Making Diversity Work :7 Steps for Defeating Bias in the Workplace

  • By The Alchemist About Town
  • 09 Aug, 2016

Bits and bobs

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The modern workplace hosts a collection of employees from different backgrounds, races, nations, religions and sexual orientations. For a company to function, all these people have to work together.

Organisational leaders must minimise the tensions between individuals and groups to keep operations running smoothly. Left uncorrected, bias can ruin an organisation. Sondra Thiederman, an expert on diversity issues in the workplace, has prepared a manual for managers and employees who want to recognise and correct biased behaviour. This book contains personal examples and easy step-by-step individual and group exercises for reducing bias.

Take-Aways from the book

  • Bias is a rigid positive or negative belief about a group of people.

  • Bias is an attitude, not a behaviour, but behaviour shapes attitude.

  • Thus, people can fix a biased outlook by acting unbiased, even insincerely.

  • To overcome your biases, use the seven-step “visual renewal process.” Start by becoming aware of your biases, gauging their depth and weighing their secondary benefits.

  • Then examine your prejudices, redefine your sense of kinship, control your biased thoughts and act as if you have no prejudices.

  • People with strong ethnic identities are more open to other cultures.

  • When people see that those whom they view as different actually share their interests and concerns, their intolerance fades.

  • Positive biases that lead to overly favourable treatment can also be destructive.

  • “Gateway Events” – workplace occurrences that provoke sensitive, discrimination-related issues – can present learning opportunities if you follow up with open discussions.

  • Fostering prejudice spreads bias; confronting prejudice reduces bias; publicly opposing prejudice can change other people’s biases

  • Leaders generally agree that workplace diversity benefits business, but good feelings on every side are not an automatic achievement. Sometimes diversity needs organisational encouragement.

  • Bias is defined as a rigid positive or negative belief about a group of people. Such prejudice is an attitude, not a behaviour. Individuals can correct discriminatory thinking, even if it is persistent, when they become aware of its presence and seek to minimise its influence on their lives.

  • Bias is a conditioned response, so people can change it by raising their awareness, exploring alternative ways of thinking and practising new behaviours. The “visual renewal process” raises their consciousness of their own biased assumptions so they can replace them with more rational, less emotional conclusions. This process has seven stages:

    - Become aware of your prejudices

    - Gauge the weight of your prejudices

    - Know when your biases have “secondary gains

    - Examine your biases

    - Redefine groups

    - Control your biases

    - Act as if you are not biased

Dialogue can be the best antidote to discrimination. The key to leading a significant discussion is to set up a conversation that fulfils a stated purpose but that is not charged with emotion. Discussions to deal with discrimination must have a goal. Lead all the participants to understand and agree that they face a common enemy – bias – which this discussion can help them control.

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