” We do not see things as they are, we see things as WE are” -- Anais Nin
A bias is a simplification that our brain goes through when we are in front of a situation we’ve been before. In that instance we rush decision and even behave inappropriately based on different elements like sex, age, abilities, workplace environment and so on.
Biasing people and situations is HUMAN, it’s a part of your brain that activates and respond to danger.
We just need to be aware of it so we can adjust our behavior accordingly: it’s very easy to fall into “fortune telling” -- e.g. I know what’s going to happen- and “mind reading” behavior , e.g I know he doesn’t like me .
How many times we’ve been introduced to new people and instantly categorized people in pre-built boxes.
What’s the impact in a working environment?
Well funny enough the first impression is the wrong one, most of the time.
It might have happened to you too, you might have underestimated somebody that later on revealed himself like a bless for the team, the ideal candidate for a job or somebody who became your best friend.
Today I want to tell you 2 stories. These are stories of people that have been impacted by the bias more than anybody else and have been shining for what they’ve done and the persons they are.
The first one is about a young lady, who achieved a senior marketing position very early in her career, got 3 degrees in business and suffers from cerebral palsy, a diseases that cause physical disability in human development. I’ll call her A.
A. has got a well structured career now at Cisco, but it has not always been like that.
She got several awards for her outstanding performance, but back in time she hardly imagined it could be so, as some individuals would have misjudged her capabilities on the workplace due to her physical condition.
Sometimes, movements for her are difficult and even a simple one like walking to the restroom from her desk, could be a challenge.
Flexibility to work from home and technology like video, did the trick. And the beauty of it is that she didn’t receive even a special treatment: she has exactly the same possibility as just everybody else.
Cisco employees are empowered to work from anywhere and from any device, while home or travelling on the train as if they were at their desk.
A. allowed Cisco Marketing to shine and Cisco trusted her and allowed her to make this possible.
The second story is about an engineer, his name is Sean.
He’s another successful Cisco employee working everyday on troubleshooting and configuring Cisco equipment. Sean is blind.
He has done several different jobs from developing camera films, to being a manager in a satellite networking company and now he is a multi-recognized engineer in cisco TAC.
Sean delivered a presentation to his team about what would have worked for him and what wouldn’t have worked and in short time he’s been able to successfully build strong relationship with them.
Of course technology plays an important role in Sean’s everyday job, but seen the result, does it matter?
Getting around the bias is about establishing a human contact, finding commonalities, reframing the situation, it’s all about people trying to understand other people.
At the moment, 1 out of 5 people is visually impaired and 70% of them are unemployed and among them only few have professional careers, like Sean.
Did you know that Louis Braille, Galileo Galilei, Claude Monet and even St Paul were all visually impaired?
Lesson learned is that when you are in front of a bias, you just need to be aware of it.
Sean and A. have had the guts to push themselves to their limits, working harder than anybody else and achieved success, nevertheless their physical condition.
They have taken the risk and have proven many people wrong, the very same people that didn’t trust them.
Meeting Sean and A. has been an enriching experience, they are special people with different perspective on the world, they certainly deserve all the success they are having and to shine as the brightest starts in the sky.
Hopefully their story is a confirmation for many and a discovery for few others.
My question to you is: how do you get yourself more aware of your bias behavior? And if you haven’t before, how are you going to control it?