Systemic bias is a massive problem in today’s workforce.
It can lead to unfair hiring processes, unequal opportunities for advancement, and an overall lack of diversity within the organization. And as managers, it is your responsibility to address these issues head-on. It’s up to you to create a safe environment for all employees.
It’s not easy to change the dynamics of your team, and in many ways, it’ll take time and patience to shift the mirror from productivity back to the people. But, it is worth it!
When you take the time to address your own systemic bias and guide your team through the same process, you become a healthy unit––a community that cares about one another.
So, remember, as you read through these tips, don’t just go through them like a checklist. Imagine the faces––the team members and the customers that will benefit from your introspection.
Let’s begin by learning more about the exact definition of systemic bias.
What is systemic bias?
Systemic bias is the systematic discrimination that occurs when certain members of society are treated differently because of their group membership.
In business, this type of bias impacts all facets, including the hiring practices, the opportunities for advancement, and the overall diversity of a company.
What can managers do about systemic bias?
As managers in your organization’s hierarchy, it is up to you to create policies that prohibit these types of biases from affecting employees within your company. To do this successfully, there are several steps you should take:
1) Build relationships with diverse communities outside of work
This should be a no-brainer. However, sadly, we live in a world where we have to force people out of their bubbles to burst their biases.
As a manager, it’s not only your job to create a safe environment for your employees, and it’s also your responsibility to expand your viewpoint beyond your lens.
This can only happen if you reach out to people from all backgrounds and lean in a listen. Learn about their values and find ways to see the world from someone else’s shoes.
2) Don’t ask leading questions during the hiring process
Another step that managers can take to address their company’s biases is by prohibiting themselves from asking any question with subtle implications of race or culture.
For example, let’s say that you are hiring a customer service representative for your company. A leading question might be: “We have heard from some of our customers who happen to be African American and Hispanic about how they feel misunderstood.”
This implies that the person being interviewed is also in one of these two groups––and therefore, you might be trying to find a candidate who is also from the same background.
However, this can put specific candidates at an unfair advantage––or disadvantage––depending on their actual race or culture.
If your goal is to hire someone with excellent customer service personality traits and skills, don’t lead questions throughout the interview process, so no one feels targeted.
3) Create a safe space for employees to speak up against bias
It’s your job as the manager to make sure that every person on your team knows they are valued. This means that you are responsible for creating a safe space for all employees regardless of skin color, background, or culture. It’s about creating an environment where it is okay to share about harassment or discrimination without repercussions.
This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything, but it does mean that you should have the back of your team members. They should trust you and believe that you will represent them well before your boss.
Safe spaces are necessary! And HR is not the only one responsible for creating that safe space. You’re the manager, and it’s up to you to set the tone and protect your team.
Remember, a policy without practice is just paperwork. Your team needs to know that you’re all in.
They need to see your genuine care for their wellbeing.
4) Be mindful of microaggressions in the workplace
Microaggressions often go unnoticed and unchecked in the workplace. But they can have a significant impact on work relationships and quality of life for your employees.
There are numerous ways to address microaggressions, but here are three tools that you can use during your next meeting:
1) Apologize to the offending party and listen and learn.
2) Purchase some books that cover the topic and discuss it with your friends or family.
3) Ask for bias training and workshops in your workplace.
These three tools aren’t simply a one-and-done system. You should use this template often, especially if you want to create safe spaces for your team.
Also, one of the best ways you can ensure that you’re taking the proper steps is to check in with your team—monitor employee engagement. Ask your team to give you feedback and keep an open mind when listening to their response.
By tracking your progress through anonymous surveys and reviews, you can better understand how well various policies and practices are working––and which ones need improvement.