Prejudice in the workplace: ‘If you are not a white man, you must find your own way’ | NOW

Everyone has an opinion about the other at work. This often consists of prejudices, based on a stereotypical image of a particular group. For example, employees with a migration background are seen as less competent and white male colleagues as the most competent. It in turn has an effect on a person’s career opportunities, experts warn.

We all have a certain image of groups of employees, according to a new study from Utrecht University on social images in the Dutch workplace. Women are generally seen as warmer than men, but less competent. We also see people with a migration background and non-heterosexuals as less competent.

As soon as we meet someone, we create an image in our head of that person, says Farah Nobbe from the training agency Nobbe Mieras, who has initiated the investigation. “We first check if we can trust someone and if we can work with them, for example. It’s an estimate you make quickly.”

This estimate has a huge impact on how we treat someone. If we think that someone is not competent enough, then that person is less likely to get one chance. Nobbe: “The same cover letter is seen as less good if you sign with the name of a woman. So you can not easily intervene as a woman. If there are many moments like this in a row, you come back with a lot on.”

“Business context is based on what the white man needs.”

Naomi Ellemers, psychologist

Show behaviors that match the image

It is not only the application letter that makes someone already 1-0 behind, says research leader and social psychologist Naomi Ellemers from Utrecht University. “Business context is based on what the white man needs. It lies in very basic things like certain working conditions, but also in the behaviors associated with success at work. If you are not a white man, then you need to find your own way, which also increases the chance of failure. “

If you do not succeed in getting through an important meeting every time, you may give up at some point. This preserves the image that others have of you. “The image that people who are not white men are apparently not competent enough is thus reinforced. In addition, you will also exhibit a behavior that suits this because people expect it of you. That way, it becomes a vicious circle. . “

It does not help to exhibit the same behavior as people from the competent group. Ellemers: “You often hear that you have to negotiate your salary like a white man. But that’s not how it works. A woman is therefore often seen as bossy and unpleasant.”

Equal options, but not the same treatment

According to Nobbe, what helps is to meet more often at the workplace. “When you work together, you get used to each other and you have fewer prejudices. But we also need a work culture where more people feel welcome.”

“You can give people strength training, but they can not change the system on their own.”

Farah Nobbe, training agency Nobbe Mieras

The top of a company must take the initiative. Nobbe: “You can give people empowerment training, but they can not change the system on their own. There is a lot more influence in the management. Someone from the top has to say, ‘Shit, we’ve completely overlooked someone in the selection.” “

According to Ellemers, it is also very important to offer all the same options, but not to treat everyone equally. “Some people need a different basis to showcase their talents. One can only use the added value of diversity if everyone can do it in their own way.”

No control over the reaction, but over what you do about it

In addition, change takes a lot of time. We’ve been working the same way for so long, you can not change that in one day. Ellemers: “But do not use this as an excuse. Do not think: oh, we could use the old job text again. Take a closer look at everything you’ve done for a long time.”

Ellemers advises both employers and employees to familiarize themselves with a person’s place that is different from theirs. “Also consider what it’s like for a colleague in a wheelchair to work in the office one day. Or think about why one colleague does not like participating in the conversation at the coffee machine. Many companies claim to be color blind, but that’s something. “You can not do. These are reactions that you have no control over, but you have control over what you do next.”

Leave a Comment