Read Case Study 3.1, Hy Dairies, on pages 85 and 86 in your textbook, and answer Discussion Questions 1–3 on your own before checking the suggested answers below.
Suggested Answers to Case 3.1
1. Apply your knowledge of stereotyping and social identity theory to explain what went wrong here.
It may seem that this case involves stereotyping—specifically, that Syd Gilman has stereotyped Rochelle Beauport. In fact, there is no apparent evidence of this stereotyping. From all accounts, Gilman is sincere in assigning Beauport to the marketing research coordinator job. He seems to be providing—or believes that he is providing—a good career opportunity for further advancement. If stereotyping exists in this case, it involves Rochelle Beauport’s stereotyping of Syd Gilman as a typical sexist and racist white male.
Social identity theory (McShane & Steen, 2012, pp. 68–69) applies to this case in that Rochelle Beauport has an explicit sense of her social identity as a woman and member of a visible minority in a management position. This likely occurs because these are distinctive features for someone in management, as indicated by her statement that she was “one of the top women and few visible minorities in brand management at Hy Dairies.” This strong social identity may have contributed to her perception of her boss, Syd Gilman—namely, that she grouped him in with other men in management positions. In other words, Beauport may have engaged in categorization, homogenization, and differentiation (McShane & Steen, 2012, p. 73).
2. What other perceptual error is apparent in this case study?
There is evidence of the false-consensus effect (McShane & Steen, 2012, p. 78). Syd Gilman overestimated the extent to which Beauport had beliefs and characteristics similar to his own. Specifically, he assumed Beauport would welcome a transfer to the position of marketing research coordinator and incorrectly interpreted Beauport’s non-verbal behaviour as evidence supporting his assumption.
Self-fulfilling prophecy (SFP) (McShane & Steen, 2012, pp. 76–77) may seem to be a relevant perceptual concept in this case. However, SFP occurs when the supervisor’s expectations about an employee influence the employee to act in a way that is consistent with the supervisor’s initial expectations. Gilman’s initial expectations seem to be positive about Beauport, yet the eventual behaviour is that she is thinking of quitting.
Note: Concepts from other chapters are relevant to this case. These include equity theory (Chapter 5) and exit-voice-loyalty-neglect (Chapter 4).
3. What can organizations do to minimize misperceptions in these types of situations?
The clearest answer to this question is to improve mutual understanding. Syd Gilman needs to understand and be more sensitive to Rochelle Beauport’s past, and vice versa. Beauport might discover that Gilman was once the marketing research coordinator and had profited from the experience. Gilman could find out that Beauport had experienced blatant gender discrimination with her previous employer and that staff jobs (such as marketing research coordinator) are not always valued. This recommendation relates to the Johari Window (McShane & Steen, 2012, pp. 79–80); both parties need to increase the “open” window area.
In addition to gaining mutual understanding, both parties should become aware of the perceptual process and the opportunities for perceptual errors in that process. By being knowledgeable of social identity theory distortions, for example, Beauport might evaluate Gilman more carefully, rather than automatically labelling him within a category. Similarly, Gilman might be more sensitive to this instance of false-consensus effect.
Finally, both parties might communicate with others to compare perceptions and gain additional information about the event and the other person. Beauport could talk to other employees; they might clarify her misconception that the marketing research coordinator job is a “sideline” position. Or she might muster enough courage to ask Gilman (without anger) why she should be transferred. Gilman could talk to other managers about the transfer to find out how others may react differently.
McShane, S. L., & Steen, S. L. (2012). Canadian organizational behaviour (8th ed.). Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.