We All Stereotype

I'm Russell Stratton, President and Leadership Champion with Bluegem Learning.

I work with organizations of all shapes and sizes helping develop managers to build engagement and to improve individual and team performance.


As we're leaning into "Respect at Work Month", we're launching this new VLOG series aimed at the topic to help you begin to look at this important issue more closely.


The first topic that needs to be discussed when we talk about respect in the workplace is STEREOTYPING!


Stereotyping underpins most of the disrespect that perhaps we encounter in the workplace.

Now when I've spoken at events and workshops with people, I often ask, "How many people here ever stereotype?". Often we have some people put their hand up, but most people sort of say, "no, no Russ, I never do anything like that."


We'd all like to believe that we're the Paragon of virtue and would never dare dream of stereotyping other people. The reality is of course, that we all actually stereotype and sometimes for a very good reason.


What is Stereotyping?


Stereotyping is when we assign traits to people based upon a social category membership. It's quite a natural thing for us as human beings to do...

What is Stereotyping?

As we start to meet different people from different groups, we tend to categorize them into types of people-groups in our own minds. This is partly down to our fight and flight response as we assess whether a person is somebody "safe" to with.


As we've evolved these groups become vast and include categories like

  1. Is this somebody I could trust to business with?

  2. Is this somebody I could trust with information about my family?

  3. Is this somebody I believe could do a good job for my company?

  4. Is this somebody I would want to spend time with on the weekends?

  5. Is this somebody I want to avoid at all costs?


While this is a natural response in human interaction, the problem arises when we automatically start to assign particular behavioral traits to people that we perceive to be in a particular category or social group.

When we are interacting with individuals who are part of a group that we ourselves are part of or that we identify with, we will usually assign positive characteristics to these people because generally most of us think positive things about ourselves.


The flip side of that is we tend to assign negative traits to groups that we don't identify with.

This is this concept sometimes referred to as "othering" where we think "Okay, we're great over here, but the folks over there, not so much." Now we've found ourselves in a place where we look favorably upon ourselves, but less favorably upon others and this can be the first stage - if we don't check our behavior quickly - where we start to move into discrimination because we've actually already begun discriminating between what's good and what isn't.


In the next video I'll be discussing how our belief drives our behavior at work.


In the meantime, if you'd like to get a better handle on how you can make respect to work or reality in your workplace, click on the link below for more information about our upcoming lunch & learn.


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