How to Address Bias in the Workplace

FamilySparks, a local social impact company, has put together some valuable actionable steps on how to address biases in the workplace.

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The death of George Floyd has sparked a civil rights movement that is resonating worldwide. People from all walks of life are promising to address their implicit biases and to do better as society moves to end systemic racism.

But what does doing better look like? FamilySparks, a local social impact company (and a past Douglas 10 to Watch winner) hosted a webinar in June in Victoria promoting dialogue and education around bias – what it is and how to address it, both personally and in the workplace.

Douglas asked FamilySparks to give us some key takeaways from the webinar to help us all understand what bias is, and provide actionable steps on how to address our biases as we work to end systemic racism in our society.

What Are Biases?

Biases are prejudiced thoughts held about a certain person or group compared to another, often in a way that is considered to be unfair. We all have unconscious biases that affect our daily lives (e.g. conformity, confirmation, and self-serving biases) and cause us to treat those who are different from us unfairly.

These biases have an impact – they feed and maintain harmful stereotypes, discrimination, and oppression by impairing our ability to interact with the world objectively. Biases are seen every day in research and daily life. For example, job applicants with foreign-sounding names are less likely to be called in for interviews and both men and women are more likely to hire a male candidate.

Key Steps You Can Take to Address Biases in the Workplace

Make your diversity and inclusion guidelines clear as day.
Ensure that your company policy is concise and direct regarding racism and discrimination. If you’re a leader and discrimination seems to be a problem in your workplace, verbalize often what will and won’t be tolerated. When a leader speaks publicly about issues as important and sensitive as these, it gives staff permission to bring them up in future.

Prioritize education and don’t’ shame the offending employee
If an employee discriminates against another employee, talk to each of them about it privately first. Use “I” statements such as “I felt… when ….” rather than accusatory language. Tell them what specifically about their behaviour was wrong to provide them an opportunity to learn. For the offended employee, ensure that they know you will not tolerate discriminatory behaviour and that you will support them. Explain the actions you’re taking to prevent it from happening in the future. Offer any resources you have to help them heal.

Nurture diverse social circles at work
Host events that promote diversity and intermingling of departments and social groups. Run activities that cause different groups to depend on each other and to utilize each of their strengths.

Aim to hire diverse audiences
Come up with demographic goals based on your area and do your best to meet them. Try hiding demographic information and names on job applications and review based on experience and qualifications only.

Ultimately it is important to remember that diversity is valuable. And embracing diversity does not take away opportunities, it actually opens them up for everyone to be more understanding, educated, and successful.

Key takeaways and actionable steps provided by FamilySparks.

Additional Reading: Ruth Mojeed Promotes Workplace Inclusion