How To Discover Bias In Your Organization

Posted June 29, 2018 by Mary McGinley

In the time before a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called police on two black men for trespassing while they waited to be joined by a friend, few conversations about bias took place.

The entire incident was caught on video and caused Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson to call for all Starbucks locations across the country to be closed on May 29th so that their employees at all Starbucks locations could hold mandatory training sessions on unconscious bias.  

An article by Kathryn Moody on the website reports that after the Starbuck’s story broke and was widely covered in the media, it gave companies across the country to give voice to some rarely asked but ever-present questions to be asked; What does bias look like and does it affect our organization?

Paul Meshanko, CEO of Legacy Business Cultures says “[Bias] has nothing to do with you being racist or sexist. It is simply human.” He further explained that while biases can be addressed or even managed, they can never be eliminated entirely. Further, not all biases are bad. It’s simply human nature to have some sort of bias in nearly every decision that is made in a given situation, including our daily routines.

When a company has a pool of applicants to choose from, it’s natural to select those who come closest to the organization’s goals or company culture.

Meshanko advises ways to avoid unconscious or implicit bias that can turn into trouble with their workers or the potential of turning into a public relations nightmare as it did for Starbucks. Some of these include:

  • Be mindful and take time when making decisions. Those made on autopilot may contain biases that you simply aren’t conscious of.
  • Keep an eye out for decisions that may be packed with emotion and be prepared to step back or change course if necessary.
  • Create as much of a “safe space” as possible so that different perspectives and opinions can be aired and considered.

By being as inclusive as possible, Meshanko says that people feel better about work and life in general. That can give an organization an edge because workers feel more invested and are willing to do a better job in terms of collaboration and customer service. It’s because they feel appreciated and valued because of what they bring to the table as members of the organization that can make the work environment better for everyone.