|Welcome to Econ 050: Economics and business that matters to the Netherlands and the world. In each episode, Northern Times editor Traci White interviews a new expert about everything from trade wars to the psychology in your shopping cart. This podcast is a co-production between The Northern Times and the Faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Groningen.|
Professional credibility: Post doc Burcu Subasi on how perceptions of minorities can impact their job performance
Not minorities are equal – some are more equal than others in the eyes of their majority culture colleagues. If there is one Chinese person working in a group of otherwise exclusively Dutch colleagues, he or she may not be given vital information about certain clients or deals that could help their professional performance – and it’s not because of the language barrier. Depending on how similar a foreign person’s nationality is perceived to be to the dominant culture, he or she may be taken more or less seriously in a professional context. A German colleague may be perceived by Dutch co-workers as being more similar and therefore credible, and knowing that someone is an expert makes us treat them with higher status. Preconceived notions about someone’s nationality and their status can actually impact our perceptions of their skills, like language and competency. How can we solve that?
On how a minority group member’s status is determined:
Traci White: Can you give an example of what would be a minority that has a slightly higher status than somebody else from the Dutch perspective? What would be considered a more similar status minority?
Burcu Subasi: I found that German people really have very high status among that people actually are almost equally valued like Dutch people. There is really very little between German and Dutch. But what I find in the pilot study I also put some other nation of that is and then actually, Turkish and Moroccans and among the lowest in their hierarchy.
Traci White: In what ways?
Burcu Subasi: In terms of culture. For example, Germans are more similar to the Dutch people than Chinese are. So the majorities are attributing stuff to so many minority them people have the tendency to not get themselves as a focal point. They compare other cultures to their own.
On how to get majority colleagues to communicate with their minority team members:
Burcu Subasi: When you are observed, you feel more accountable for your actions. They become maybe aware that they should take individualized information into account to make to be able to make good decisions and correct decisions, because otherwise they can just have a hunch and then make their decision or share or not. So without thinking about it that much but when they feel that their jobs are done they think oh I’m accountable for my actions.
On why being proactive does not always make a difference for a minority team member:
Traci White: To what extent is it up to the minority member person to try to inquire about that information, or how much is it up to the other employees to be proactive about that?
Burcu Subasi: I also personally think that minority members should be also very proactive and ask, and then start initiating communication. But we also observed that when a minority members wants to speak about or discuss a certain issue, then the other team members become a bit more dominant in the discussion. They are listening, because they might need information from [the minority team members], but they are more focused on their own problems instead.
On why having multiple non-majority team members matters:
Burcu Subasi: Let’s say that there is a 10 person team, and then nine of them are Dutch and there are four Moroccans in the entire team. So then numerically, more people are minorities because there are four Moroccans and six Dutch people. But you can still make minorities: there can be one Moroccan, one Chinese, one Swedish or one American. Then there are still four minorities and six major majorities, but the team is still more diverse in this why. So there are people from different background, and then people cannot perceive the team as “we are Dutch, they are Moroccans”.
On how managers can help ensure their employees treat each other equally:
Burcu Subasi: When people know that you are an expert on a topic and at the workplace, then they start forgetting about your nationality and they start to evaluate you in terms of your expertise. So then they attribute that status to you in terms of your expertise instead of your national “team”.