Original Research

Exploring the meaning and origin of stereotypes amongst South African employees

Lizelle Brink, Jan Alewyn Nel
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 41, No 1 | a1234 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v41i1.1234 | © 2015 Lizelle Brink, Jan Alewyn Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 August 2014 | Published: 10 April 2015

About the author(s)

Lizelle Brink, WorkWell Research Unit, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa
Jan Alewyn Nel, WorkWell Research Unit, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa

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Orientation: Stereotypes are defined in different ways and also originate from various sources. 

Research purpose: To investigate how the employees from selected South African organisations understand and define the concept ‘stereotype’ and what the origins of stereotypes are.

Motivation for the study: Individuals hold different perceptions of the same concept. Therefore, different individuals within selected South African organisations may interpret the meaning and origin of stereotypes very differently. This study therefore aimed to discover whether individuals have a shared understanding of the concept of stereotypes and whether they are aware of where stereotypes originate from.

Research approach, design and method: A combination of both purposive and convenience sampling was used for the purpose of this study. The sample consisted of individuals working in selected South African organisations (N = 336). Various employment sectors formed part of this study. Semi-structured interviews were utilised to collect data and data analysis was done by making use of thematic analysis.

Main findings: The results of this study indicated that people employed in selected South African organisations are familiar with stereotypes and have a clear understanding thereof. Participants in this study have a conscious awareness of the origin of stereotypes. Although not all of the participants had direct experiences with stereotyped groups, they were well aware that stereotypes are also caused by indirect sources.

Practical implications/managerial implications: When individuals are aware of where their stereotypes originate, they should actively attempt not to rely on their stereotypes when coming into contact with stereotyped groups. Organisations should educate their employees on the process of stereotypes and exactly what this means and where they originate from.

Contribution/value-add: With this study the emic perspective pertaining to the meaning and origin of stereotypes is explored within the South African context. By participating in this study, individuals may become aware of the fact that their perceptions and opinions of others may be based on inaccurate information. This study may encourage individuals to truly get to know someone first rather than relying on their possibly inaccurate stereotypes.


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