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
- Tone of voice
- Manner of walking
- Eye contact or
- Apparent social status
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.
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.)
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!
There is so much information out there on building great teams, best hiring practices, and advice on working together effectively. This is what synergize! does best! Allow us to sort through and decipher it all then keep you well informed so you can spend your time on what you do best.
synergize! works with organizations to provide customized programs to hire and develop productive teams. From analyzing a job to hiring at any level to providing team building and leadership coaching synergize! can help you create a great place to work, where your employees are energized and engaged and where everyone loves going to work.
We also use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to help our clients learn more about how to create exceptional teams where each employee loves going to work. You will find:
- Information to help you Hire Smart. Hire Right.
- Relevant articles related to hiring and engaging your workforce
- Effective tools to use in creating exceptional teams
- Information on upcoming workshops that are open to everyone
And in our new and improved website to be launched first quarter 2014 you’ll find:
- Helpful Hints for Hiring
- Free giveaways
- White papers
So please visit us on social media and invite your friends and colleagues to do the same! You are sure to find useful information that will make a difference for you – and for your team.
The first question (and, come to think of it, the only question) my daughter was asked in a job interview was, “Do you have any questions for me?” It was a position very similar to a temporary front desk position she had just finished for this company. Her boss in that position told the interviewer he needed to hire my daughter because she was an “asset to the organization.”
Of course, she had questions; and she asked them. Then the interviewer took a couple of minutes to describe the job. (The operative words there being “couple of minutes.”)
After that he suggested they go to the front desk so my daughter could check some people in – with no training on that specific equipment used. After 15 minutes and only one person entering and successfully checked in the interviewer said, “Well I guess nobody else is coming. Do you have any other questions for me?” And this time she did not.
That was the end of the interview.
She didn’t get the job. She didn’t have enough experience.
Most of us know the traditional interview is not very effective for identifying the best candidates – it’s about as good as flipping a coin. But if avoiding team dysfunctions starts with the right hire you would think hiring managers would put a little more effort into the interview.
Here are some keys to getting more out of the interview:
- Know your personal biases. We all have them so there’s no sense pretending that we don’t. The best we can do is have a clear picture of what they are so that we can see how they might be impacting the interview. One time I interveiwed a woman because she grew up in a little town (Prescott, Ontario) where my mother and I used to take the ferry to have lunch and get ice cream. Not exactly job-related.
- Prepare ahead of time. With over 2 billion Google responses to “how to interview” chances are pretty good that the people you interview spend a lot more time preparing than you do. Before the interview know what you are looking for. Be sure you fully understand the job role, the responsibilities, and what a successful candidate looks like.
- Ask behavioral interview questions that relate to this position in your company. A traditional question might be, “Tell me about yourself.” “What are your strengths?” “How would you …” A behavioral interview question might be, “Tell me about a situation when one of your personal strengths helped you overcome a problem.” Or “Give me an example of how you have handled constructive feedback in the past.” If past behavior predicts future behavior (which it does) then asking how they’ve handled the type of situations they are likely to experience in this role will give you an idea of what they’ll probably do in the future.
- The interviewee talks more than you do. Of course you’ll ask if they have any questions. But to start out with that question? It seems pretty lame to me. Tell them a little about the position and the company then get into the meat of the interview, which is asking about what you need to know (see step 1).
- Your process is consistent for every applicant. This means the foundation of your questions is the same. Obviously depending on their responses you’ll explore some areas more deeply. But keep the structure and process the same.
Undoubtedly there are tons of other good things to do in an interview, but this is a good start.
At the very least it is a whole lot better than simply asking, “Do you have any questions for me?”
As I was sitting in the Philadelphia airport having lunch and waiting to board a plane to FL last week, there were two couples sitting at the adjacent table. Apparently they were traveling to FL to go to a 65th birthday party.
One of the men said to his friend’s wife, “I couldn’t believe how hard it was to make these flight arrangements! It literally took me hours to get them done!”
“That’s terrible!” she replied.
“Nah, it wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t busy at work that day anyway.”
Is that the epitome of productivity, or what?!
So this guy’s boss is paying him to work, and he is spending his time – hours – making flight arrangements.
What makes employees spend their work time on personal tasks? Undoubtedly there are lots of really good reasons, like “I don’t have time when I get home” or “Everything is closed by the end of my work day.” But what they’re really saying when they take work time for personal activities is “It really doesn’t matter if I do [my job] or not. They’ll never notice / care / tell the difference / do anything.”
In 2005 AOL and salary.com completed a joint study on wasting time at work. Since then salary.com has repeated the study every year (the Wasting Time at Work Survey) with similar results: On average American workers waste 2.09 hours at work every day – not including lunch. The biggest culprits? Personal internet use, socializing with coworkers, conducting personal business, spacing out and running personal errands.
According to The Tragic Cost of Google Pac-Man by RescueTime.Com, employees around the world spent more than 4.8 million hours playing Pac-Man when Google created its logo in the form of a Pac-Man game to celebrate Pac-Man’s 30th anniversary a year ago. This resulted in an estimated $120,483,800 worth of employers’ money wasted away, which did not take into consideration the bandwidth costs and lowered productivity of other workers trying to use the same networks simultaneously.
There’s no motivation to be productive when there’s no connection with the bigger organizational picture. When management hasn’t conveyed the importance of a role or established measurable goals then why bother? And the employee is right – nobody will notice / care / tell the difference or, most importantly, do anything.
So if you don’t care whether your employees are productive or not keep doing nothing. They’ll be sure to follow suit!
But if you want to increase employee engagement let each person know how important his or her role is, and why. Provide meaningful, measurable and track-able goals. And hold employees accountable for reaching those goals.
And if you are thinking this isn’t as easy as it sounds contact me. synergize! has the tools to help you become a best place to work – with employees that spend their time – and your money – getting the job done. You can also reach me at 717-575-0942 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s what happened to 2010. It went POOF! and disappeared.
And so we enter 2011 with the promise of peace, prosperity, purpose and EXCITEMENT!
- The first ever annual theme is “Authentic Self.” How can you engage your team by being real? Team Dysfunctions and the synergizer! will offer lots of down-to-earth ideas for you.
- We have a new product line that will help you select, develop and retain top performers. More information to come this month!
- In the spring we will host an ENERGIZING EVENT at the Fulton Opera House! Stay tuned for more information on this! You won’t want to miss it!
- The 2011 Employee Engagement Calendar is now on sale! Each month features beautiful original photographs (samples below), a monthly engagement theme, important holidays (like Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day) and tips on engaging your workforce. Just $10 each! Contact me via e-mail or phone (717-575-0942) to order yours now!
We are moments away from the start of a year that I hope will be one of your best yet!