We’re wrapping up our series on bias at work, after covering gender bias, racial bias, disability bias, heterosexual bias, age bias, and trans bias. We hope you’ve found it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
Wanting to support employees from underrepresented communities and avoid implicit bias in the workplace is one thing. Knowing how to do it – and putting that knowledge into practice – is something else entirely.
It can be easy to feel bogged down and like you have too much to do.
But if you were a member of an underrepresented group (or a different underrepresented group), imagine how you’d feel working somewhere that didn’t notice you experience the world differently.
It’d make you feel even more excluded than you already did.
You wouldn’t feel supported, meaning you’d be less productive in your role. It could impact your mental health, and you may decide to go work somewhere else instead.
So, with that in mind, here are some simple (often common sense!) ways that your business can take steps to counter bias at work, and show you really do support employees.
Listening is one of those skills that everyone thinks they have, but that most people are actually pretty terrible at.
If you interrupt people, you’re not listening. If you try to project your point of view on to someone, or tell them they’re wrong, you’re not listening. You’re trying to control the conversation.
Listening is about shutting up and paying attention to what the other person(s) has to say.
You may not like what they’re saying.
It may make you uncomfortable or even a little anxious.
But it’s only through listening and challenging our own opinions and beliefs that we grow as people and business owners.
Even if we disagree with what we’re hearing.
So, the next time an employee from an underrepresented community comes to you with feedback, a query, or a complaint, listen. Then consider how you can take action against bias at work.
Change your hiring practices
The typical hiring process we’re all used to of submitting a resume, doing an interview or two, then getting a job offer (or not), is outdated and inaccessible. It also leads to biases against many underrepresented communities.
From blind resume screening to group activities that allow you to observe someone’s skills rather than asking them to describe their abilities, there’s more than one way to hire a new employee.
Have a reporting system
There has to be a way for employees to report any issues that they experience. This especially applies to instances of bias at work.
Ideally, you should give employees the option to report anonymously. Not everyone will want their name attached to an issue for fear of retaliation. That doesn’t mean the issue should go unreported, though. Journalists never give up their sources for a reason.
Believe your employees
It’s not unheard of for an employee to draw attention to issues of bias at work and get ignored.
Or worse, the person who raised the issue gets punished instead of the person causing the issue.
Don’t be that business. Be the business that supports and believes your employees, punishing the person who committed the offense, not the whistleblower.
Send sensible surveys
Too many times, I’ve seen businesses ask employees to provide feedback on their jobs and employers via questionnaire…
…then require the employee to submit that questionnaire to their manager, who’ll forward it to HR.
If an employee is having issues with their manager, they’re not going to raise it somewhere their manager can see. And that manager may well delete what the employee has said about them, then go on to make their life even more difficult.
A simple solution to this is to get employees to send their responses directly to HR.
Or make sure that HR is accessible enough for employees to feel like they can talk to someone if/when they have a problem with bias at work.
What works for one employee may not work for another.
Some differently abled employees won’t be able to use the stairs, for example.
Other employees may need a more supportive chair or a filter on their monitor. There are plenty of minor changes you can implement to support employees in the workplace.
Offering employees the option to work from home is another example. It opens up your talent pool, encourages homemakers back into the workplace (many of whom would consider a return to work if they could work from home, instead of needing to be in an office), and it can save you money on office overheads.
Many businesses still assume they can’t trust employees to work from home. But if you feel you can’t trust your employees when they work from home, well, you have bigger problems…
Put policies in place
There are many areas where businesses don’t have to have policies in place, but where doing so can protect both the organization and its employees.
Policies on issues like menopause and transgender rights aren’t required, but they mean that when an employee goes through menopause, they know what to expect from you. They mean that when a trans person considers applying for a role at your company, they can clearly see you’re going to support them – and what sort of support they will receive.
The clearer and more accessible you make these policies, the more supported employees will feel.
Build a diverse culture
The more diverse your culture is, the more welcoming it will be to everyone. When a Black woman walks into a room full of white men, it immediately makes her the odd one out. When a wheelchair user is asked to meet his colleagues on the third floor of an office without access to an elevator, it makes him feel excluded.
The more diverse your company’s culture is, the more mindful everyone will be of these types of issues and the impact it can have on someone’s mental and physical health.
Diverse company cultures are also more productive, make more money, and they’re doing more about climate change.
So, tell me, what’s the downside to a diverse company culture?
Countering bias at work really boils down to two things: building a diverse culture and listening to every employee.
Because you never know which employee will have an idea that could completely alter your business’s trajectory for the better.
They may have the perfect way to solve a problem you’ve been stuck on for months. Because they aren’t a part of the “in” crowd though, they’ve never been given the chance to share their thoughts.
Sometimes all it takes is a new perspective to remind you of what you could achieve.
Building a truly inclusive company culture is key to helping your team members counter bias at work. Creating opportunities for your people to get to know each other beyond the surface level will not only help them overcome their own biases, but will also ensure they feel comfortable calling out issues when they see them. If you want to drive real belonging at your organization, check out Workrowd’s platform, or send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.