Managing Groups and Teams/Stereotyping

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Stereotypes[edit]

Stereotypes are general assumptions individuals hold against other individuals of a different socioeconomic or characteristic group. Those who appear different than us are most generally stereotyped under another more or less fortunate grouped based primarily on image; most generally wrongfully categorized. For instance different cultures base a lot of creditability of another country based upon what they may see in the media; this is never quite as it seems. Where did stereotyping come from?

History of Stereotypes[edit]

Prior to a discussion and analysis of stereotypes, it is important to recognize if stereotypes exist in society. Many experts argue that stereotypes are developed at an early age influenced by family friends and social surroundings. For example, if an individual grows up with minimal exposure to a certain minority race, then the media plays a more crucial role in shaping that individual’s perception of that minority race. Stereotypes tend to exist when there is a limited or no mixing of different cultures within ones socioeconomic surrounding; also referred to as the unknown culture. Some experts believe that stereotypes are “are actually a neverending chain of thoughts.”[1] It is an inherent cultural ignorance that disposes individuals to misconceived perceptions.

Those misconceived perceptions can have a negative and positive impact on one’s life. Negative impacts exist where “If one group may assume the other group is deceitful and aggressive, they themselves will respond in a deceitful and aggressive manner, leading the opponent to respond in the like, thus confirming the initial group's perception creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.”[2] Negative stereotyping can lead to those being discriminated against to feel less accepted, thereby creating an innate disruptive behavior and creating feeling of lower self-worth. Such low emotion creates in an individual “feeling of inferiority and lower self-worth.”[3] Positive impacts occur where there is an increase in moral and performance because the individual feels they are part of an accepted group.

Stereotypes have traditionally been defined as “something conforming to a fixed or general pattern, a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group representing an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or critical judgment.”[4] Stereotypes were first branded by Firmin Didot as a term for printing, creating a duplicate impression, original typographical impression. However, they were later associated with pictures in people’s heads of one’s perception of what is right and what is wrong. Stereotypes tend to be exaggerated beliefs about specific social groups or types of individuals. We develop our stereotypes from a sense of learned perception from family, friends, religion, and the media. These stereotypes we possess are “standardized, simplified conception of groups based from prior assumptions.”[5] Stereotypes have been classified into two groups: inter-group and out-group. Inter-group stereotypes are those “where personal identity and self-esteem are derived from groups to which they belong or can identify. They are more normal and superior.”[6] On the other hand, out-groups have been defined as “less attractive, outcasts or all other groups generally seen as inferior to inter-groups.[7]

Stereotypes have continued to endure during the passage of time. Stereotypes will constantly persist until people are better educated about the differences between groups and cultures. Some experts feel that stereotypes are influenced by the government and will continue to exist as we continue to “divide and conquer”.[8] With the high influence that the media puts on socioeconomic cultures, stereotyping will continue to exist so far as those in less diverse geographical areas rely on what outside influences they receive regarding various cultures. The fear of the unknown is what drives the existence of stereotypes. Stereotypes continue to be generated from individuals who fear others that are of a different race or culture, the unknown. The fear of the unknown, also referred to as the “Non-uniformity, tends to create misunderstanding.”[9] In addition, “the competitive aspect of human nature supports the innate need to prove oneself more worthy than another. The differences between people make it easier to compare to one another.”[10] Until society can learn to be more tolerant of those that are different, stereotyping will continue to exist.

Problems Caused By Stereotypes[edit]

A number of problems tend to develop from the assimilation of stereotypes in society. Stereotypes cause various problems that impede the proper functioning of teams. One such problem is group divisions. Demographic characteristics such as age, ethnicity and gender are “easily observable and team members use them to attribute specific patterns of thought, attitudes and behaviors to themselves and others. Some suggest that most people are attracted to, and prefer to be with, others who are demographically similar to themselves.”[11] Group divisions tend to cause “harmful divisions within organizations because of the lack of coordination and support.”[12] An additional problem caused by stereotypes is missed opportunities. A perceiver of a situation assumes that the target possesses the same characteristics of other members of the target’s category stereotype and incorporates those attributes into his or her impression of the target. By attributing attributes, the “perceiver places the target into a category, thereby possibly missing out on the target’s real strengths.”[13]

Often, successful managers are viewed as more similar to men than to women on attributes considered critical to effective work performance such as leadership ability, self-confidence, objectivity, forcefulness, and ambition. Essentially, “women are not believed to possess the qualities essential for success in management positions, possibly causing companies to miss out on promoting women to important management positions.”[14] The last problem caused by stereotypes is a negative impact on employees and the employee's performance. When managers who are prejudiced against certain groups allow those prejudices to influence how they treat employees, “the prejudice becomes institutionalized and affected individuals become systematically disadvantaged.”[15] Research has shown that stereotypes can have a negative impact on employee feelings and behavior, inhibiting the employee from performing to the best of his or her abilities. Stereotypes also “make employees work harder, but not better. In sum, when stereotypes are present, performance declines.”[16] The stereotype threat describes the experience of a person who is aware of a stereotype about his or her identity group suggesting shortfalls in performance on the given task. This awareness can “have a disruptive effect on performance.”[17] Making salient negative stereotypes about both black and white athletes has the potential “to cause poorer athletic performance relative to when they perform an athletic task in a positive or neutral evaluative context.”[18]

How to Identify Stereotypes in Team Members[edit]

Stereotypes can affect all individuals in a team. Two common stereotype issues that individuals may succumb to are stereotype threat and social identity theory. Stereotype threat has been defined as “A fear individuals experience when they are at risk of confirming a negative stereotype that is held about their group." Steele and Aronson in this definition are referring to any group that an individual may identify with i.e.: gender, religion, ethnicity, etc.”[19] There are a number of factors that cause stereotypes to affect individuals in a team. The person must view themselves, or be viewed by others as a high performer. The individual feels as though others in the team have high expectations for their performance. In addition, the individual must have a strong identity with the stereotyped group. This person must also “be in a situation where others might question their abilities.”[20] The last factor is that “those individuals who are most easily affected are those who expect discrimination or who believe that a stereotype is legitimate.”[21] Stereotype threat can affect individuals, but it is difficult to identify.

There are several effects caused by stereotype threat. One effect can be the self-fulfilling prophecy. The self-fulfilling prophecy exists where “Individuals identifying with a stereotyped group are so concerned that their actions will have negative implications concerning everyone in the group. This stress can inevitably affect their performance which brings on the results they most hoped to avoid.”[22] In fact, studies have shown that stereotyping in teams “can limit working memory and self monitoring capabilities.”[23]

Another common problem with stereotypes in groups is social identity theory. The social identity theory has been defined as “Individuals gain their identity from the groups to which they perceive membership.”[24] Factors that are attributed to the social identity theory include “Individuals define themselves by the social groups to which they belong then they work to elevate themselves further by drawing comparisons between their group and those not in the group. This is called in-group vs. out-group.”[25] The effect that the social identity theory has on teams is that “By classifying people as in group/out group this leads to discrimination of members of the out group.”[26] Teams will suffer if individual team members do not treat each other with respect and accept each person’s differences.

Managing Stereotypes[edit]

There are various ways to ineffectively manage stereotypes. One ineffective way of managing stereotypes is through stereotype inhibition. While individuals who were motivated have been “shown to make fewer stereotype connections in situations in which they would otherwise activate stereotypes,”[27] it can actually “lead to increased stereotyping, as a rebound effect leads to more increasing after stereotypes were suppressed.”[28] An additional ineffective way of managing stereotypes is through increasing familiarity. The Intergroup Contact Theory proposed by Gordon W. Allport in 1954 stated that interpersonal contact could reduce stereotypes. However, contact alone is not sufficient because “individuals not conforming to stereotypes will be rejected from the category and placed in a sub category.”[29] Anxiety and threat levels can increase prejudice, while additional goals, such as equality among the different groups, common goals, and a lack of competition, can “lead to intergroup friendship and structured optimal contact, thereby leading to the best results.”[30]

Effective methods to manage stereotypes include mental imagery, where recipients using counterstereotypic mental imagery were able to reduce implicit stereotypes. By stopping implicit stereotypes from happening, the judgment or stereotypical behavior is avoided. Preventing the implicit stereotypes from occurring “halts the suppressing of stereotypes which can lead to the rebound effect.”[31] Perspective taking is an effectively proven method to manage stereotypes. The process of taking another’s perspective to focus on situation constraints and influences are helpful in explaining their behavior without resorting to stereotypes. This helps other groups to “become part of your own in-group and leads to more positive associations with the group.”[32] An additional method of effective management of stereotypes is superordinate goal. When two groups have stereotypes towards each other, the introduction of a superordinate goal that depends on both groups for success has been shown to lead to cooperation, reduced friction, and changed attitudes toward the out-group. Friendships “were also formed with members of out-groups.”[33] The last effective method is to eliminate stereotype threats. Studies have shown that introducing negative stereotypes can lead to poor performance. Social identities become active when stereotypes are available and apparent. By eliminating stereotypes and introducing positive associations, overall team performance can be improved.

Conclusion[edit]

Stereotypes have been a part of our culture since the beginning of time. They will continue to exist indefinitely. The true test would be how do we continue to create a better worldly understanding of the differences between each other? By recognizing the personal stereotypes we hold against each other and how we ourselves are being stereotyped, we can begin to understand one another and better communicate our beliefs and positions more clearly.

References[edit]

  1. Wikipedia, “Stereotype” Theories (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/stereotype) Retrieved 2010-02-07, pp 3.
  2. Burgess, Heidi, Beyond Intracability.Org, “Stereotypes/Characterization Frames” October 2003
  3. Elliott, Jane, “Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Exercise”, (http://www.janeelliott.com/workshop.htm) Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  4. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. “stereotype” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stereotype) Retrieved 2010-2-14
  5. Wikipedia, “Stereotype” Etymology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/stereotype) Retrieved 2010-02-07, pp 1.
  6. Wikipedia, “Stereotype” Dynamics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/stereotype) Retrieved 2010-02-07, pp 1.
  7. Wikipedia, “Stereotype” Dynamics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/stereotype) Retrieved 2010-02-07, pp 1.
  8. Enrolled Mohawk Native, Yahoo Answers. “Why do stereotypes continue to exist?”, (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090308155312AAn3QPK) Retrieved 2010-02-14.
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  13. Kulik, Carol T., Elissa L. Perry, and Loriann Roberson. “The Multiple-Category Problem: Category Activation and Inhibition in the Hiring Process.” Academy of Management Review Vol. 32, Issue 2 (Apr. 2007): 529-548. (Kulik 529).
  14. Block, Caryn J., Madeline E. Heilman, Richard F. Martell and Michael C. Simon. “Has Anything Changed? Current Characterizations of Men, Women, and Managers” Journal of Applied Psychology Vol. 74, Issue 6 (Dec. 1989): 935-943. (Block 935).
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  24. "Social Identification." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Thomson Gale. 2008. HighBeam Research. 15 Feb. 2010 <http://www.highbeam.com>.
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  28. WBodenhausen, Galen V., C. Neil Macrae and Alan B. Milne. " Saying "No" to Unwanted Thoughts: Self-Focus and the Regulation of Mental Life." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1998 Vol 74: 578-589.
  29. Hamburger, Yair. “The Contact Hypothesis Reconsidered: Effects of the Atypical Outgroup Member on the Outgroup Stereotype.” Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 1994 Vol. 15.
  30. Pettigrew, Thomas F. and Linda R. Tropp A META-ANALYTIC TEST AND REFORMULATION OF INTERGROUP CONTACT THEORY February 2010 http://www.iq.harvard.edu/files/iqss/old/PPBW/tropp.pdf.
  31. Blair, Irene V.; Jennifer E. Ma, and Alison P Lenton. “Imagining stereotypes away: The moderation of implicit stereotypes through mental imagery.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2001 Vol 81(5): 828-841.
  32. Galinsky, Adam D, and Gordon B. Moskowitz. “Perspective-taking: Decreasing stereotype expression, stereotype accessibility, and in-group favoritism.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2000 Vol 78(4), 708-724.
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