The Net Promoter System Podcast

A Conversation About Bias: How Leaders Can Help Employees Become Bias Disruptors

Just Work cofounders Trier Bryant and Kim Scott discuss how a shared commitment, system, and vocabulary can help all employees recognize and call out bias.

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A Conversation About Bias: How Leaders Can Help Employees Become Bias Disruptors
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This is part two of a two-part conversation with Trier Bryant and Kim Scott. Listen to part one here.

In the workplace, biased language and treatment can often slip by without consequence, leaving those discriminated against feeling powerless or unheard. But Just Work cofounders Trier Bryant and Kim Scott believe integrating bias disruptors in the workplace can help all who experience or observe bias speak up and address it in the moment.

Just Work, a company founded to help leaders and their teams have hard conversations like these, focuses on providing leadership teams with the tools to create a workplace that encourages calling out bias and discrimination, even (and perhaps especially) when it feels uncomfortable. The key, Trier and Kim say, is creating more bias disruptors by having a shared commitment, system, and vocabulary to call out bias.

Kim, the author of Just Work and Radical Candor, shares how teams can find ways to interject the moment bias or discriminatory language occurs. How people respond to those interjections is critical, she adds.

“Teams that we’ve worked with say, ‘Yo!’ And when somebody in a meeting says, ‘Yo,’ everyone else understands there’s a flag on the field,” she says. Once that flag is thrown, language becomes critical. “Words matter, so you don’t want to choose biased words to point out bias,” Kim says.

Trier, a US Air Force veteran and CEO of Just Work, points out that the action of the callout should rely heavily on upstanders.

“It cannot just be the people who are harmed by the bias to intervene and step in. It’s tiring. It’s exhausting. And it’s not their responsibility,” she says. “And so we need more people to be upstanders and say, ‘Hey, that’s not okay.’”

Bias for so many is pervasive, constant, and something that exhausts people such as Trier day in and day out, she says. Leaders, Kim says, must strive to recognize the heavy toll bias takes on so many every day.

“For a leader to stand up and say, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ is a failure of leadership,” Kim says, “because it is a leader’s job to create an environment to solicit feedback.”

In this episode, Kim, Trier, and I discuss how bias disruptors can contribute to a just work environment and what leadership can do to root out and recognize bias.

In the following excerpt, we discuss how leaders shouldn’t rely on diverse talent to point out bias, and instead should encourage all employees to become upstanders.

Trier Bryant: When you experience bias or you notice a decision being made that involves bias, you can use an “I” statement. And say, “I don’t think that’s going to land well with our audience. I don’t think that has the intention we hope it to have.” Or, “I think we should revisit that.”

That’s what we need more of. Because what I don’t want your listeners to take away is, “Okay, if I have diversity and representation on my teams, queer people on my teams, women on my teams, Muslims on my teams, they’re going to catch it. And we won’t offend.”

That’s not the case. And that is not how we should be thinking about representation. We all need to do that work and we can all be upstanders.

Kim Scott: People will never feel comfortable raising these issues. There’s an interesting case study and they had a credo. And at one point in the credo, it said, “We’re going to have a process by which employees can file concerns.”

And later on, they said employees should feel comfortable flagging concerns. And you know what? They didn’t feel comfortable.

Rob Markey: So, I’m assuming Kim, that what you mean is it’s the responsibility of every employee to raise issues and drive them to resolution?

Kim Scott: It’s the responsibility of the leaders to create a system that de-risks that for folks, and that de-risks and creates a responsibility.

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