Understanding and recognizing stereotypes is a good way to start a self-discovery process while thinking about your own perceptions of diversity. Stereotypes are fixed generalizations that produce an oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person. In general, there is no such thing as a positive stereotype. As employees in a field where diversity is ever-present, we need to recognize when we fall into the stereotyping trap. Begin by asking yourself questions, such as:
- What are my stereotypes and fears of people in other identity groups?
- Are there stereotypes that I've experienced that have ever angered or hurt me?
- Do I infuse my own personal biases and fears into my workplace interactions?
Stereotypes form due to the perceptions that we make. Perceptions arise as a mechanism to streamline the intense amount of information our brains process when sensing the world around us. These perceptions become our reality. Then, as we continue to process the information we receive from our daily experiences, if we do not allow contradictory information to process into our simplified perceptions, then stereotypes are created.
Prejudice emerges from stereotypes, similar to the way stereotypes emerge from our perceptions. Prejudice is created when differences between individuals are viewed as weaknesses. Although these thoughts may often hide in the back of our minds, they may still affect behavior. In the healthcare environment, where stressful situations often occur along with unusual events, we may subconsciously allow our prejudices to impact who we choose to include in a situation, who we rely on for help, who we choose to engage in an activity with, and so on.
When embracing diversity, employees can assess whether personal stereotypes or prejudice make an impact on their workplace behavior. Next, they should actively work towards correcting their perceptions in order to fully support one another as a team, and to allow everyone's strengths and abilities to shine without barriers.