Friday, October 29, 2010

Labels and Stereotypes Decoded!

For this post about labels and stereotypes at work, I am not saying that there aren’t any African Americans who don’t fall into these categories. There are. But, probably to a lesser degree than their White counterparts—based on sheer numbers and history.

African Americans grow up under racism. It doesn’t mean we walk around as victims. Our history in this country shows great amounts of courage, perseverance, and triumph. But, it does mean that have learned how to assimilate into “mainstream” society and part of that assimilation means learning how to cooperate with those in authority, particularly those in a position to affect your livelihood and cause you financial harm. We completely understand living under double-standards and act accordingly, so as not to jeopardize our existence.

So, let’s take a look at a few of the labels and stereotypes and how they are used against African Americans in the workplace.

You’re Angry and Defensive

Being labeled “angry and defensive” seems to be the catchall phrase for Whites who don’t know what to do with a Black person--legitimately. You see, they can’t criticize your work or they would simply do so. Therefore, they resort to criticizing your ability to contribute to a so-called collegial and friendly atmosphere at work. They can’t say you’re a bad worker, so they’ll just say you’re a “personality problem.”

When you’ve gotten this label, somehow, you’ve caused Whites to think that you can’t be controlled or there is a need for Whites to control some aspect of your employment that presents “an issue.” Whatever the reason for this label, you’re now the Nat Turner of the workforce and they must put a stop to you.

If you are a hard worker, pay attention to detail, and are excelling at your job—and you’ve been called angry and defensive—you may have done something right, such as:

· telling someone not to be disrespectful to you and to treat you in a fair manner;

· asking too many questions, which someone couldn’t answer or just resented you asking;

· correcting a misimpression made by a White person, such as the true reason a problem was caused on a project;

· asking for a raise or promotion based on your work output and performance;

· professionally confronting someone who was making false statements about you, such as blaming you for something you didn’t do;

· standing up to racism on the job;

· complaining to authorities about mistreatment or misconduct (Human Resources, etc.); or

· saying “no” to a White coworker.

Once you do any of these things, you should be on your guard. The name-calling will begin!! Even if you don’t hear about it to your face, a campaign to slander your reputation may be underway. But, people in the workplace are much slicker than they used to be. When people put enough forethought into their stereotype-driven allegations, they can avoid the racially loaded label of calling you names like “angry and defensive” by, instead, calling you:

· irate
· pissed
· confrontational
· sensitive
· touchy
· snooty
· moody
· not nice
· rude
· unable to take constructive criticism

Have you ever been called one of these names? If so, how many Whites have done the same thing you did or said the same thing you said? Did any of those people get called into a meeting or labeled as having negative personality traits?

Didn’t think so!

The next post, about the Black Factor in the workplace, will deal with the stereotype that Blacks can’t take constructive criticism.



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