Sheryl Battles is a tenacious leader who thrives on challenges. She is passionate about bringing out the best in people by honoring diversity and looking for common bonds.
How do you deal with bias in the workplace and your personal life? Here are Sheryl’s powerful insights:
What is bias?
Bias is a preconceived notion or reaction to an individual based on surface attributes. It can be unconscious and not necessarily based on previous knowledge or experience with the individual. The bias assumes that all who share the same surface attributes have the same characteristics and behaviors. A lot of the drivers of bias are wired in to who we are, so it’s not realistic to think that we can eliminate all bias. It’s about recognizing when you are responding in a biased way and having strategies for working through that.
When you are the target of bias:
A boss walks into a room and there are three people on the team–he goes to two and asks about the weekend, joking around. He gets to you, and just says “hello.” You’ve just experienced bias. Whether consciously or unconsciously he just displayed his preference for the other employees which can ultimately impact opportunities and evaluation of your performance.
How do you change their perception to build an alliance?
- Find common ground. You can pick up on potential areas of shared interest, experience, or even relationships based on what he talks about with the people he favors. Do they talk about sports? He probably doesn’t know you’re a fan as well. The next time he says, “hello,” ask him how his weekend was and if he saw the big game.
- Actions speak louder than words. What does your boss admire in others? Is it skill, initiative, drive? Look for opportunities to demonstrate some of those same qualities through your performance and work ethic. Your performance can open eyes and change minds.
When someone else is the target of bias:
At work: In meetings, your boss always asks what you think, but doesn’t ask this other person their thoughts. Or, that person says something, and no one comments on it, but when you say the exact same thing, everyone thinks it’s the best idea ever.
How do you deal?
- Break the cycle in public. Support your colleague. Make it clear she initiated the idea, saying something like, “I’m so glad you guys like what I just said, Rita and I are on the same page since she said it first.”
- Point our commonalities in private. Often that bias against this person will be expressed in a private setting. Advocate for your colleague by pointing out some positives or accomplishments that the boss may not know about.
How do you deal with your own biases?
- Look for opportunities to be with people who are not like you. It will expand your ability to experience and do different things.
- When you encounter a new acquaintance who may remind you of a problematic person from your past, make an effort to see them as they really are and not just a projection of someone you’ve known.
More from Sheryl…
Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Describe your family
Husband – Curt, entrepreneur
Daughter – Kendall, very talented…she codes and plays 4 instruments
Best advice you ever received
Sometimes, it is good to be underestimated, because when you show who you really are, they had no idea!