Leveling the Playing Field

But how, if we do not even
know if we are considered a leading player?

Guest post by Rosalie Chamberlain

 

It
is really common to think we can assess someone and think we know how they will
be.  There is a certain amount of wishful
thinking when a new employee comes on in an organization. After all, the resume
is great, the experience may be great, and we really liked them.  We think they will be a fit. 

We
can update and change policies and procedures to be more Inclusive and this is
necessary, but if someone is stigmatized because of conscious or unconscious
bias, real change won’t happen. Sometimes, we even categorize that person even
without knowing we do it. How can you really see someone if you have already
decided how they will be? This squelches possibilities. And if a policy is new
and you want people to take advantage of it; say, for instance, a flexible
schedule policy or telecommuting, and an employee thinks or knows they will be
stigmatized, why would they take advantage of it? Policies are being put in
place all the time and they are not effective. Until we are all responsible for
looking at our biases and their impact, real and sustainable change does not
happen.

This
is where the rooting out of our biases is crucial. It brings a tendency to see
things from a dualistic lens.  And it
works both ways.  From the dualistic view
as a leader, I can’t realize the impact of putting someone in a box because of
assumptions and biases. As the employee, I won’t take advantage of a benefit
that could enhance my work experience and work satisfaction, yet alone my
opportunities for growth and advancement.

So,
that is one example. When we do not recognize bias is present, the negative
effect also impacts how employees show up in their willingness to share ideas,
creativity, engagement and innovation. There is clearly something wrong with
this picture.  Left in unawareness of
what is happening, the patterns do not change. What happens is a perpetuation of
bias on both parts. It becomes habit.

An
important piece for sorting through bias is to recognize what happens when the
F.E.A.R. loop comes in. What happens when we experience fear?

F – We are in Fight or Flight mode; we become defended and often defensive.

E – We Exclude; we can become isolated
and separated from others and even ourselves.

A – We Avoid; we avoid seeing
other perspectives or looking deeper into cause and effect.

R – We React; we react from our
emotions, sometimes focusing on the past or a perceived future.

Here
are some questions to bring awareness to the situation and transform the
feeling of fear:

F
– Who and why do I want
to fight or flight; how am I
defended and what am I defending against?

E
– Who am I excluding and how am I isolating and
separating from others and from myself?

A
– What are my beliefs
and perceptions and what other ways of viewing a situation or person am I avoiding?

R
– What are my emotional
reactions and where are they coming
from within my experience?

Gaining
clarity through awareness gives us a choice to make a conscious decision that
is not driven by fear. Even if a little discomfort still exists, it is a very
different feeling that is manageable.

Another
important factor about biases is that they are varied and broad. We often think
of the five major areas of race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation as
the biases to address. Absolutely, awareness of these is critical to improve
the lack of inclusion and diversity in organizations. And, we also have biases
about personality types, work styles, communication styles, socio-economic
backgrounds, geographic backgrounds, status, rank/privilege, family status,
education, and the list goes on. Understanding these types of biases are also important
for interaction with colleagues and the effectiveness of teams.

Our
biases impact who we put on teams, provide effective feedback to, give
opportunities to, position for advancement, let alone hire in the first
place.  It does mean that we become best
cohorts or friends, but it does mean we miss out on significant amounts of
talent when we make decisions of inclusion and exclusion based on a lack of
awareness of our biases and how they impact our decisions.


Rosalie Chamberlain is the
Owner of Denver, CO-based
Rosalie Chamberlain
Consulting & Coaching
. A
thirty-five year organizational culture and eighteen year corporate coaching
veteran, she specializes in maximizing talent and productivity within
organizations. She is a skilled consultant,
facilitator, coach and speaker in the areas of diversity and inclusion
strategy, multicultural competency, leadership development, and talent
management, with expertise in managing and leveraging diverse talent.

Previously,
Chamberlain was a Diversity & Inclusion Manager for a national American
Lawyer Top 100 law firm. She received her diversity and inclusion credentials
from Cornell University’s Institute for Labor & Relations (ILR) and was
certified through the International Coaching Federation. To learn more visit
www.rosaliechamberlainconsulting.com
and connect on
Facebook
and
LinkedIn.

Her new book, Conscious Leadership in the Workplace, is
available on
Amazon
as well as other online booksellers.