Unconscious bias and baggage happen in the workplace. Constantly. These ugly little beasties, sometimes overt but mostly inferred, alter how you play with the other children in childcare, whoops, the workplace.
However, while your actions unconsciously are directed at others, ultimately, you sabotage your own professional self.
Why? First, because you prevent yourself from collaborating with people outside your comfort level. They don’t think like you do, look like you do or have better (or lesser) education than you do. You know the drill: keep the list continuing.
As a result, you do not work with, sell to, design or program for, or serve people who can become tremendous resources for innovation and professional development. Instead of taking a leap of professional faith, you shrink back into the comfort of risk-aversion and remain stuck where you are.
Your actions prevent you from cross-pollinating your professional mindset.
Unconscious bias refers to attitudes or stereotyping which impact how we perceive and interpret situations and then react and decide on a course of action.
Often these perceptions and reactions are so ingrained that you are not even aware that you are in the midst of stereotyping others. In fact, your perceptions and reactions are stereotypically predictable, in and of themselves.
Lack of professional self-awareness is the root cause of unconscious bias. As a result, the thought of professional change makes you professionally uncomfortable.
You are not alone. As unconscious biases thread their way throughout the workplace, employee hiring practices and employee retention rates are impacted. Over time, workplace biases create a homogeneous, rather than diverse, workforce. As a result, everyone becomes professionally uncomfortable with collaboration and creativity.
Homogeneous workforces then reinforce an organization’s homogeneous culture, creating predictable, stereotypical and less than innovative and game-changing output. The workplace becomes the organizational version of the movie, Pleasantville.
Does your organization’s culture reinforce unconscious bias and baggage?
When organizations do business with clients whose own workplace culture is homogeneous, things hum along just fine. However, when companies target more demanding and discerning potential clients, they move outside of their comfort zone. In addition, when current clients decide to make uncomfortable changes, they often see homogeneous vendors with a new filter, fine-tuned to detect unconscious bias.
Then, the canary in the coal mine moment of truth hits us. Often, client defection signals that unconscious bias and baggage have sabotaged an organization’s professional innovation capabilities. As a result, customers now do business with competitors who are more willing to incorporate a diverse perspective into design, delivery and post-sale customer lifecycle management activities.
When has unconscious bias and baggage sabotaged your own ability to compete?
To be fair, unconscious bias is hard-wired into your professional DNA. As a result, unconscious bias typically is not readily apparent to individuals. In other words, you think what you do and how you behave are normal and acceptable, within your frame of organizational, cultural reference.
Until and unless you learn otherwise, you continuously reinforce unconscious workplace bias and drag stereotyping baggage into the workplace (your own and your customers’) each day.
It doesn’t have to remain this way. Have I provoked your critical thinking capabilities? Good! To Do: Here are four questions to chew on, moving forward.
- Do you work in a biased or limited workplace culture?
- Has unconscious bias limited your ability for career development?
- Are you able to successfully win new contracts with customers?
- How might unconscious bias prevent you from being a viable candidate for a more diverse and innovative organization?
Interested in how developing One Millimeter Mindset™ can catalyze professional innovation and create a more collaborative workforce? Contact me here and let’s collaborate.
Babette Ten Haken serves organizations as a corporate catalyst and innovative speaker, strategist, coach and storyteller. Babette’s One Millimeter Mindset™ Workshops and Speaking programs leverage collaboration to catalyze professional innovation, workforce engagement and customer retention, especially in challenging Industrial Internet of Things environments. . Babette’s playbook of IIoT team collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. She is a member of SME, ASQ, SHRM and the National Speakers Association.
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