Unconscious Bias – It can be organizational as well as personal

A year ago, I provided a two part series on Unconscious Bias, which defined this phenomena and how to address it at the personal level. Since that time, I have developed an in depth workshop that is now being offered as part of the National Diversity Council’s training program. In addition, I am available to provide consulting and customized training on unconscious bias for clients.

But … want to know something very important? Unconscious bias, defined as “the attitudes of stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner… in ways we may not even be aware of ….” is not only personal. Organizations themselves can also have a culture of embedded unconscious bias. Often the unconscious bias of the majority in leadership or in power can then become the norm for the entire organization.

Here are some ways unconscious bias can manifest itself in an organization:

Recruiting and Hiring – it is so easy to gravitate toward people who have more common in ourselves or our organizational culture rather than skills. One example in the hiring area is bringing in engineers or lawyers overwhelmingly from one particular university.

Work Assignments – leaders can tend to give the plum assignments to people most like themselves, or could give assignment out based on stereotypical views; e.g. the single person with no children will be more dedicated to this tough project than an employee with small children.

Very often organizational unconscious bias can impact effective team work.

Team work – we may gravitate to working more closely with people like ourselves and unintentionally not draw in or listen to people who are different.

Promotions and Talent Development – we see organization unconscious bias in the way the white male senior corporate leadership seems to perpetuate boards and c-Suites that have very few women and people of color. Are diverse people given the chance to be mentored and developed in leadership? See my recent guest blog on the Importance of Minority Coaching.

Treatment and Interaction with clients – we can see this often in retail environments where people in the majority population or who are older or dressed more conservatively are given preferential treatment.

An establishment needs to handle organizational unconscious bias in the same that personal unconscious bias is handled:
1. Take the time admit that unconscious bias does exist in your organization and start to identify the ways it is manifested.
2. Put together an action plan with specifics in how to address those manifestations of organizational unconscious bias.
3. Take action, establish metrics, measure the progress, and hold leaders accountable.

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Contact me to discuss the customized unconscious bias training I can provide for your organization!  [email protected] or call me at 919-787-7315

Why Do We Tolerate Bad Bosses?

Far too many people leave a job to get away from that "boss from hell."

Far too many people leave a job to get away from that “boss from hell.”

As a diversity and career development consultant, I often teach workshops for Human Resources Professionals and Business Owners on the importance of investing in talent development. Part of that investment will be providing tools and resources to assist employees in building their skills and growing their longer range careers

One of the tools I provide is an analytical way to evaluate if a potential new position is a good fit. Unfortunately, many people do not make job decisions based on logical rationale, but often on more emotional issues, with the top one being to get away from that “boss from hell.” Too often people leave a decent job and run to a less than optimal position that does not really meet their professional or career goals.

In a recent workshop with HR professionals, I emphatically asked, “Why do we tolerate bad bosses?” They often cost our companies millions of dollars in lost employee productivity and attrition cost. With the high cost of recruiting and onboarding new employees, the cost of employees quitting to escape that bad boss is a large loss. And the remaining demoralized employees will spend too much time complaining about that bad boss or looking for a new job instead of focusing on delivering outstanding business results.

I believe HR professionals need to take the lead on addressing “bad bosses.” Some recommendations:

1. For a fairly new manager or first time offender, do offer training to address the manager’s shortcomings. Hopefully the manager will understand their issues and work hard to correct them. If the manager won’t even admit they are lacking in management skills, they need to be removed.

2. Managers with a repeated record of employee complaints and poor ratings on employee engagement surveys simply need to be removed from people management roles. One alternative to firing a bad manager is moving them laterally or perhaps demoted into an individual contributor role.

3. Offer a track to senior leadership that is based on strategic and technical skills that does not involve managing staff. There can be some excellent technical leaders who simply cannot learn how to manage others, yet they feel the pressure to move into management as the only option of growing their careers.

The most common objection I receive to not removing bad managers is “But they deliver business results. They get the job done” But really? Are the results that a bad manager may deliver worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars of recruiting and onboarding costs to replace departing employees? And are the results worth the poor morale and productivity? Something to think about.