The exploration of stereotypes among non-academic staff within a South African higher education institution
After the first democratic elections in 1994 in South Africa, various changes took place in terms of socio-economic, educational, and urbanisation status. South African organisation's had to replace discriminatory policies with new policies to integrate all people and to embrace diversity. These posed more challenges for organisations. Higher education institutions are an example of such a diverse working environment which is changing rapidly. These changes resulted in more diverse management teams and a more culturally diverse workforce who posed various dangers, such as an increasing lack of tolerance, misunderstandings, frustrations and reinforcing stereotypes. There have been many researchers that have focused on stereotypes; however, studies on stereotypes within South Africa are limited more especially within higher education institutions. The purpose of this research project was, therefore, to explore what individuals within a South African higher education institution understand regarding stereotyping, the types of stereotypes that exist amongst them and their experience of these stereotypes. The general objective of this study is to explore the experience of stereotypes among the non-academic staff within a higher education institution. Qualitative research from a phenomenological approach was used. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data. A total of 30 support staff members were interviewed. A combination of both quota and convenience sampling was used. Interviews were tape recorded. Content analysis was used to analyse and interpret data. The results indicated that al I participants understood the concept 'stereotype.' The main existing stereotypes include age, culture, gender, occupational, qualification and racial stereotypes. These are the stereotypes that they have of others and those that they experience themselves. There is also an indication that stereotypes have different effects on the stereotyped which are cognitive, emotional and behavioural effects. Many of the participants have an opinion that stereotypes originate from one's past experiences, primary and secondary exposure and one's subjective perceptions. Recommendations for future research and practice were made.
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