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How Can Ethnocentrism Fail You?

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

Author of the article

Author: Merveille Madada

Date of Publication: 19/03/2023

“The promotion should have gone to someone more deserving, like us.”

“I don’t think they’ll represent our department well.”

“People like them are usually sleazy, I doubt they’ll work well.”

“Have you seen their hairstyle? So unprofessional.”

“They are the ones who will work on the project? What a joke.”

Pretty narrow-minded comments, aren’t they? Now, these were examples of ethnocentrism, but imagine hearing those types of comments all the time. Which is something that no one should go through. That’s why it’s important to recognise ethnocentric monoculturalism. Therefore, this article will help you understand why ethnocentrism in the workplace, or anywhere, shouldn’t be taken lightly.

What is Ethnocentrism?

Ethnocentrism or ethnocentric monoculturalism is the idea that your own culture is the standard and superior to others. There is no getting around the fact that ethnocentrism is common. One might even encounter it in varying forms across all cultures and all fields in life.

Is Being Ethnocentric wrong?

ethnocentrism, ethnocentric monoculturalism, culture, discrimination, stereotyping

Let’s all be honest, up to a certain extent, and no matter how much we'd want to pretend otherwise, we all are a bit ethnocentric. In the end, it's not unreasonable to feel a sense of national, cultural, or ethnic pride. In a world where some people think you should be embarrassed by who you are, being at ease in your own skin is a sign of strength.

In this day and age, it's important for everyone to be completely comfortable with who they are. However, the challenge is to avoid doing so at the cost of others. While similarities exist between cultural pride and ethnocentrism, these two concepts are different. So, believing that your culture is superior to others, or assuming that what is right and true about your culture should be applied globally, is where the fault starts.

Its Impact on Work

Yet the globalisation of business has increased the importance of cultural awareness and sensitivity in the workplace. In fact, staff members who are unfamiliar with expatriation may feel uneasy. So, misunderstandings between co-workers of various ethnicities can rapidly be fuelled by ethnic nationalism.

ethnocentrism, ethnocentric monoculturalism, culture, discrimination, stereotyping

Moreover, it's easy to establish opinions about one's colleagues, superiors, and clients based on a single, generalised assumption rather than the facts. For example, when someone is stereotyped, their unique qualities and abilities are overlooked.

For example, let’s say a worker called a customer a "moron" because the customer took too long to grasp the information being conveyed. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for a supervisor to yell at and insult multinational employees as they don't share the same background, culture, or ideals. Which brings discrimination, stereotyping, being biased, and cultural insensitivity within the business world.

As a consequence, work performance will decline, service quality will fall, and business ROI will lower. Along with that, the employees will feel a clear division between the “internal" and "external" teams, knowledge will be closely guarded and used as a tool, and genuine conversation and cooperation will be limited. In short, a business's innovation, problem-solving capacity, and ability to compete will all be affected when a lack of diversity in the workplace is allowed.

Therefore, if someone doesn’t deal with these types of behaviours within the business, they may lead to the complete downfall of a company.

How to Change This?

To begin with, it's important to identify and capitalise on the shared experiences and values of your co-workers. Interactions between co-workers from various ethnicities may be strengthened via the discovery of shared goals and the pursuit of the same values.

While interacting with multinational co-workers or having intercultural conversations for the first time, avoid cultural disputes. Thus, you can focus on developing common goals and try working together from there on. In fact, it will help to form open communication within the group.

Can You Prevent It?

ethnocentrism, ethnocentric monoculturalism, culture, discrimination, stereotyping

Unfortunately, there is no cure for ethnocentrism, so it is hard to prevent it from happening. But that doesn’t mean that there are no other ways of helping you to change your ways of thinking. In particular, you can broaden your mindset, and help understand people who are different from you.

Know Yourself

Recognize the benefits and drawbacks of your current situation. Be aware of how rooted your ethnocentric views are. Realising this allows you to make the necessary behavioural adjustments and accept that something must change.

Be Informed

Educate yourself on the topic of cross-cultural communication or multiculturalism by reading about it. Apart from that, you can hear about it first-hand through events, seminars, and workshops. Engage in conversations with people of different cultural backgrounds and probe them for insights.

Hear Them Out

Find out what the other person is saying before you attempt to get your point through. If necessary, repeat or rephrase statements and opinions by considering them from the perspective of another person. This way you will achieve a deeper level of comprehension.

Prevent Offense

Adopting a new way of doing things will need dedication and time. In fact, we all need to learn from our errors and sometimes we require more than one chance to change our ways. Therefore, think twice before saying or asking anything that might be taken in the wrong manner whenever you realise you're to offend someone.

Take Action

When acts of discrimination, stereotyping, and prejudgement are taking place, approach the scene and try to act accordingly to help. If possible, educate the person or group on their wrongs.


ethnocentrism, ethnocentric monoculturalism, culture, discrimination, stereotyping

There is nothing wrong if you embody ethnocentrism, as long as you don’t feel like you are superior to others. Making someone think or feel that they don’t fit in the “norm” that you are used to, is the problem.

What’s more, maybe without realising it, you might have judged somebody as "not normal" due to simply their appearance or speech. That’s why it is important to bring awareness about this topic, learn about different ethnicities and move forward with an open mindset.

Moreover, bringing awareness doesn’t only help create an enjoyable work environment or boost the company’s image. It also sets an example for the future. Thus, improving your cultural sensitivity is truly important, whether that has to do with your personal life or your professional one.

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