How are cultural stereotypes holding us back?

When meeting people of other cultures and nationalities, what we see first is cultural perception, and only then the person, which can significantly influence and jeopardize equality and fairness as well as the diversity of talent within the corporation.

Diversity – The art of thinking independently together.
Malcom Forbes

How often do you happen to have a certain opinion about people of another nationality without having met them at all? You know those sayings about hardworking Japanese people, innovative Americans or expressive Italians. Stereotypes permeate most segments of social life, and in the process of globalization in which we are more than ever connected to the rest of the world, this seems to be markedly expressed.

Cultural perception before individuality

To be honest, have you ever (or better, how often) found yourself in a situation where you meet a new person, and in the first moments of the conversation your way of thinking and impressions are already predetermined by something you’ve heard before? When meeting a person from, for example, the UK or Italy, the first thing we see is cultural perception and only then the person. Although this is a normal and inevitable human process, it can cause problems in all segments of life, including work, given that cultural differences can easily jeopardise equality and equity.

Today we are aware that all these thoughts are based on stereotypes, and if they exist within a small country like Croatia, where we have “lazy Dalmatians and drunk people from Zagorje”, it is not surprising that generalizations are related to much larger geographical and diverse cultural characteristics. Each of us belongs to a community that has its own characteristics. However, what is interesting and even frightening is how much these general thoughts about members of a particular nationality or culture affect our individual thoughts, impressions, and even activities, without having our own experience from which we can form a relevant attitude.

Cultural stereotypes are common in tourism, so people who rent their houses and apartments usually have a strong opinion of their guests depending on where are they coming from. And while most of us can find these stereotypical thoughts and statements that no nation is spared from making fun out of them, lines are sometimes crossed to such an extent that, for example, some people refuse to provide services to citizens of a certain nationality. Such decisions are often made based on previous personal bad experiences, but sometimes also based on the experiences of others, when people are guided by the saying “Stupid people learn from their mistakes, smart ones from others”.

Tourism is certainly challenging and in this case perhaps a specific example and a kind of grey zone in which renters as private persons have the right to use their property in any way and with whom they want. Some would agree on this, some would not, but it is unquestionable that cultural stereotypes are not only visible in tourism and hospitality, but may seem to us to be most noticeable there.

Cultural stereotypes affect employee satisfaction

As already mentioned, when meeting a person of another culture and nationality, what we see first is cultural perception, and only then the person, which can significantly affect the diversity and inclusiveness of talents in the business world.

Stereotypes also limit management in finding and retaining the best workforce and using a variety of skills of diverse talents. Restrictions also lead to inequalities in opportunities for advancement, thus compromising employee satisfaction and motivation.

As in other segments such as gender or generation, while threatening transparent communication, equality and fairness, cultural stereotypes lead to dissatisfaction, lack of productivity and employee morale, and division of employees into groups and “us and them”. All of this ultimately contributes to corporate failure.

kreiranje korporativne kulture koja njeguje raznolikost, inkluzivnost, rodnu jednakost i pravčnost

Diversity increases chances for corporate success

McKinsey’s research shows that companies with a diverse workforce are more successful, productive and smarter for a very simple reason – working with different people poses a challenge to our brains, encourages us to think, adapt to new conditions and find better solutions. Diversity and inclusiveness contribute to productivity and increased employee motivation and satisfaction, which also affects business success.

Deloitte’s results show that teamwork of diverse people is 1.4 times better, and employee engagement is even twice as high. Diversity of employees contributes to business with greater creativity and innovation of employees, more efficient problem solving and decision making, and increasing tolerance and flexibility.

Times change and with time employees have become those who direct the recruitment process by choosing a job based on values ​​other than salary and vacation days as not so long ago. Good working conditions, company values ​​and social responsibility today are key factors that your potential talents consider, and one of the most important things is the employer’s attitude towards employees. This is where concepts like diversity, inclusion and equality come into play that should be at the top of today’s list of leaders. Everyone’s talents need to be seen and appreciated, and this is only possible in inclusive and diverse environments.

Diversity and equality are becoming a necessity, not a privilege

The importance of cultural stereotypes and cultural diversity was recognized by UNESCO who back in 2001 declared this day, May 21st as the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. The aim of celebrating today is to encourage promotion and respect of cultural diversity and to create conditions for public discourse and acceptance of different cultures and civilizations in the context of globalization to create a society of cultural diversity, equality and justice.

The European Commission, on the other hand, declared this May as EU Diversity Month to raise awareness of the importance of diversity and fairness in the workplace and society as a whole in the European Union. Helena Dalli, EU Commissioner for Equality, said: “Let’s take a bolder stance on diversity and do something about it. Let us show our commitment to equality and celebrate European Diversity Month together this May. We will create a fairer and more equal Europe for all through a variety of jobs. ”

With the MAMFORCE method, we help companies become more inclusive and diverse in the workplace and lead to solutions that provide a stimulating and prosperous environment in which everyone can thrive and use their full potential while respecting and synergizing their differences. Celebrate European Diversity Month with us and sign up for your MAMFORCE audit here.


Lucia Ursic
Source: SmartBusiness

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