As part of a journey to strengthen our culture of inclusion, I began writing quarterly articles designed to stimulate conversation about relevant, and sometimes challenging topics. The idea is that healthy and open dialogue is an essential prerequisite to breaking down the barriers to inclusion.
This quarter, we address how unconscious bias impacts the workplace, and specifically, work assignments.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review caught my eye. “For Women and Minorities to Get Ahead, Managers Must Assign Work Fairly” proposes that businesses must try new techniques for addressing diversity and inclusion, including systemic changes to the way they run. In particular, the article focuses on processes for allocating tasks and projects to employees.
I agree with the article’s premise that inequitable distribution of work assignments – both “office housework” (routine tasks such as taking notes or ordering food or coffee for a meeting) and “glamour work” (prime projects that can accelerate one’s career) – can undermine efforts to build an inclusive environment.
I also agree with the article’s assertion that women and people of color are often affected, but I don’t think they are the only ones impacted by unequal work assignments. Anyone who is treated as an “outsider” may be missing out on the best opportunities. In fact, I couldn’t agree more with the article’s conclusion, which states that a “fairer assignment system isn’t good only for women and people of color. An introverted white male, who might not be the first one to raise his hand, will get a fairer shot at the at the best assignments. People raised with a no-bragging ethos, who wouldn’t knock down their boss’s door to pitch themselves, will also get a fairer shot.”
In this article, I share how West Monroe manages this challenge, and my recommendations for overcoming unconscious bias in work assignments. This quarter, I’m joined by Dr. Steve Robbins, founder and owner of S.L. Robbins and Associates, a consulting firm on issues of human behavior. Dr. Robbins works with West Monroe on confronting unconscious bias in the workplace and provides his perspective on how leaders can overcome unconscious bias in the workplace.
As always, I welcome your questions and input on this topic in the comments below or via email.