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Ian Dodds Consulting’s (IDC) Monthly Best Practice: Oct 2018

By Ian Dodds – Lotus Award Winner 2017: Lifetime Achievement for Pioneering Inclusive Cultures

Making Unconscious Bias Training Meaningful and Business Beneficial

Unconscious bias affects the ability of underrepresented groups in organisations to achieve their full potential. This prevents their organisations from leveraging their talent to maximise their business performance. Training to enable people to understand it and counter it is extremely important. However, in my experience the training offered often fails in enabling participants to counter unconscious bias.

This was reinforced in a discussion I had with a potential new client that had extensively rolled out unconscious bias workshops. These workshops only covered unconscious bias arising from the early messages we receive from our families, friends, teachers, the media, etc, about people who are like us and different from us. These tend to result in our growing up to unconsciously prefer the company of people who look like ourselves and their opinions and ideas. This is, of course, an important concept to grasp.

However, the workshops had not covered the impact of organisational legacies on unconscious bias. Prof Rosabeth Moss Kanter demonstrated over 30 years ago that organisations tend to evolve with the cultures of the people who have historically held power. In the West these are usually white, educated males. This results in an unconscious organisational preference for masculine tendency behaviours. These include: a preference for analytical thinking; individualistic and often competitive behaviour; a dislike of emotion being shown in the workplace. If we consider feminine tendencies (Prof S Glowinkowski) these contrast with the masculine tendencies in that women tend to: be more intuitive in their thinking style; behave more collaboratively and be more affiliative; be more comfortable with emotion being shown in the workplace. Moreover, men tend to lead transactionally and women more transformationally (Dr Gloria Moss). Hence, women tend to lead, manage, and work in different styles to men. The outcome is that the women’s styles of working unconsciously result in women experiencing frustration in that, although they may be high performers, their behaviours tend to not to fit the expectations of their masculine organisations.

We have enjoyed a lot of success in helping our clients to effectively address unconscious bias. This is because IDC’s workshops are designed to enable participants to counter unconscious bias that arises from gender and cross-cultural differences. The workshop is designed to achieve the following outcomes in enabling participants to:

1. Understand the business case for managing inclusively.

2. Understand the concept of biases they unconsciously might have from early messages and organisational legacies that could potentially influence their judgement of others.

3. Understand some key gender differences and how those result in unconscious bias and how to counter it.

4. Understand how cross-cultural differences impact on unconscious bias.

5. Gain an appreciation of the skills that they need to develop to counter unconscious biases.

6. Consider the actions which are required to improve and develop inclusive management and processes within their organisation.

Hence, we have developed an approach to unconscious biases that results in participants being able to apply the learning in meaningful ways to counter unconscious bias and build an inclusive culture to generate the considerable business benefits this offers. Please get in touch if you would like to know more about our business beneficial unconscious bias workshops.

Dr Ian Dodds,


29 Sep 2018

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