexist remarks concerning marriage, pregnancy, etc. constantly. Also, they have their achievements attributed to external factors, whereas, their failures are to their gender — which can be attributed to the “male complex” and the patriarchal nature of society. However, what remains at the end is the fact that these experiences undermine not only their self-confidence but also their productivity.
Just like race divides Western society, Indian society faces the evil of caste, and both these divisions have a major presence even at the workplace. American society — considered to be the most developed society — is plagued with white supremacy which is well reflected in hiring of employees wherein people with the same qualification stand at different levels owing to merely their race, which is a part of their ascribed identity.
We have often heard the notion of how blacks are not “hard-working” enough or have low levels of intelligence. American society is a clear case of how the modernisation of the mind is a laborious and tedious task.
The borderline remains that labelling any category based on their ascribed identity is not only a demeaning practice but can acquire the form of workplace harassment if practised to an extreme extent.
The workplace needs to be an accepting and inclusive arena; we do not need labels, but what we need is to realise how a single person can be a manifestation of varying qualities because when we stereotype we adopt a very reductionist approach in analysing both the person and their contribution to the organisation.
Breaking down stereotypes opens up the possibility of acceptance and inclusion, and in the case of a workplace, leads to higher productivity.
By Gracy Singh