Although our current society mostly likes to pretend it doesn’t happen and that ‘everyone is equal’ and, therefore, equally important in the team, everyone carries a level of Unconscious bias.
It is a bias that we’re not conscious of, and when it does raise its head and make itself known, we either quash it or attempt to justify it to ourselves.
All members of your team, including you as the team leader, will possess this unconscious bias. As team leader, you will have hopefully honed your skills to push these biases aside, but it is important to realise that others in your team may hold some sort of biased opinions of others within the team.
These views and values could range from perceiving the woman on the team who is also a mother as having been out of the loop for too long and not dedicated to the job. The new young recruit could be seen as the ‘upstart who thinks he knows everything’.
Take a look at your team. Were you responsible for their selection? What is common amongst them? Perhaps they are all male, or all graduates. Perhaps they are all “obedient” or all free thinkers.
You may say that they were recruited on merit and with the help of a committee but US researchers have found that “a focus on merit paradoxically results in more biased outcomes.” Why? Because our unconscious biases influence our choices by adding weight to the competencies we expect our preferred group to possess.
Marital and/or parental status, gender, race, and even dress and attire, to name a few, will all provoke the bias one holds for another.
These may be reflected in how team members interact with each other, how much they trust, how well they engage and how well they work together as a team. It has the potential to reduce productivity.
It can also fuel gossip and rumour, and disharmony within the team if not addressed immediately.
It is also important that you are not only aware of the bias you hold towards each team member, but how you’re projecting it. Just as beliefs about a person may be in your subconscious, so too may be the way you are interacting with and addressing them.
Although you may be conscious about your thoughts, you could very well be engaging with them in an unconscious way that reflects your bias towards them. This works for those you favour above others, as well as those you see less favourably.
Your interactions will be noticed by the rest of the team. Be aware – be conscious – of those biases team members hold towards each other, and those you have towards your team.
Then make sure you’re conscious of engagement, interaction, trust and treatment of your team.
LeadershipHQ is about to launch a Power of the Mix Program for men and women to understand the powerful and unique differences we bring to leadership and we will be covering Unconscious Bias – contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more!
Phone 1300 719 665 www.soniamcdonald.com.au