To avoid perpetuating ingrained biases that favor the career development of certain types of people, while impeding the advancement of others, it's necessary for everyone to evaluate where bias may creep in to our thoughts and decisions inadvertently or unwittingly. The first step is accepting that as humans we all have blind spots, naturally harbor unconscious bias and may need to get a little uncomfortable in order to catch a glimpse of our own tendencies and assumptions. The key is exercising self-awareness and honest self-appraisal in order to detect the sources and manifestations of bias. Here are some steps and questions to consider in performing an effective audit of your own unconscious bias:
1. Consider: How and to whom you delegate work.
- By giving certain types of tasks to one team member, am I depriving another team member of a growth opportunity?
- Am I giving the same level of detail, and therefore equally setting each team member up for success, when I assign projects?
End goal: Ensuring that everyone has an equal chance to take on challenging and important projects
2. Consider: How you give feedback to different direct reports.
- Am I delivering feedback casually to some team members and formally to others?
- Do I soften critiques for some team members more than others?
End goal: Making sure you're delivering feedback equitably.
3. Consider: Any generalizations you make about team members.
- What kind of assumptions am I making about team members based on age, ethnic background, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, appearance or anything else?
- Do my assumptions impact how I feel about their capability and competency?
End goal: Minimizing the perpetuation of stereotypes while practicing and displaying empathy (both to be a better human and also to work more effectively and cross-functionally).
[Related: How to Talk About Race with Employees]
4. Consider: Who you praise publicly and who you don't.
- Is there a personal motivation behind team members I praise publicly and those for whom I withhold praise?
- Do I limit the exposure of my compliments for some team members and show my appreciation more widely for others?
End goal: Ensuring that you're sharing accolades fairly.
5. Consider: Historic equity gaps.
- Have there been high-profile incidents of workplace inequities at my company rising out of unconscious bias from which I can learn?
- Have I actually considered the unique vantage points of the individuals on my team? Is it possible that my default perspective has caused them pain or discomfort?
End goal: Remembering the past in order to avoid repeating it.
6. Consider: How you evaluate people for a job or a performance review.
- Do I have a fundamental desire to hire people who are like me because it's more comfortable to develop a rapport with them?
- Have I fully considered the benefits of hiring people with diverse backgrounds? And what can I do to short-circuit my knee-jerk tendency to hire carbon copies of myself?
End goal: Ensuring a well-balanced bench and an even playing field.
[Related: 9 Ways to Remove Gender Bias from Interviews]
7. Consider: How and with whom you exchange casual banter.
- Do I have chummy conversations or share hilarious memes with some teammates more than others? How might that affect workplace alliances?
- Do some teammates feel alienated or marginalized by witnessing my clear affinity for other teammates?
End goal: Avoiding outsized allegiances with people based on your shared perspective to the detriment of developing relationships with others having different vantage points.
8. Consider: Who you go to for advice.
- Do I go to the same people time and time again for mentorship? Do they look like me?
- Are there people to whom I could go to for advice and a more expansive perspective?
End goal: Avoid making decisions based only on feedback shared in an echo chamber.
Get in the habit of asking yourself these questions on a regular basis. Your team members will feel the change, and you will likely find that morale, engagement and productivity improve across the board.
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