The thing about Stereotypes. Part 3.
Work related stereotypes
If you’ve ever watched ‘horrible bosses’, you would see that people can take their interaction at work very seriously. Work takes up a large percentage of our lives and we need to interact with the people we work with. As a result of our interactions we’ve developed methods of stereotyping the people we work with. It has become widely accepted that women in top positions of power make poor, difficult and demanding leaders and sometimes men can be pushovers especially when it comes to dealing with members of the opposite sex. In a company, a woman may get promoted based on the fact that she’s a woman and the company wants to present a good public face of woman empowerment or she may be promoted based on her merits alone. In another company, a woman may not be promoted at all because of issues of gender discrimination or because she really does not deserve to be promoted. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. In the past, things appeared to be less complicated. There were some jobs that were classed as male oriented jobs. Males were supposed to be involved in things like heavy industry and construction. They were supposed to be involved in the army, good in economics, sales and commerce. They were the doctors, drivers, policemen, firemen, milkmen, mechanics, electricians, preachers, undertakers, butchers and body guards. Women were supposed to be involved in -personal care services, caretaking, nursing, secretarial services. They were retail clerks, receptionists, hair dressers and cooks. But these days those lines appear to have become blurred. Males are involved in what used to be predominantly female jobs and vice versa.
One thing however, was clear to me in my research. Even when men and women were doing the same jobs or working in the same professional capacities, they did not have the same stereotyping. In fact, they were classed very differently.
Stereotypes for women.
The Geisha: When she starts out in her career in the company, she’s young, pretty and easy to please. But being too charming can make others think that’s all she brings to the table. A female vice-president of a company was such a person and despite the fact that she was extremely capable-, when her boss was asked to evaluate her, all he could say was that she had an extremely charming person. Charm alone doesn’t always get the job done. In strategic decision making sessions, she wasn’t considered.
The invisible woman: She doesn’t want to be trivialized as charming, so she keeps her head down and work like crazy. She’s always in the background. But no one knows exactly what she does. She might get steady promotions based on her consistency but when she reaches the top of the ladder, there might be no promotion waiting for her because no one knows exactly what her strengths are.
The B: If she’s not a pretty geisha or invisible, she’ll be labeled an insulting name especially if you are tough with juniors or in meetings, or demand that work be returned in time. If she happens to be a meticulous female, quicker at finding flaws than others then that label is exactly what she’ll be given even if in reality it is undeserved.
The Guy: If she survives all three phases, she might eventually become one of the guys. So many women feel that the only way to totally succeed is to assimilate not just in personal style(the helmet hair and the dark suit) but in language, work styles and mindset. The more of a guy you are, the more comfortable men are around you and you feel accepted. It’s just that the person succeeding at the end of the day isn’t you.
The Superhero: For any complex problem, the great leader is supposed to go into his tent and come out with the answer alone. He feels he has failed if he cannot do the task of finding solutions to all the problems on his own. The problem is nobody ever has all the answers.
The Nerd: silent number crunches are supposed to be brilliant but emotionally underdeveloped. Blame the Steve jobs for this one. The problem with being classed as a nerd is that you also have to come up with solutions on your own.
The Green Beret: Loyal dedicated and apparently impervious to exhaustion. They are good leaders and know how to drive the troops(employees under them) to fight fires in the company. They put in long hours and long nights and nearly drive everyone around them crazy, fighting for the cause. In the end, the troops get fed up of fighting fires and the Green Beret eventually gets burned out himself.
The Mom: In these days of enlightenment, a lot of dads want to share child care with their spouses. But when a guy perceived as talking too much about his kids, going for recitals and attending games he shouldn’t be surprised when his co-workers give him a mothers\\’s day card. Totally unfair but true.
The thing about stereotypes is that they tend to be reinforced by the ‘victims’ themselves. Some times when we expect people to behave a certain way, we should not be surprised when they do. We need to give people a little more freedom to be themselves in the workplace. Perhaps if we allow ourselves to see them in another light, we might get a whole lot more out of them in and outside of the workplace.
P.S: What work stereotypes have you seen or experienced? How has it affected productivity at work? Let’s see your comments on the flip side