An exploration of stereotype perceptions amongst support staff within a South African higher education institution
Moloto, Given R.B.
Nel, J. Alewyn
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Orientation: After the 1994 democratic elections, South African organisations had to replace discriminatory policies with new policies to integrate all people and to embrace diversity. As a consequence stereotypes may be more prevalent in diverse working environments. Research purpose: The objective of this study was to explore the experience of stereotypes amongst the support staff within a higher education institution. Motivation for this study: Changes within South African working environments, and specifically higher education institutions, resulted in more diverse management teams and a more culturally diverse workforce. With this in mind, the experience of stereotypes may become more prevalent within South African working environments. Many researchers have focused on stereotypes; however, studies on stereotypes within South Africa are limited, especially within higher education institutions. Research approach, design and method: The research approach was qualitative and a case study design was employed. A combination of both quota and convenience sampling was used. The sample consisted of (N = 30) support staff within a higher education institution in South Africa. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data. Main findings: The results indicated that the participants do experience stereotypes within their workplace and also hold stereotypes of other people within their workplace. The most prevalent stereotypes mentioned by participants were age, gender, racial and occupational stereotypes. There is also an indication that stereotypes have cognitive, emotional and behavioural effects on the stereotyped. Practical/managerial implications: Organisations should do away with stereotyping by embracing and managing diversity and dealing with stereotypes, specifically within higher education institutions. When managers are aware of stereotypes and the effects thereof in the organisation, they can make every effort to eradicate the stereotypes and address the impact thereof. Contribution: In an environment where there is a diverse workforce, stereotyping is more likely to exist. This study will provide useful information about stereotypes within a higher education institution seeing that there are a limited number of studies on this topic within South Africa and within this specific occupation. The results of the study will enlighten the organisation to become more aware of stereotypes and the debilitating impact that they have on the individual and the organisation, thereby providing the organisation with the opportunity to address stereotypes and the impact thereof on employees and the organisation.