DIVERSITY & Designing a Bias-Free Organization

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: As my clients know, I’ve spent 20 years helping churches grow into multiethnic congregations. In fact I wrote a book about how to do it with my friend Mark DeYmaz called reMIX: Transitioning your church to living color (Abingdon Press).

An important part of that transition is to stop doing certain practices that segment your congregation.

Here is a recent interview in the Harvard Business Review with Gardiner Morse on her book “What Works.”

The takeaway can be summed up in these thoughts:

simple changes—from eliminating the practice of sharing self-evaluations to rewarding office volunteerism—can reduce the biased behaviors that undermine organizational performance.”

Here is a portion of the interview …

“Designing a Bias-free Organization” an interview with Gardiner Morse, Harvard Business Review, 7/16.

Do whatever you can to take instinct out of consideration and rely on hard data. That means, for instance, basing promotions on someone’s objectively measured performance rather than the boss’s feeling about them. That seems obvious, but it’s still surprisingly rare.Be careful about the data you use, however. Using the wrong data can be as bad as using no data. Let me give you an example. Many managers ask their reports to do self-evaluations, which they then use as part of their performance appraisal. But if employees differ in how self-confident they are—in how comfortable they are with bragging—this will bias the manager’s evaluations. The more self-promoting ones will give themselves better ratings. There’s a lot of research on the anchoring effect, which shows that we can’t help but be influenced by numbers thrown at us, whether in negotiations or performance appraisals. So if managers see inflated ratings on a self-evaluation, they tend to unconsciously adjust their appraisal up a bit. Likewise, poorer self-appraisals, even if they’re inaccurate, skew managers’ ratings downward. This is a real problem, because there are clear gender (and also cross-cultural) differences in self-confidence. To put it bluntly, men tend to be more overconfident than women—more likely to sing their own praises. One meta-analysis involving nearly 100 independent samples found that men perceived themselves as significantly more effective leaders than women did when, actually, they were rated by others as significantly less effective. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to underestimate their capabilities. For example, in studies, they underestimate how good they are at math and think they need to be better than they are to succeed in higher-level math courses. And female students are more likely than male students to drop courses in which their grades don’t meet their own expectations. The point is, do not share self-evaluations with managers before they have made up their minds. They’re likely to be skewed, and I don’t know of any evidence that having people share self-ratings yields any benefits for employees or their organizations.

But it’s probably not possible to just eliminate all managerial activities that allow biased thinking.


Right. But you can change how managers do these things.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2016/07/designing-a-bias-free-organization?