When choosing a career it is helpful to know all the hurdles faced by people in different jobs. Among these are the popular stereotypes surrounding a profession. Depictions of various jobs in movies, on television, in books and in the news shape people's perceptions of those professions and the individuals who practice them. While jobs are likely to have positive stereotypes associated with them as well, it never hurts to know the negatives.
People in some professions are stereotyped as being more concerned with money or with getting the job done than they are with doing the right thing. Stereotypically, salespeople may prioritize making a sale over being ethical, or they may pressure customers into buying things through psychological manipulation. Lawyers, particularly defense lawyers, have similar reputations: they are thought to care more about winning and about money than they do about the truth, justice or innocent people. Politicians are also stereotyped as being more concerned with winning elections than with the truth.
Arrogant Types and Awkward Types
Other professionals are negatively stereotyped as egotistical and cold. Surgeons, for example, are generally perceived as cocky, superior and highly career-driven. By contrast, accountants are often portrayed as quiet, retiring, rather boring people who cannot communicate effectively with others. This stereotype bleeds into the idea of the nerd who works in jobs based in math and science. Anyone who works primarily with numbers may be perceived as having poor social skills.
Artists are stereotyped in several negative ways. They are seen as moody, needy, overly dramatic and self-centered. People also often think that artists are not very grounded in the real world. Young actresses are stereotyped as naively hopeful, visual artists as incomprehensible, rock musicians as irresponsible partiers, classical musicians as stuffy or socially awkward workaholics, writers as self-important, dancers as anorexic and anyone in any art field as poor. If an artist becomes successful and achieves celebrity status, these stereotypes are replaced with the expectation the person is likely to be imbalanced in some way.
Some jobs are seen as for women only and men in those professions may find themselves facing negative stereotypes. A man who works as a nurse, an elementary school teacher, a nanny or a librarian may be stereotyped as weak or ineffectual, or even as failures. People may wonder why a man would choose to become a secretary, a midwife or a dressmaker, and they may stereotype him as effeminate or overly emotional.
- Building Leaders, Inc.: Transcend the Negative Stereotypes of Sales
- State Bar of Michigan: Defending Lawyers; Thomas W. Cranmer
- "Los Angeles Times": Medical Students May Need a Reality Check; Kelly Young; July 12, 2004
- IDEALS: White and Nerdy; Lori Kendall
- Creativity Portal: The Artist: "Tortured Soul" or Joyous Participant?; Lynda Lehmann; August 2006
- "USA Today": More Men Train to Be Nurses; Stephanie Armour; July 11, 2003
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
How Does Stereotyping Affect Communication at Work?
Despite numerous advances in workplace diversity efforts, stereotypes can still have damaging effects on businesses and business communications.
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