Recently a department head in my building stereotyped me as a frat boy after less than two weeks on the job. It made me laugh at first thinking that some of the most successful leaders of our time were “frat boys” who made their way in the business world. It led me to wonder why I was given this stereotype by an individual who had known me for less than a few weeks and whom I had interacted with for less than a few hours.
It’s possible that this label was thrown on me because the person labeling me is twenty plus years older, female, and recently moved to our city from a much less diverse area. My communication style mixed with my title, millennial age and approach apparently gave her this viewpoint. I laughed it off because I was not in a frat nor have I ever been accused of coming off as a “frat boy.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course!)
Over time though it actually started to make me rather angry. Not that I had been labeled but that she was allowed to actually label me in such a short period of time. If we are not supposed to stereotype and label in our personal lives then why would it be deemed appropriate in our professional lives? Stereotyping individuals in the workplace can be detrimental. If you categorize a person based on their looks, job, department or demeanor then you will fail to find the best in those you are surrounded by and can help your team to be the best.
Approaching everyone with a fresh slate will give you access to all of the diversity that may exist in your office. Just because someone may be young, old, work blue collar or white collar or simply walk and talk differently than you doesn’t mean they can’t contribute more or even better than those you have empowered. If you put people in a box then you will only be able to gain the minimal potential from them.
I laugh at the idea of this individual calling me a “frat boy” because I have been respected by my peers and bosses for the job that I have done for years. My only hope is that they will not categorize anyone they interview or eventually hire because the potential in their talent may be pushed aside due to a label.