From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...
Oct. 6 — Reducing unconscious bias must involve dialogue, not lecturing, buy-in from senior executives and stress on the business importance of the effort, consultants and lawyers say.
“You need to get support from the top,” Jonathan A. Segal, a partner in management-side Philadelphia-based law firm Duane Morris LLP, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 4. “If it’s seen as ‘sensitivity training,’ it isn’t going to go very far.”
“This is business training to be more effective and compliant,” said Segal, who served on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. “Part of the way you get support from the top is to emphasize the business case of how the business does better when there is diversity. Having gender and ethnic diversity makes a big difference” in management and on the board of directors. Differences in people’s experiences, perspectives and style should be taken into account, as well as EEO factors, he said.
“It shouldn’t be attacking. If you attack people, they’re going to get defensive,” Segal said.
“It can’t just be a one-way street. It can’t just be someone talking at you,” Janine Yancey, president of San Francisco-based online workplace compliance training company Emtrain, said. “We learn better from a dialogue, and from peers jumping in. People are really sparked, and are motivated to have a dialogue, when they see their peers jumping in.”
Everyone has implicit bias, Joelle Emerson, founder and CEO of Palo Alto, Calif.-based diversity and inclusion consultancy Paradigm, said. When designing workshops on the subject, she said, “structure the content around schemas or contexts that are relevant for people in their work.” For example, talk about how confirmation bias can lead people to make snap judgments at the beginning of an interview, and discuss how you avoid that.
Emerson said it is necessary to give people strategies for what to do about unconscious bias, otherwise people will reject the information. “That’s really empowering for people, and really motivating for people to actually engage in the strategies we want them to engage in.”
Yancey said that while an organization’s chief diversity officer or chief people officer usually introduces a program on unconscious bias, “we see a big difference when it’s introduced by the business functional leader,” such as the CEO. Employees are more motivated when they see top leaders indicating that the subject is important to them, she said.
When inviting people to unconscious bias training, view it like a marketing communication, she suggested. “You need to make it accessible to everybody, not just the leaders.” She also suggested designing the program in the same way marketers and product designers are designing web-based programs. There should be an external trigger (the invitation to attend the program), an activity (the program itself), which should be “easy” and “enjoyable,” and the participants should be given “some kind of a reward for doing that activity,” according to Yancey. Rewards can include peer recognition, she said.
Efforts against unconscious bias should be “sustainable,” not a “one-time effort,” Yancey said. She also suggested thinking of them as something done once a quarter.
“The short answer is, you have to bring it to conscious awareness so you can recognize where it is and avoid it,” Segal said. Unconscious bias creeps in when, for example, people give plum accounts, or business-social invitations, to people they are “comfortable with,” which often means people who look like them, he said.
While neurological research makes it understandable that people act this way, it’s not an excuse for discrimination, Segal said.
As for pushback from white males, he said that first of all, white males may have non-obvious disabilities, or be gay or of a minority religion. If white males say they feel left out during unconscious bias training, Segal said the trainer shouldn’t pounce on them but should instead empathize while asking them to imagine “what it feels like to be left out” in every other context but unconscious bias training.
“You do not need white men for diversity programs to have ‘credibility,’ but including white men as stakeholders makes it less likely there will be overt and covert resistance,” Segal said. “We all have the potential for unconscious bias, and we all lose from it.”
Emerson and Yancey were speaking during a Sept. 30 webinar sponsored by Emtrain.
To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)