We are encouraged to become ever more open-minded and accepting of people. Whether a workplace leader or a coworker, it is important not to stereotype as it can lead to unfair or inaccurate conclusions which may cause you to treat people inappropriately. Get an honest understanding of your people as individuals before you draw conclusions that may affect them, yourself, and/or your workplace unfairly.
Generalizations differ from Stereotyping because generalizations are connections made to a specific group, rather than attributing the qualities of a group to an individual.
For example, a part of Chinese culture is that they value music. That is a generalization. This becomes a stereotype if you assume a Chinese coworker plays the piano.
The difference between the two is subtle, but if not handled correctly can leave people feeling uncomfortable.
Acknowledge your Bias. The first step to avoid stereotyping is acknowledging that you have a bias. We all do! It’s called unconscious bias. There are stories we are told, even as children, that become a part of our belief system, and whether we act on them or not, the prejudice is there.
Accept that you can make a mistake. When one uses stereotypes, there is always the chance that they are wrong. Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume someone stole your wallet if you simply misplaced it. This step is key in having respect for your peers.
Get to know people better. Ask them questions, try to walk in their shoes and understand them better. Not only does this show respect, but it opens the door to friendships and a more welcoming workplace environment.
Don’t generate labels. Labels make you think you know more about a person than you really do. Just because someone is an engineer, doesn’t mean they are an introvert. And even though someone is an introvert, it doesn’t mean that they won’t enjoy going to lunch with you.
Look for commonalities. Focus on commonalities rather than differences so as to build relationships. Similar interests create comfort zones. This paves a path to understanding and new points of view that you may not have explored before but will find enchanting moving forward.