7 Methods Companies Use to Attack Stereotypes

Standup comedians are great at stereotyping people. You’ve no doubt heard jokes about:

• Asian are bad drivers
• Blondes are dumb
• English have bad teeth
• Irish like to drink
. . . and the list goes on.

Stereotypes may work great for a standup act, but they breed exclusion among employees. They not only wreak havoc in the workplace, they can lead to litigation, loss of employees, loss of sales, loss of customers and difficulty hiring top-level employees.

Seven Methods to Reduce Stereotyping

Removing stereotyping can't be done overnight, but you can take steps right away to change the workplace environment to an inclusive one. Here are a seven methods companies are using to improve their diversity programs by eliminating stereotyping.

Commit to Respect from the Top Down. Today it's vital that organizations make a concerted effort to ensure employees at all levels see and treat one another as individuals, not as representatives of a certain class, race, age, gender, etc. There are many ways organizational leaders can set and achieve goals in the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) area.

Training. Provide diversity training for everyone—employees, supervisors and managers. Training programs like How Was Your Day? help us understand bias and how it can lead to stereotyping, disrespect and a lack of inclusion. 

Socializing. Arrange "get to know you" meetings. Introduce each person and some of their background--particularly their interests and career goals.

New Work Groups. Reassign work groups so people aren't limited to working with the same individuals over and over again. This also allows employees to be exposed to new ideas and experiences.

Positive Reinforcement. Provide positive reinforcement for practices that value workplace diversity. These reinforcements come in many forms, such as giving promotions or recognition based on performance, without favoring a group.

Become more aware. Everyone should not only be aware of their own biases, but also be aware of how certain terminology, humor and negative language might be contributing to stereotypes. If in doubt, ask someone in the group who is being represented if they find a term or action acceptable or not.

Mentoring. The organization, Management Mentors says that one of the benefits of a formal mentoring program is that it can pair up people who would not normally come together. Coupled with training and an understanding of what mentoring is, these relationships will often be profoundly transforming for both partners.

This, of course, isn't an exhaustive list. Companies are trying all kinds of things to eliminate stereotyping and the negative results it brings with it. The most important thing is to take continued steps to creating an inclusive environment for your staff.

Stereotyping is no joking matter.

Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor--with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.