‘Unconscious Bias’ offers fresh approach to hiring

Friday, November 27, 2020, Vol. 44, No. 48
By Terri Schlichenmeyer

Whom should you hire? That’s a question you ask yourself often, and you strive to be fair with it by hiring the best person for the job, no matter what.

But what if the person doesn’t “fit” with your team? Can you truly keep gender, race, sexuality and different beliefs out of your hiring process and your workplace?

Or, as in “The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias” by Pamela Fuller & Mark Murphy with Anne Chow, do you need to do better?

Between ad schedules, HR concerns, budgets and board meetings, is there any wonder why your head is full? Not really: Fuller, Murphy and Chow say our brains absorb millions of bits of information each second we’re awake, but we’re unable to process all but about “40 of those bits” at any one time.

To help deal with the overload, the brain creates “shortcuts” which lead to unconscious bias, defined as a subliminal “preference for or against a thing, person or group, compared with another.” That can include sexuality, personality, gender identity, nationality, attractiveness or race, among other things you may (overtly or not) notice about an individual.

As employees of FranklinCovey, Fuller and Murphy use the “Performance Model” to explain what might be done about unconscious bias, which is as detrimental to a business as is open bias.

The first step is to identify where your unconscious bias lies through a process of self-awareness, knowing how you got your biases and recognizing the “Bias Traps.”

“The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias: How to Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection, and Create High-Performing Teams”

By Pamela Fuller & Mark Murphy with Anne Chow

c.2020, Simon & Schuster


304 pages

Second, focus on bringing others together through a culture of belonging. Be authentic, cultivate a curiosity about people, mind your words and work to ensure that employees and customers are represented in your business.

Third, use “careful courage” to stand up for yourself and to pay attention to what’s being done or said. Check yourself for any assumptions you may have on promotions, assignments or hiring. Have the courage to know when you need more self-work.

Finally, learn how the “talent lifecycle” can put this knowledge in action for good and for the good of all. Your team will thank you for it.

The very first thing you’ll want to know about “The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias” is that it’s well-considered and thorough. The second thing you’ll want to know is that what’s here will require considerable work.

That’s something the authors freely admit. It’s also going to take serious introspection, the possible discomfort of which isn’t so much discussed here, though it’s hard to complain when the authors themselves are as forthcoming and honest as these are in their self-anecdotes.

Fuller is a Black woman, Murphy a gay man and Chow is Asian American, and their shared experiences strongly illustrate the points they make, even though this book is Grand Canyon-deep and Atlantic Ocean-wide.

Still, in this day and age, you can’t ignore homogeny at the workplace any longer. You need the advantages that will come with “The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias.” Read it, absorb it and take your team higher.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.