For the past year or so bias has taken center stage on blogs, media sites and around conference tables at VC firms, technology companies and beyond.
Earlier this year there was a maelstrom of anger around the anti-diversity memo penned by a now former Google employee.
The memo and subsequent media attention shed light on how far divided we are.
Divided around the topic of diversity as well as freedom of speech in the workplace.
Whether or not you agree with the memo and whether or not you agree with Google’s actions to fire the employee let’s agree on this: There’s a lot of tension and anger involving bias.
And it’s not just diversity setting things off. Politics, philosophical and religious beliefs, even choice of sports team or favorite Netflix Original series are causing rifts between people at work. There seems to be no end to the “us” versus “them” syndrome and we all have symptoms.
So what do we do?
For starters, everyone needs to take some deep breaths and start showing more compassion and empathy towards others. According to science and my podcast guest this week, Gayle Van Gils, compassion and empathy make a big difference in the workplace. Simply giving a damn about others is proven to produce better outcomes at work, improve team relations and make us happier.
Want to get your bias in check by showing more empathy?
How To Be Empathetic
- Listen. Don’t just stare at someone and start prepping your response to what they’re saying. Actually listen to them and try to put yourself in their shoes.
- No more judge and jury. When you listen or engage with someone you have to do it without judgment. Talking with people doesn’t require your internal Yelp review. Try being more objective.
- Gut check. Examine your own personal feelings and be honest about why you feel the way you do. Are you behaving negatively and unfairly towards some people versus others because you have conscious or unconscious bias? Even people with the best intentions have biases, but ignoring it won’t make things better. There’s lots of great research on how to combat bias, like this study on visualizing positive interactions.
- Take a breather. Learn to give yourself the needed mental break by practicing mindfulness and/or meditation. Giving ourselves what we need allows us to be more open to helping others.
- Practice. Aristotle said moral virtue is gained through habit and practice. Empathy must be intentional and practiced. You won’t always be perfect, but making an effort is a huge step in the right direction.