Team Dysfunctions Blog — Behavior

Bias is alive and well and living in our world

Posted in: Behavior, Diversity, Gender Issues, Select, Women's issues, Workforce Issues  on July 15, 2015

People immediately notice - and react to - gender, race and age.
It was the middle of a sunny afternoon and my ten-year-old daughter and I were walking across a parking lot headed into the grocery store. I noticed a woman sitting in a car we were about to pass, her eyes wide as she looked at us and quickly reached across the passenger seat, locking the door. By the time we passed in front of her car she was sitting bolt upright, staring ahead. It was quite a few years ago, but I think I actually stood and glared at her for a moment. (At least, I wanted to. And probably would today!)Bias is alive and well and living in our world, which is not earth-shattering news to those who experience it every day.If people don’t lock their car doors when you pass (for example) or you think it doesn’t affect you think about these:

  • Who has made your heart beat a little faster when you noticed them approaching your car, or walking down the street toward you?
  • Who caused you to lock your car door or slide your phone onto your lap, holding it in one hand with your thumb on the emergency button?
  • Who has made you think, “Oh, I better be friendly because I don’t want them to think I’m prejudiced.”?
  • In conversation, when have you informed someone, “I have a really good friend who is (black, gay, Muslim, fill in the blank).”
  • Who have you responded positively to simply because they reminded you of somebody you liked, or vice versa?

When we encounter another person we immediately notice three aspects of that person. Most people think it’s their:

  •  Smile or expression
  • Clothes
  • Tone of voice
  • Manner of walking
  • Eye contact or
  • Apparent social status

It’s not.

The first things you notice are their (1) gender, (2) race and (3) age. And, if you’re like the rest of us, you react to that person based on those three characteristics.

BIAS DEFINED:

A gut reaction, positively or negatively projecting attributes on someone without knowing anything else about them, represents a personal bias. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines bias as “a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.”

NEWSFLASH #1: We all have biases.

NEWSFLASH #2: Biases aren’t good or bad.

They just are; they are a reflection of how we see the world. With no other information they cause us to view some things negatively and some things positively – like interviewing a job applicant JUST because she was from a little town in Canada across the river from where I grew up. (Yes, I really did that!)

It’s how we choose to act on those biases that can be good or bad, especially if we violate laws designed to keep us from discriminating against people. Or, when we unfairly attribute positive (or negative) traits to someone based on our personal bias, and then make decisions based on that. (For the record, the applicant from Canada did not get the job.)

There are proven biases against non-whites and women.Studies abound showing racial and gender bias in hiring and career progression. These are proven biases against people with “ethnic” (as opposed to “white”) sounding names and women: Same resume, different name, different outcome. A study cited in the American Economic Review found that resumes with “white” sounding names were 50% more likely to be called for an interview than those with “African-American” sounding names. (So glad my 17-year-old nephew, DJ, is changing his name from Desquan Jalil to David Joseph.)

Bias isn’t just about race or gender. It’s about age, beliefs, disabilities, education, habits (like smoking), language, money, nationality, physical appearance, politics, religion, salaries, sexual orientation, the neighborhood you came from, weight and anything else that is important to you or is part of your core – usually unconscious – value system. 

FACT: less than 15% of American men are over six feet tall, yet almost 60% of male CEOs in the US are over six feet tall. Do you think those hiring managers consciously considered that? Hardly.

Unconscious – or conscious – biases result in unfounded conclusions which can have detrimental effects, especially in hiring when we overlook a potentially excellent candidate because of a personal bias, or when we quickly move a candidate through to hire just because she reminds us of our favorite aunt, Amelia.

Check out our nine tips to avoid being swayed by a bias!

If you wonder why the woman in the car was so quick to lock her door as my daughter and I were about to walk by – I am white. My daughter is black. It was not the first, the only, or the last time we have had, or will have, a similar experience.

Bias is alive and well and living in our world. Whether you recognize it or not.

 

To get an entirely UNbiased view of your job applicants and employees use a validated, reliable and objective assessment! Contact us for a free trial! 


Character flaw? Really??

Posted in: Behavior, Collaboration, DISC, Teams  on June 16, 2015

Character flaw? Or behavior difference?

Behavior is measured on the DISC assessment.

If you are familiar with the DISC behavior profile you will understand what I mean when I describe myself as having a high D/I and a low S/C behavior style.

If you are NOT familiar with the DISC it measures our tendencies when dealing with the “four P’s” of behavior:

  1. Dominant with Problems (D)
  2. Influential with People (I)
  3. Steady work Pace (S)
  4. Compliant with Procedures (C)

The high D/I style suggests that I am direct and dominant (“D”) when approaching problems or tasks, and inspiring or influential (“I”) when it comes to interacting with people. Different behavior styles are not character flaws!

It also suggests that I am flexible – NOT structured or systematic (“S”) – in how I approach my work pace. And that I am, uh, stubborn and (sigh) careless with details – NOT cautious or compliant (“C”) – with following procedures.

And, as I do wherever I go, I took my high D/I style with me to do a workshop for a group of high S/C individuals who are all those things I am not – structured, systematic, compliant and detail-oriented.

It did not go well.

  • I neglected to pay close enough attention to the behavior styles of the group and I approached the workshop in my typical enthusiastic, direct, engaging style. It was a little too energetic, and therefore overwhelming, not engaging, for them.
  • I brought the wrong power point presentation. It was close, mind you … one I had previously done with their executive team and then edited for the purpose of doing it with this team. But it was, nonetheless, the wrong one and some of the references and dates in the body of the presentation were no longer accurate and didn’t match the handouts.
  • I failed to prepare them for what they considered to be the “intrusive” work we would do as part of the team building process. It included answering questions such as, “In order to do my best work this is what I need from you …”

The bottom line was that I established myself – once and forever – as someone who lacks attention to detail. Indeed, no matter how hard I try and how diligently I focus on the minute details, in virtually every subsequent contact with them I have missed a relevant detail, supporting their belief that I have what they consider to be an egregious character flaw in my lack of attention to detail.

For the record, this is a trait of mine that I do not like or admire or appreciate. It is frustrating and discouraging to make copious lists and try all sorts of other behavioral adaptations to ensure that I attend to all the relevant details and then discover that I missed something anyway. But a character flaw?

In my book a character flaw would be more along the lines of lacking integrity; not caring how your behavior negatively impacts someone else; dishonesty; being untrustworthy, unkind, entitled, or jealous. It might even include not giving somebody a little bit of grace for their human limitations. Hmmmm.

If the lack of attention to detail is, in fact, a character flaw then I see it as equally damning as the inability to interact comfortably with people in any situation; or the inability to stand up before a few hundred people and present information that is inspiring, engaging and meaningful – activities that are usually difficult for the high S/C type. (Excuse me while my D/I is showing.)

Of course, I don’t think that is at all damning. Or flawed. Or even “bad”. Perhaps a challenge, a limitation or a non-talent but certainly not a character flaw.

It. Just. Is.

Nobody's Perfect resizedAnd, therefore, it is, simply, something I have to deal with and cannot ignore because, after all, I am not perfect.

So put me in front of a few people or a few hundred people with a topic I am knowledgeable about. I’ll have a great time and they’ll leave feeling inspired and encouraged. But ask me to ensure no details are overlooked in the process? Well, unfortunately, that I cannot guarantee.

All in all it was a good lesson for me. I pay more attention to my audience now, adjusting how I present information accordingly. And when that high S/C type drives me nuts with details or thoroughness in finishing a project I remember to give them some grace, appreciate what their style brings to getting things done well, and – hopefully – laugh about the differences.

DISC is a great tool to increase self-awareness and appreciate different approaches. It is invaluable in decreasing team misunderstanding that contributes to unproductive conflict. If you want to learn more about DISC check out our website or contact us. We’ll give you one with our compliments so you can see the impact it can have when you recognize and appreciate the different behavior styles that make up your team.


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