Leadership Bias: Are You Unknowingly Showing Discomfort w/ Diversity?

Leadership Bias: Do You Welcome Differences or Shut Them Out?

Leaders, do you welcome and embrace diversity? Do you truly include diverse people and ideas? Yes? Are you sure? Would your employees say you do? Do you words and actions support your answer?

Leadership Bias: Image is a closed door w/ sign that says no admittance without pass from office.

Leadership Bias: How you show your discomfort w/ diversity. Image by Brent Ozar.

Image by Brent Ozar via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Leadership Bias: Are You Showing Discomfort w/ Diversity?

Comfort with similarity is very powerful. No matter how much you believe in diversity, your comfort may be swaying you to exclude who and what are different.

Here’s a self-awareness checklist:

  1. Do you hire employees that are just like you or just like the ones you already have? Many leaders have learned to hire people different from them. However they hire only one type of employee thinking that teamwork will be better. This is leadership bias in action. Diverse team members may take a bit longer to gel yet they can meet unforeseen challenges better with their broader views and talents.

  2. Do you grow impatient with people whose personality type is very different from yours? Do you sideline them and avoid interaction? There’s no need to live this leadership bias. You can learn to easily interact with any personality type!

  3. Do you actively seek others’ views or always state yours first? If you speak and tell your thoughts far more than you ask for others’ ideas, you may be seen as having a leadership bias for your own ideas.

  4. Do you react defensively and dig in your heels when people disagree with you? Anyone can have a moment of defensiveness. However if you do this frequently, people may think you have leadership bias against differing views.

  5. Do you speak in absolutes and generalizations? They are rarely true and tend to mislabel people and situations. It screams out closed-minded and biased.

  6. Do you sometimes make decisions on employee capabilities based on your assumptions? She may not be strong enough to handle this … or He may not have the sensitivity to handle this customer …. Your leadership bias against doing things differently may be controlling your decisions.

  7. Do you stick to your inner circle or let others in? Leaders and organizations with an inner circle and a closed door for new ideas are more likely to exclude diverse people and ideas. It’s a leadership bias that has threatened to sink even the biggest companies like IBM. Lou Gerstner was the first non-IBM CEO and he had to break through the layers of inner circle thinking to stop IBM from hitting the skids.

  8. Do you find yourself saying this is how we do it here? What message does that send to employees? They may see it as your discomfort with diverse ideas vs. organizational culture. Having an organizational culture is a good thing. Having a culture that’s a brick wall to diverse thinking is not.

  9. Do you overlook damaging cliques and mislabel them as tight friendships? Leaders have an obligation to prevent or reverse hostile workplaces that shut out and isolate diverse people. If you do nothing, those who are shut out may see you as enabling the hostility. They believe that your leadership bias against diversity causes your lack of appropriate action.

If you find yourself saying yes to a few of these items, do not despair. You can change your behavior and build more comfort with diversity:

  • When you find yourself resisting, ask more questions. You will discover that what seems radically different actually has common ground.
  • List out your assumptions and fears. Then try to disprove them. Gather data and examples that show a clearer and more complete picture.
  • Look around and see how and where diverse people are working together. See their success!

There is one way to increase your comfort with diversity — gather knowledge and experiences that change your beliefs.

What discomfort with diversity have you witnessed?

What actions turned discomfort into comfort?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
People Skills: Do You Push People Away or Welcome Them In?
Reverse a Hostile Workplace: Purge These Toxic Beliefs
Change Leadership Beliefs or You’ll Change Nothing

©2015 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

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2 Responses to “Leadership Bias: Are You Unknowingly Showing Discomfort w/ Diversity?”

  1. Alli Polin says:

    So often people think of diversity solely in terms of racial and ethnic diversity. Thank you for highlighting the many ways that diversity of thought is often squashed. Behaviors that are holding back individual, team and organizational success can be overlooked when part of the org or leadership culture. Appreciate that you bring them out into the light of day.

    I’ve worked for leaders who solicited opinions but it was all just an act – they knew what they wanted to do from the get-go and were closed minded the entire time. Part of being open to diversity is truly keeping an open mind to match open questions and inclusive actions.


    Thanks, Kate!

    ~ Alli

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Alli. It’s so important for employee engagement. People who feel excluded can perform far less than their talents would otherwise drive. What a waste! Hire people for their greatness and then not use it.

      I always appreciate your comments and insights and your posts at http://breakthefreame.com.


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