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How implicit bias affects your workplace

implicit bias
Posted at 4:29 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 11:37:40-05

WACO, TX — A lot of us have seen our workplaces change over the years. Companies have worked to evolve from a goal-oriented workplace to a people-oriented workplace.

It all comes down to learning about the people on your team and managing their strengths and weaknesses.

When John Coleman changed jobs a few years ago, he thought it just meant a change of address and a little more money. Instead, he walked into Hobbs Bonded Fibers and found a workplace where a person's background, skin color and life experience mattered less than the value they added to the team. However, sometimes those very factors did add value to the team.

”And that's surprising. Yeah, actually with their backgrounds. Yes, it was very surprising,” he said.

Surprising because of what experts call implicit bias, which is defined as assumptions we're brought up with that shape how we see the world and how we interact with it.

Take a look around, it's everywhere. We all have these little voices that tell us what to think about things and people.

In Oklahoma, there's controversy over a proposed law to limit diversity training. Even that training has trouble when workers at Coca-Cola get told to "be less white."

President Joe Biden received criticism over his word choice when he slammed Governor Greg Abbott for reversing COVID-19 restrictions in Texas, calling it "Neanderthal thinking." Senator Marco Rubio called that offensive to Neanderthals.

Even artificial intelligence has bias. In an upcoming PBS documentary, an M.I.T. computer scientist discovers extreme bias in facial recognition technology.

It brings us back to the point of all of this. These days, employers say they care less about a person’s background and more about their ability to work as part of a team. They also intentionally look for people of different backgrounds for what they bring the team.

The result? Many say it comes in new efficiency, new ways of doing things and in some cases, old, forgotten ways of doing things at lower cost.

It's exactly what John Coleman found at Hobbs.

”You know, I came in and I was very open to other ideas and also different opinions on different takes, and how to accomplish the same goal may not always been the way that I wanted to do it. But accepting other people's ideas has made it better and easier in some cases,” he said.

Yes, Colman has biases as we all do, but he chose not to act on them. What he got in return helped him do his job better and gave him insight into his co workers.

Clint Weaver, vice president of Human Resources at Hobbs Bonded Fibers, says what new workers find here may surprise them, but it works.

”There's not a single person in our workforce that has come back and said, 'You know what, I just can't support this. I quit,'” he explained, proving what Coleman says, there's nobody you can't learn something from.

We continue our conversations on equity, diversity and inclusion with a one-hour, commercial-free broadcast special on Tuesday, March 9 at 7PM.

The special, titled "Hidden Bias of Good People," looks at how the people and ideas we've been exposed to throughout our lives take hold, and while we assume we're always thinking independently, we're not.

For more information, click here.

And for the third story in our series on "Implicit Bias" see below: