I’m troubled by NPR’s recent article describing the bias training Starbucks is undertaking. In it, Yuki Noguchi writes:
Eliminating bias would require people to become completely self-aware and objective about their own thoughts, and [the consultant] says no one’s found a way to do that.
“Any strategy that essentially relies on people to try not to be biased is doomed to fail; that’s the heart of the problem,” he says.
But people are adept at identifying the biases of their peers.
So, because self-awareness is hard, people should skip it? And, instead, be on-alert and ready to pounce when they see it in someone else?
I mean… Have fun with your fruitless, unproductive, joyless, critical, stifling, unenlightened atmosphere… Although, if you think about it, that approach seems pretty on-message with the current social climate.
And you see what a great time everyone is having these days. Liberals and conservatives aren’t touchy or upset or in a more-or-less-permanent defensive crouch or anything, so… yeah, let’s keep on keepin’ on. No need to encourage growth.
Did Oprah teach us NOTHING??! #IfYouKnowBetterThenYouDoBetter …wait, wait, Tom Hanks said it best in A League of Their Own: “The hard is what makes it great.”
Awareness is the key to conquering bias. Awareness of self. Awareness of what one is causing. Awareness of something higher than ourselves; guiding principles that come in the form of personal values or corporate policy.
We each have to recognize our programming, not only for what it is, but THAT the process has happened. And then recognize that it happens for everyone else, too. That knowledge provides a sense of calm because it provides a bit of perspective.
Taking a second to remember that everyone started as a blank canvas provides space for respect to come in, for someone to take a situation less personally and look at what they hope to accomplish from it. Your demographics don’t matter, because I’m only concerned with XYZ.
And that concern definitely shouldn’t be looking over everyone else’s shoulders to point out their shortcomings. Ever heard the proverb about tending to your own garden first?
The approach to bias training described above doesn’t seem promising on those grounds more than anything: it fails to look at bias for what it is. “Anti” makes it seem bad or unusual when the truth is: we are all biased.
Villainizing it puts even more distance between people and their own true nature. We should accept that our socialization & single perspective make us biased, but that it only becomes bad when it turns to prejudiced or discriminatory actions affecting others.
Starbucks’ bias training is creating one more way for people to judge each other, which seems the opposite of its intended purpose.