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The Hidden Dangers of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

From The Managers Minute

Our business experiences along with the mistakes we make—large or small—affect us. Sure, we’ve all heard that mistakes make us better at our jobs … teaching us one more thing that doesn’t work. They give us insight and the ability to proactively respond when a similar situation arises.
They also make us biased. Yes, our experiences give us unconscious biases or subconscious prejudice.
Don’t worry. We all have them. But it’s only a brave few who will admit it.

  • You like to work with small companies because you’ve gotten personalized service in the past
  • That last millennial you hired was pretty sluggish … won’t make that mistake again
  • That left-handed designer sure is creative … better watch for that next time we choose a web developer

Obviously having an unconscious bias toward or against lefties, millennials or huge companies won’t change the world (or your workplace), but the bigger issues, including racism, sexism and ageism … lead to discrimination against entire categories of people. And biases can begin with one seemingly harmless negative (or positive) interaction or common stereotype. Our brains take over from there.Cognitive Bias
Yes, ironically, it’s our brains working correctly—to help keep us “safe”—that create implicit bias. Nobel Prize-winning economist and author, Daniel Kahneman, and his late colleague Amos Tversky “realized that we actually have two systems of thinking. There’s the deliberate, logical part of your mind that is capable of analyzing a problem and coming up with a rational answer,” reports a article. This type of thinking is slow and deliberate.
But most of the time we’re actually using our faster, more intuitive system of thinking. It’s this fast, instinctive mind that is in control—handling everything from switching lanes while we’re driving to work, to making a choice on ice cream flavors for our double-dip cone at Baskin-Robbins.
So, can you de-bias yourself? No. But you can (and should) be aware of and make allowances for your personal biases. You can build in safeguards to make decision-making situations more objective, make workers more aware and help ensure the treatment of individuals is more consistent. Here are three ways to manage unconscious workplace biases:
1) Take the subjectivity out of recruiting and hiring. Carefully consider which qualifications really matter for each position you hire for. Create and consistently use a rating system for these qualities. Asking candidates to interview with two separate individuals can also help alleviate the effect of biases.
2) Build teams that are conscious of the benefits of and the need for diversity. Educate team members about how diversity helps improve results. Discuss qualifications of specific individuals on the team. Encourage equal interaction and participation by all. Invite others to speak up for themselves (or for others) when insensitive or unaware colleagues interrupt or disregard.
3) Create structured and consistent paths for career growth. To ensure that all new hires are treated equally, consider salary, training and career progression. Identify salary ranges based on experience and competence. Consider how you’ll quantitatively measure excellence so you can stick to your plan. Outline specific training needed for the position and any opportunities for advancement.
Everyone has biases, and being aware of them doesn’t change them. But more and more companies are taking time to get the right conversations started—the ones that help employees consider their own hidden biases. And then work to fix systems that allow these biases to create unintentional discrimination.

“Winter” Mood Lifters

By Karyn Repinski

When the days get shorter and the sun sets sooner, it’s important to brighten up your day - literally and figuratively.  Here are 10 easy ways to beat the blues.
1. VEG OUT. Plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables feed the good bacteria in our gut that help produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin.  It doesn’t have to be fresh. Frozen produce often retains its flavor and nutrition.
2. EMPLOY FLOWER POWER. People who woke up to flowers reported a better mood in a recent study. So place a vase of tulips or daisies on your bedside table. When in doubt, opt for blooms that are yellow, a hue that’s often associated with sunshine, energy and happiness.
3. MAKE A PHOTO ALBUM. Positive memories greatly enhance our present happiness and can even reduce depression. Sort through your photos and assemble the happy ones into a book you can flip through again and again.Flower Arrangement
4. LOL. Laughter reduces stress and overrides other emotions in the moment.  Laughter “therapy” has even been shown to function similarly to antidepressants by raising serotonin levels. Already viewed every cat video on YouTube? Try tuning in to a comedy podcast on your commute.
5. COLOR YOUR WORLD. When you find ways to brighten your days physically, you’ll literally feel brighter. Wear a colorful shirt or scarf. Buy a pen with green ink or some turquoise sticky notes. Get pillows for your couch in kelly green or sheets in tangerine. Just a few shades of difference in your everyday items can make life feel more vivid all around.
6. CHANGE YOUR ROUTINE. Small changes can bring big rewards for your spirits. Routines are often connected with the past, so changing one that links to a past negative association can break that link and open up space for other feelings. One tweak that takes minimal effort: Make your bed (if you don’t already). It’s a form of self-care and a way of telling yourself that you matter. That alone can lift your mood.
7. MAKE FRIENDS WITH WINTER WORKOUTS. Just 5 minutes of moderate intensity exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins. Exercising outside will give you an even better workout. For one thing, it tends to be more strenuous than indoor sweat sessions, so you'll burn extra calories. Plus, researchers find that people who get physical outdoors enjoy it more.
8. USE YOUR SENSES. Noticing the sights, sounds and smells of the season can help you appreciate its beauty. Our brains are hardwired for the negative. But purposely thinking about all the pleasing aspects of the season - and having gratitude for them - allows you to feel more positive moments.
9. WALK THE HAPPY WALK. People in one study who walked as if they were sad (slowly without a lot of energy or body engagement) ended up feeling sadder. How to make over your gait to gain a mood boost? Happy people walk with an upright, steady torso and swinging arms.
10. FLASH A SMILE. It actually spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing hormones like dopamine and serotonin that     increase feelings of happiness and reduce stress. Even forcing a fake smile helps. For best results, smile with your eyes and your mouth. Speaking of eyes: One study found that people who’d had Botox for crow’s feet, which makes it harder to crinkle their eyes into a smile, felt more depressed.

Multi-Generational Workforce Has Different Views on Use of Technology

By Steve Bent

 Multiple generations of workers co-existing in today’s labor force have different views on the use of technology and carry stereotypes about their older or younger cohorts, but are in general agreement when it comes to career aspirations, according to a report from CompTIA.
 The Millennial generation is now the largest portion of the workforce – approximately 35%, or 56 million workers. The nation’s workforce also includes an estimated 53 million Gen Xers and 41 million Baby Boomers.
 CompTIA surveyed approximately 1,000 business professionals whose ages span a huge chasm; in some cases, 40 years or more. Some themes, however, are common across generations.
 - 65% of all respondents want to achieve financial security.Younger and Older Workers
 - 51% was to do work that they feel passionate about.
 - 49% would like to achieve a work/life balance.
Yet even with the consensus on career aspirations, the report identifies other areas of conflict and differing opinions among the generations that can have serious management implications for employers.
Millennials embrace technology
A company’s technology capabilities play an important role in attracting the best talent, especially for younger employees. Among Millennials, 71% said that the degree to which an organization embraces technology and innovation is a factor in influencing where they work. That compares to 66% among Gen Xers and 53% for Baby Boomers. When it comes to tech savviness, almost six in 10 Millennial workers give their employer a net positive rating compared to 38% of Boomers.
Cloud-based applications continue to make gains
When it comes to the use of software applications for work-related purposes, 51% of Millennials report using online/cloud-based tools for word processing and spreadsheets, compared to 33% of Baby Boomers. Use of collaboration tools such as Slack and Dropbox is higher among younger workers. Millennials are also looking for the faster implementation of new technologies. Older employees want more of a focus on making existing technologies more user-friendly.
Workplace stereotypes persist
The generations clearly do not view the workplace in the same way. Stereotypes about different generations’ work habits persist. For example, nearly two-thirds of Baby Boomers believe younger workers are not as loyal; and nearly six in 10 said younger workers feel more entitled. Just over half of Millennials think older workers are too rigid and set in their ways. Nearly half of Gen Xers surveyed said older workers are not as skilled when it comes to using technology.

The 10 Outstanding Qualities of Great Leadership

By Cameron Bishop

There is a saying that some people are natural-born leaders. In fact, most leaders today work hard learning how to work with others in order to effectively motivate and inspire. Thousands of books and articles focus specifically on the skill sets required for competent leadership. This blog provides an overview of 10 important competencies necessary for leadership.
1. Communicate Creating an environment of performance and success requires the element of sharing information plus interaction. Most people working on a team are willing to do the work if they understand its purpose and receive feedback on the influencers and progress.
2. Develop followers and other leaders A leader succeeds when he or she develops a structure that supports the overall objective. It is impossible to function in all necessary roles within a team. No leader is strong in every skill aspect of the business, nor can he or she be everywhere at one time. Effective leaders understand the need to utilize the individual strengths that exist within a team. Positioning strengths throughout the team creates opportunities for all team members to act as followers or leaders, depending on the current focus and need.Group Leader
3. Focus on key issues and goals Competent leaders understand the value of prioritizing. They teach their teams the benefit of focusing on important issues by role modeling attention to the strategic objectives and primary matters that relate to the main mission and goal. Leaders can be overexposed to unnecessary information that distracts from current priorities.
4. Cultivate strong relationships Dedication. Commitment. Trust. History. Camaraderie. These words describe the important bond between leader and their followers. Competent leaders earn their positions to lead others when they work to develop relationships with people.
5. Be decisive Sometimes the win comes from the ability to pick a direction and go. Too many times, a team will fail due to a failure to act. A leader’s role is to evaluate options and direction, and then choose. A team’s decision-making capabilities and skills will be determined based on the pace of the leader.
6. Show confidence It is not the leader’s responsibility to know it all or be perfect in his or her thinking and action. Competent leaders allow for a reasonable margin of error; help others learn from their mistakes; and are comfortable in considering ideas that conflict with their own. Their confidence comes from understanding that it is not their job to have all the answers, but to consider alternative options.
7. Be optimistic and encouraging Leadership requires the willingness to consistently have high expectations for self and of others. It depends on the willingness to help people understand the objectives of their jobs; allow them to make their own commitments; and to encourage them to reach in new directions.
8. Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior Integrity and ethics are the common competencies listed as the most essential for management and leadership effectiveness. People want to be led by someone who tells the truth and whose actions parallel the organization’s core beliefs and value system.
9. Manage conflict with diplomacy and tact Facilitating cooperation and collaboration as the norm is a key responsibility in a leadership position. On a daily basis, leaders must maintain constant communication; commit to an open exchange of information; show respect; and demonstrate a willingness to give, even when they do not receive information and assistance.
10. Maintain personal and professional balance A leader’s effectiveness increases when he or she understands the need for balancing priorities, perspective, and life activities. In this way, leaders serve their team members when they recognize the purpose of working and how it supports and enhances overall self-fulfillment and satisfaction of the individual.
Although these core competencies are important contributions to a leader’s overall success, each leader will have his or her own style of leadership approach. How each utilizes these competencies will set him or her apart as unique and individual and will define that leader’s impact on the people they lead.

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A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

   - John C. Maxwell