Breaking Down Barriers in The Workplace

Breaking Down Barriers in The Workplace
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We are each responsible for changing our stereotypes and breaking down the barriers.

Are your own assumptions based on things you have heard from others, in school, TV, or the movies? Is it possible that some of your negative images are incorrect — at least for some people in a certain group? Rather than making sweeping generalizations, try to get to know people as individuals. Just as that will reduce the stereotypes you hold of others, it is also likely to help reduce the stereotypes others hold of you.

Changing Your Personal Approach

Once you’ve identified and understand your baggage, what do you do to make changes? Often, the beliefs you hold are the result of your own cultural conditioning; they determine whether you will seek rapport with individuals who are different from you.

The first step is acknowledging that you’re human, will probably make some mistakes, and likely do have some stereotypes. Next, work to become more aware of your inner thoughts and feelings — and how they affect your beliefs and actions.

We typically make a judgment about someone in less than 30 seconds. To change your personal approach to diversity, try these steps when you make contact with a new person:

Collect information

Divide out the facts from your opinions, theories, and suppositions

Make judgments based only on the facts

Periodically refine your judgment based on the facts

Try to continue expanding your opinion of the person’s potential.

When you have a stereotypical thought about a group that is different from you, follow it up with an alternative thought based on factual information that discounts the stereotype. Engage in honest dialogue with others about race that at times might be difficult, risky, or uncomfortable, and look for media portrayals of different races that are realistic and positive.

Possible answers:

Seek information to enhance your own awareness and understanding of discrimination

Spend some time looking at your own attitudes and behaviors as they contribute to discrimination within and around you

Evaluate your use of terms, phrases, or behaviors that may be perceived by others as degrading or hurtful

Openly confront a discriminatory comment, joke, or action among those around you

Risk a positive stand against discrimination when the opportunity occurs

Become increasingly aware of discriminatory TV programs, advertising, news broadcasts, holiday observations, slogans, and other venues

Investigate and evaluate political candidates at all levels regarding their stance and activity against discrimination

Contribute time and/or money to an agency, fund, or program that actively confronts the problems of discrimination

Sever your affiliation with organizations that have discriminatory membership requirements

Read publications to educate yourself in the area of a culture other than your own

Learn some of the language of those in your community who speak other than standard English

Encouraging Workplace Changes

Diversity initiatives usually start at the top of an organization, but change can be affected from any level. If you work in human resources, or in a functional position of authority, consider performing a cultural audit to describe the overall working environment, unwritten norms, possible barriers, and the existence of race, gender, and class issues.

Learn about the values and beliefs of others in the organization. Be alert for biases and stereotypes

Identify ways to value uniqueness among your colleagues

Watch for changes in relationships. Is there hostility among co-workers? What distinguishing background characteristics do you notice?

Suggest and take steps to implement discussions or workshops aimed at understanding and eliminating discrimination with friends, colleagues, social clubs, or religious groups

Leave copies of publications that educate about diversity in sight where your friends and associates might see them and question your interests

Encouraging Social Changes

Below are several suggestions to encourage breaking down stereotypical barriers in social, community, and other non-work settings.

Suggest and take steps to implement discussions or workshops aimed at understanding and eliminating discrimination with friends, colleagues, social clubs, or religious groups

Investigate the curricula of local schools in terms of their treatment of the issues of discrimination (also discrimination in textbooks, assemblies, faculty, staff, administration, and athletic programs and directors)

Evaluate your buying habits so that you do not support shops, companies, or personnel that follow discriminatory practices

As you gain more awareness and knowledge about groups different than you, not only will your stereotypes lessen, but you will also become better equipped to educate and challenge others about their stereotypes.


More About Workplace Diversity

Understanding Stereotypes
Dealing With Workplace Diversity Proactively
Dealing with Diversity Complaints as a Manager
Dealing with Diversity Complaints as an Organization


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