Most people are uncomfortable when they witness discrimination, yet it is common for people to sit by and not take a stand. Maybe this is because these people believe they won’t have the support of other people around them to influence needed change. Perhaps someone at work makes comments about people of a certain gender in derogatory ways, or perhaps you’ve witnessed a co-worker making insulting remarks about a client based on his or her sexual orientation. Often when this happens it catches people by surprise. They aren’t prepared for it, it isn’t an everyday part of the conversation, and they don’t have an appropriate response planned. What should you do? Change the subject? Take a confrontational approach? What are your options?
Especially if you are in a position to influence, what you definitely should not do is remain a bystander. If you are a person with resources, who has authority in your organization, you have the power to make a difference and it is your responsibility to do so. Choose to not be a bystander by taking both proactive and needed confrontational actions. Here are some things you can do to step up, take a stand, and make a difference:
Do your part to make expectations of fairness mainstream
Ask yourself — why did this person feel comfortable making this offensive statement in front of me in the first place? Is s/he really that clueless, or have I (or has this organization) somehow not been clear about our values? Does this person not know how our values look in action? If you don’t feel confident holding this person accountable, or fear you might not be supported if you do, this is a signal you have some proactive work to do to influence better organizational practices. Work with your leadership team and figure out what you need to do to make the expectation for making changes toward fairness part of the norm. This way it won’t feel outlandish or “hyper-PC” to confront and correct when this happens.
Influence measures that will inoculate against unconscious bias
Like in the health industry, where you inoculate people against the flu — the more people who become inoculated against bias and become courageous enough to deal with the challenges of diversity as they arise, the more they will hold each other accountable as a common practice. As people in your organization or community become more skilled with confronting unconscious bias, they will put pressure on others to do the same. It is so important for your diversity and inclusion efforts to be more than just a mission statement in your organization. You need to integrate these efforts into all of your organizational systems and practices.
Confront with constructive feedback
If someone is intentionally being offensive and doesn’t care, that is easy. That person doesn’t belong in your company. On the other hand, if someone is being offensive unknowingly, you can raise this person’s awareness and teach better skills. The only way this person can learn from mistakes is to receive feedback. The more people have these conversations about bias, even when uncomfortable, the more they get used to having them. When people are more accustomed to feedback as a company practice, they get less hostile when feedback is received. This is what I mean when I say, “They get inoculated.” Over a period of time as people get feedback from friends and colleagues about little things they may be saying or doing — they become more receptive to the process. Instead of getting personally offended, they are more likely to ask the right questions and be willing to change.
Our campaign gives back by supporting educators
As a society, we all have a responsibility to do a better job for teachers. This campaign will have a direct impact on our society in general. You will be tangibly and concretely making a difference by contributing and helping us provide these tools and resources for free to pre-K through 12th educators.
We have launched a Kickstarter campaign for our Unconscious Bias eLearning project. We need your support to make this campaign a success. Please join us and our supporters — Lenovo, Sarita Geisel Graphic Design, Urban Co-Lab, and EmPowerment Entertainment. Support our project today to be a facilitator of fairness and #BeatUnconscousBias.
Also published on Medium.