If you’re a manager, you’ve probably noticed a shift in expectations these last few years. It’s no longer enough to simply ensure each team member arrives at work on time, allocates the budget responsibly, and meets numerical targets. Nowadays, management needs emotional intelligence (EQ)—and there are consequences for those who don’t have it. Recent PEW research found that “feeling disrespected at work” was in the top three reasons cited for the Great Resignation.
As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in Adam Grant’s TED podcast WorkLife, “Care is a core part of management. . . We need to learn the soft skills to take care of people’s well-being.”
And yet, management bias still occurs everywhere.
Part of the problem is that bias in the workplace (or anywhere) doesn’t start with what you do, but with how you think. Not to mention, there are many types of bias, from conformity bias to attribution bias to beauty bias.
If you were trained in the more traditional role of a manager, it can be hard to adapt things like your decision-making process to avoid unconscious bias. How are you supposed to stop doing something if you don’t know you’re doing it?
We spoke to GLOBIS faculty for advice on how to raise your awareness, promote authenticity, and combat management bias for a healthier workplace.
A Question to Identify Authenticity
If you need a starting point to work management bias out of your system, consider authenticity. GLOBIS lecturer Tadahiro Wakasugi explains how embracing the authentic selves you and your team members can set you up for success in other areas—even your hiring process.
“Authentic self-expression enhances job performance.”
Data suggests that authentic self-expression enhances your commitment and job performance. This is what I say to my students.
In a field study, the Indian IT company Wipro conducted a training program for newcomers in response to high turnover. In a half-hour session, newcomers were told to think about how they could bring out more of themselves authentically in the workplace. Seven months later, they were more committed to their work, performing better, and more likely to stay at Wipro than those who didn’t go through the half-hour session.
You may think your authentic identity is a weakness. But it’s actually a strength. It can be the source of new ideas. It can help your organization break conventional wisdom and innovate. Of course, you should never feel pressured to reveal everything about your personal identity at work. But there is always a way to express your authentic self and voice a little more. A bit more of your self-expression can benefit both you and your organization.
To start, ask yourself, “What do I want to express at work this week?”
—Tadahiro Wakasugi, Organizational Behavior & Leadership
3 Tips to Overcome Management Bias
Overcoming things like confirmation bias often means you need to embrace a new way of thinking. While that can sound overwhelming, there are frameworks and tools to get you started.
GLOBIS lecturer Suzuka Kobayakawa has some clear action steps to overcome management bias. The two secret ingredients: critical thinking and a learning mindset.
“Critical thinking manifests in questions.”
Managers or leaders need to know about cognitive biases. When they don’t, it hinders diversity and inclusion, and that’s detrimental to the whole organization.
That said, nobody is free from cognitive biases because it is part of our brain mechanism. So what should we do?
Here are three practical tips.
1. Learn the basics.
First and foremost, learn about various cognitive biases. Although cognitive biases are something that we cannot easily recognize on our own, there are plenty of existing studies to help you become aware of them. You can also find many examples online of how they manifest.
And, of course, there are some great books on the subject, such as Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.
2. Practice what you learn.
Second, exercise your critical thinking skills. In our Critical Thinking classes at GLOBIS University, we often emphasize the importance of questioning ourselves. In office conversations at GLOBIS, too, faculty and business colleagues frequently ask questions that reflect critical thinking:
- Wait, aren’t we reacting with what Kahneman called System One (intuitive thinking)?
- Why is that?
- Is that really true?
- Have we thought it through?
- Are there any other possibilities?
- What are our unarticulated assumptions?
Critical thinking manifests in questions like these, and it is an effective weapon to overcome cognitive biases.
3. Maintain a healthy body and mind.
Third, maintain your physical health and peace of mind. It may sound basic, but it’s crucial to sleep well and eat well. Our brains need adequate rest and proper nutrition to function well. Even the sharpest thinkers can fall into the trap of cognitive bias when exhausted.
In addition, it’s helpful to work in moderate exercise, quality time with friends and family, and learning new things for work-life balance. Physical health and peace of mind can fuel your brain and bring you out of narrow mindedness and tunnel vision.
—Suzuka Kobayakawa, Social Venture Management
The Role of Compassion in Eliminating Management Bias
The greatest enemy of any group trying to work together is an “us vs. them” mentality. It generates all kinds of problems, from groupthink to harassment. Many types of unconscious bias reflect this mindset, as well.
Wakasugi suggests a simple but powerful remedy: compassion.
“Compassion dissolves the ingroup and outgroup distinction.”
We favor members of our own group over those in other groups. Sadly, this bias leads to various conflicts, divides, and prejudices that we see in the world right now. How can we overcome it?
Be compassionate toward others. Compassionate people notice universal needs and want to help meet these needs. Everyone has the need to be beloved, protected, valued, accepted, and respected. Everyone has the need to be healthy, grow, and learn.
Everyone—these needs transcend age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, body shape, and politics.
Compassionate leaders understand that we are all human, and that everyone belongs. They focus on common humanity instead of differences. This compassionate attitude dissolves the ingroup and outgroup distinction, which helps leaders overcome bias.
Moreover, research shows that compassion not only benefits the recipients, but also the givers. The more compassionate you become, the happier and healthier you become.
—Tadahiro Wakasugi, Leadership Development, Ethics, and Values