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Good Leaders Minimize Unconscious Bias

October 18, 2018

Recently a new Mindtools newsletter showed up in my email. I thought the topic was interesting since there is so much talk about unconscious bias.

 

As leaders we need to make sure our decisions are not based on our unconscious biases regarding race, gender, age, social class, etc. The Mindtools article states, “The reality is that our attitudes and behavior toward other people can be influenced as much by our instinctive feelings as by our rational thought processes. And that hidden drive affects everything, from what you'll eat for dinner to who you'll pick to run the next meeting.”

 

Whether we realize it or do, we do make judgements about people based on their age, weight, skin color, gender, educational level, disability, sexual orientation, job title, etc. This can lead us to make assumptions about them as well as take certain actions towards them, consciously or unconsciously. Discrimination, even if unintentional, affect people’s job performance, job satisfaction, commitment to the team and the company, etc. It can also cause formal complaints and grievances to be files, and lead to legal action.

 

We need to increase our awareness of our unconscious biases. Think about your biases and be honest with yourself regarding stereotypes you have about age, weight, skin color, gender, educational level, disability, sexual orientation, job title, etc. These biases can influence your actions as a leader, especially when hiring or promoting people, doing performance reviews, etc.

 

We also need to develop a mindset of valuing diversity and send a clear message to those we work, letting them know that we value and embrace diversity. You can do this in many ways, but one of the best is to lead by example – treat everyone with respect, don’t stereotype people, don’t condone others stereotyping people or being discriminatory, use non-biased language ("he or she" instead of always using "he"),  

 

Valuing and embracing diversity has many benefits. Having people with different skills and abilities can lead to better team performance. It can also help with customer satisfaction as people with different skills and abilities have different perspectives and experiences, which enables them to meet the needs of different customers. Additionally, having people with different perspectives and experiences can allow for greater innovation and can provide insights that lead to better problem solving and solutions.

 

Here is a link to the Mindtools article, Mindtools - Avoiding Unconscious Bias at Work

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