Ethnocentrism in the Workplace: Dominant Role Models in Business Fails in an Increasingly Multicultural Global Marketplace


By Marcelina Horrillo Husillos

“Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers” Josh Bersin

In today’s global economy, businesses that embrace diversity and inclusivity are more likely to succeed and thrive. A 2015 McKinsey report found that companies with the most ethnic and racial diversity in their management were 35 percent more likely to be financially successful.

While homogenous groups may naturally get along better, cross-cultural understanding creates a better working environment and a better world. Rather than relying on a crutch of old-world prejudices and misconceptions, diverse work groups improve internal climates and external results for businesses.

Businesses with a strong centralized structure and a dominant decision-making style, such as “my way or the highway,” are likely to engage in stereotyping, and hiring employees “like us”, risks failure if it doesn’t set aside preconceived ideas and fails to adjust to the diverse multicultural.

Ethnocentrism: a feeling of superiority over others

“Prejudge is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible” Maya Angelou

If ethnocentrism is allowed in a workplace, the result is often intragroup conflict, fueled by favouritism, exclusion, and cliquish behaviour. When conflict is rampant, performance and productivity suffer. To avoid ethnocentrism and the impression that management implicitly supports discrimination, managers should objectively analyse their biases, learn about other cultures and styles, and always strive to maintain open channels of communication.

Cultural Stereotypes: dismantling the Spanish siesta

“We shouldn’t judge people through the prism of our own stereotypes”. Queen Rania of Jordan

Almost 60% of Spaniards never have a siesta, while just 18% will sometimes have a midday nap, according to a recent survey. In fact, the Spanish spend far more time working than many of their counterparts in Europe and in the US. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Spaniards rack up 1,691 hours at work each year

A CEO who doesn’t analyse his own personal and cultural stereotypes and assumes that people from other cultures are less capable or intelligent than people from his own culture may replicate discriminatory working practices or treat employees unequally. This attitude will lead not only to biased treatment (The Pygmalion Effect) but to a homogenous workforce that lacks diversity and creativity, preventing the company’s ability to adapt to changing market trends and customer needs. Furthermore, cultural stereotyping limits management’s ability to make the best use of their employees’ skills and help them develop new skills.

‘Lazy listeners’ – Accent Bias

“Do you know what a foreign accent is? A sign of bravery”. Amy Chua

A recent study from Sutton Trust indicates that accent discrimination is still a pervasive issue. Similar findings have been revealed in previous studies within the United States. One study from the University of Chicago found that a foreign accent makes a person seem less truthful. Accent discrimination may also show up as hostility in the workplace. Those rating the job performance of non-native speakers may unconsciously rate them as less favourable.

Accent does not equate to intelligence, talent, or value, and should not invalidate a person’s ability to contribute, add value or participate in work. Organizations that consciously or unconsciously bias their employee pool based on their accent are losing out in the end.

As with foreign accents, listeners find it more work to decipher ‘non-standard’ native accents because the brain has to work a bit harder, and memory and comprehension can be lower, making it more likely that listeners will lean into preconceptions associated with those accents. “We are kind of lazy listeners, and we rely on stereotypes when we don’t have other things to go by,” says Devyani Sharma, a sociolinguist at Queen Mary University of London. 

Hire for a culture “add,” not a culture “fit”

“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything for better or for worse” Simon Sinek

The thought behind hiring a cultural fit is: if they think like me, see things like me and react to situations the way I do, they will naturally help the company grow and prosper. But this has come to light as being an outdated policy. Instead of assuming that the CEO or manager’s way to see things is the ideal culture in the company, considering the very real possibility that having people with a different culture or view of things can bring a new perspective to company projects or dialogues. Or they can connect with diverse partners and stakeholders in a way that the dominant culture hasn’t previously succeeded. Think outside the box about how someone’s culture or dialect can actually enhance your company culture instead of “fit” into it.

Hiring team members that bring something new to the table instead of perfectly matching the current team adds value, and on the contrary, having too many like-minded people is called affinity bias, which leads to groupthink and decreases innovation and thinking outside of the box. Hiring employees based on what they add to your culture increases diversity and innovation while also challenges the status quo.


We live in a rapidly growing global economy, and the companies that consistently top the Fortune 500 list are global in nature. Companies need to employ people who represent diverse populations, points of view, and styles to compete on this world stage.

Savvy CEOs and managers are the facilitators for inclusivity and diversity, not just because ID is the way forward in today’s society, but because diverse and inclusive teams bring greater profitability and unlimited opportunities of creativity within business. Non-homogeneous groups are also more able than homogenous groups to identify their biases and work to keep them at bay when making important business decisions.

Diversity without inclusion can result in a toxic culture, and inclusion without diversity can make a company stagnant and uncreative. Companies are starting to focus more on diversity, but many disregard the inclusion piece of the puzzle. Without a concerted effort towards both inclusion and diversity, your workforce will feel out of place and unsupported.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients” Richard Branson

About The Author

Marcelina Horrillo Husillos, Journalist and Correspondent at The European Financial Review



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