Strategies to Overcoming Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Unconscious bias is hitting the news. From Bay Street to Main Street to Starbucks the impact of unspoken bias is real and harmful to the workplace. Bias stands in the way of making correct decisions in hiring and promoting. It also has a vital impact on your staff and the workplace in general. Let’s explore how we can become aware of our own bias and stop it in the workplace?

 

First, let’s define it. “Unconscious bias refers to a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. (ECU: 2013 Unconscious bias in higher education) 

 

We all have a bias. The question is, do we identify it and then what do we do about it? In addressing one of the most crucial training issues facing the workplace today, unconscious bias, employers can assist in creating an inclusive, civil and respectful workplace. 

 

Research indicates that unconscious biases are prejudices we have, yet are uninformed of. They are “mental shortcuts based on social norms and stereotypes.” (Guynn, 2015). Biases can be based on skin colour, gender, age, height, weight, introversion versus extroversion, marital and parental status, disability status (for example, the use of a wheelchair or a cane), foreign accents, where someone went to college, and more (Wilkie, 2014). If you can name it, there is probably an unconscious bias for it.

 

Hence if we think we are unbiased, we may have unconscious adverse thoughts about people who are outside our own group. If we spend more time with people from other groups, we are less likely to feel prejudice against them.

 

This universal tendency toward unconscious bias exists because bias is rooted in our brain. Research shows that our brain has evolved to mentally put things together to make sense to us. The brain sorts all the information it is blasted with and labels that information with universal descriptions that it may rapidly access. When we categorize these labels as either good or bad, we tend to apply the rationale to the whole group. Many of the conclusions are taken from previous experiences and learnings.  

In an article, “The Real Effects of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace”, a few of the known unconscious biases that directly impact the workplace include:

  • Affinity bias is the tendency to warm up to people like ourselves.
  • Halo effect is the tendency to think everything about a person is good because you like that person.
  • Perception bias which is the inclination to form stereotypes and assumptions about specific groups that make it awkward to make an objective judgement about members of those groups. 
  • Confirmation bias is the openness for us to pursue evidence that sanctions our pre-existing beliefs or experiences. 
  • Group think is a bias which occurs when people attempt to fit into a specific crowd by mirroring others or holding back opinions and views. This results in individuals losing part of their characteristics and causes workplaces to miss out on originality and creativity.

Horace McCormick’s research found more than 150 identified unconscious biases, making the task of rooting them out and addressing them daunting. For many organizations, however, identifying as many as possible and eliminating them has become a high priority.  

 

You can address discrimination issues by increasing your awareness of your unconscious biases, and by developing strategies that make the most of the talents and abilities of your team members. 

Unconscious behaviour is not just individual; it influences organizational culture as well. This explains why so often our best attempts at creating corporate culture change with diversity efforts seem to fall frustratingly short; to not deliver on the promise they intended.

 

What you can do: 

  • Be aware consciously of your bias 
  • Focus more on the people, on their strengths
  • Increase Exposure to Biases
  • Make small changes 
  • Be pragmatic 
  • Challenge stereotypes and counter-stereotypical information 
  • Use context to explain a situation 
  • Change your perception and relationship with out-group members 
  • Be an active bystander 
  • Improve processes, policies & procedures  

Also, managers can play a crucial role in unearthing these hidden biases by declaring their intentions to be non-biased. They can also provide transparent performance appraisals that emphasis on the employee’s exceptional abilities and skills, and grow a stronger mindfulness of their own unconscious principles.

 

Share

Dealing with Escalated Situations in Your Workplace

Resolving workplace conflict is an expected part of the job managers and Human Resource Practitioners. Whether you work in education, healthcare, human services, business, or any field, you might deal with angry, hostile, or noncompliant behaviour every day. Your response to the defensive reaction is often the key to avoiding a physical confrontation with someone who has lost control of their behaviour.

These ten De-Escalation Tips will help you respond to challenging behaviour in the safest, most efficient way possible.

  1. Be empathetic and non-judgmental
  2. Respect personal space
  3. Use non-threatening nonverbal communication
  4. Avoid overacting
  5. Focus on feelings
  6. Ignore challenging questions
  7. Set limits
  8. Choose wisely what you insist upon
  9. Allow silence for reflection
  10. Allow time for decisions

 

 To help you towards more efficient conflict de-escalation and resolution, the following basic steps can be followed:

  • Obtain the name of the person with whom you are speaking: People respond favourably to their own name. It also makes the conversation more personal. Ask for the person’s name early in the piece and use it throughout the discussion.
  • Use Active Listening: Clarifying, paraphrasing and using open-ended questions ensure that the individual you are speaking with knows you are aware of their situation and frustrations. Resaying a person’s own words back to them demonstrates that you have understood entirely what they were trying to say.       
  • Show support and suspend judgement: Empathy needs to be shown during conflict situations. Respecting the other person’s point of view even if you do not agree entirely will be the first step to resolving the conflict. 
  • Get them to agree and say yes: Having the person agree with you on general factual points leads the conversation towards a more favourable outcome. If you can show that you have understood their point of view by making clarifying statements you generate a state where the other person must reply with an affirmative response. The sooner you can get the person to say yes then sooner the conflict will de-escalate. It always works.
  • Avoid clichés: The worst of these being “Calm Down”. Did you ever notice how people who tell you to calm down are the ones who got you mad in the first place? Saying those words during a verbal conflict usually gets the classic retort “I AM CALM” very loudly usually with an animated hand gestures as well.       
  • Show empathy: You need to show compassion and understanding and give the conflict your full attention. Do not make impulsive decisions. Take the time to work through the problem.
  • Consistency in Courtesy: The person you are dealing with first thing in the morning deserves the same level of respect, civility and patience as the individual you are dealing with at 2 in the afternoon. They warrant the same high level of service and professionalism as the first person you spoke to. You need to maintain that position of positive brand ambassador and an excellent professional service.

There are many physical aspects of being mindful of in conflict situations. It is important always to be aware of features of conflict such as your body language, your emotions, your judgement, and your initial thoughts. Keeping these in mind is essential when trying to de-escalate a problematic situation.

Monika B. Jensen is the principal of the Aviary Group, consulting company that address workplace discord.  For more information, visit www.aviarygroup.ca

 

 

 

Share

The Cost of ARCHITECTURAL VISUALIZATION (or how long is a piece of string?)

Arch-Viz allows stakeholders to see or visualize architectural designs or property developments within their anticipated environment at the very early planning stages, well before the project is built.

It is an elastic term ranging from simple 2D hand drawings of a “sketch up” architectural model all the way to digitally created augmented reality where computer generated assets can be placed within a filmed environment and may include as much reality as is desired such as, for example: including spokespersons conducting a tour around or through the created environment; actual drone or simulated flying over or around the setting or environment including flying right through the interior with a full 360 view.

Developers and Architects know they would love to have high end dynamic visualizations of their new property concept as the benefits are obvious: finance is easier to attract, it will sell easier to prospective tenants; planning boards will approve quicker; and any objectors can hopefully be soothed into acceptance. Arch-Viz allows options in design, color, textures, orientations which is a luxury for a buyer or end-user to explore, to experiment, to be able to see before committing to the a project.

Digitally, there really is no end to what can be done as advance arch-viz studios use the same techniques as film and television visual effects companies and indeed many arch-viz studios started in that industry.

But for many projects costing in the hundreds of millions involving multiple diverse stakeholders there is a tendency to rely on a static model from Sketch up and then use Photoshop to make it “glamorous” – this image of the project, this rendering, and is usually just the one is used by the developer from city hall to the bank manager even though it is neither effective nor efficient.

Is there a fear of the cost of dynamic CGI renderings? Do bricks and mortar people view it as a soft marketing cost without any thought to the money saving benefits? How much is too much if it helps sell the building quickly; secure financing; obtain planning approval or appease concerned NIMBYS.

Asking point blank: “how much?” is not always fair!! Creating advanced dynamic 3D renderings is a labour intensive process. There are hundreds of questions needed to be answered: What Design? How big? Where? What materials? What assets do you already have? For who? Who is the audience?   It is like asking a home renovator: “how much to build a kitchen?” or asking an architect: “how much to design a building?” without any further details!

The task of an arch-viz studio is to manually create the assets (the building, the bridge, the apartment) which includes all the parts which go into it – so if you are showing what an apartment would like then generally all the contents therein need to be created by an artist. So that means labor and perhaps a lot of it. And these viz artists have gone to school for at least 2 years and need about 5 years of experience before they are good enough – and they know it and get paid accordingly!

While important to the determination of purchasing Arch-Viz, instead of solely asking “how much?” the Project Principal should be asking one simple question: “what is the experience we wish to create for the buyer or the end-user of our project?”. The more the project is meant to be an “experience” such as a lifestyle community, then the more dynamic 3D movement visualizations and renderings should be utilized to assist stakeholders in the decision making process.

What we can say about cost is that the simple 2D renderings/visualizations will generally be $1,000 .. when you add “movement” to the image then you double the cost; when you become within the image it doubles again and generally as you add more and more movement, you will be doubling the cost. Other services can be included to the presentation such as drone camera shots; script writing; professional actors; dramatic sound etc. In other words, when you start moving towards an infomercial or publicity videos you will then start paying as you would for a regular commercial.

Granted, high end 3D dynamic high end CGI renderings may not be necessary or appropriate for every project. However, each project should be looked at for its experience sought, the stakeholders priorities, project magnitude, time, and risk, and within that milieu subject arch-viz services to a cost benefit analysis. For many Planning Consultants and Architects then, it is straightforward that a fraction of a fraction of the overall budget should be spent on visualizing the development.

Arch-viz is an inexpensive way to decide how a project will look, and should look within the its planned environment as design changes are far easier and less expensive to make at the planning stage. Make no mistake, while arch-viz firms do try for “good, fast, cheap” it can be difficult to achieve and often, will only be two out of three, but as long as there is value, then it is not a bad compromise.

Check our Vimeo page to see more videos

Brian Simpson BBA, MBA, LLB

Principal at CityFX Inc. 42 Wright St., St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada     L2T 3J4        289.362.3139         www.cityfx.ca

Share

The Importance of City Website Design for Economic Development

The Importance of City Website Design for Economic Development

by Rickey Hayes (Retail Attractions, LLC)

 

If you’re reading this, chances are your city is looking to grow by increasing sales tax revenue through economic development. One way to grow your tax base is by recruiting retail development. One of the key components of successful recruitment is your city’s website. Most companies will start their retail site selection research on the internet, and each project will have its own set of unique parameters. It is not enough that your city meets these requirements. For your city to be selected as a possible location, you have to sell your city. Get the information out there and let the potential investors know what you have to offer. Your city’s website will more than likely be your first chance to make a good impression on the potential developer or investor. If your website is out of date or lacking in information critical to investors, your website presents an unorganized city that is not prepared to support growth. Progressive cities are recognizing the need to aggressively market themselves and create economic greenhouses in preparation for growth.

One of the most critical pieces of information for a city’s website is current demographics for your city and trade area. If your city has a unique trade area or unique demographics, site selectors need to be made aware of this information. Take this opportunity to showcase what your city has to offer. If incentives are available to potential developers, your website should provide information on these incentives especially if they are unique to your community. With so many cities competing for the same development projects, your city has to be aggressive in marketing its potential.

The organization and presentation of your city’s information is another key element in making your city attractive to potential developers. Information should be easy to find, up-to-date and thorough. Your website should convey that your city is ready and willing to work with developers on any issue that may arise. Each department should have their own page with direct contact information, and pertinent documents such as permits and standards should be clearly posted. This is your chance to show potential investors that your city is organized and ready to help make their development project a success.

Lastly, let’s discuss the most commonly overlooked element in municipal web design, search engine optimization (SEO). A website that has been optimized for search engine accessibility has content that is highly searchable and easily indexed. Having an optimized website is important when an investor is searching for information on potential sites. Optimizing your cities website will ensure investors find your official city website and the most relevant information when searching for details about your city.

To find out more about website design for your city, contact Retail Attractions.

Rickey Hayes is the principal of Retail Attractions, LLC, a firm dedicated to helping cities and developers successfully find retail sites, close deals and improve the quality of life for our client cities.
Share

A Primer on Retail Development for Cities

More and more cities and communities are realizing that growing their retail base wisely is an integral part of any balanced and long-term economic development strategy. Not every city can support extensive retail; overbuilding in some categories and areas has contributed to today’s economic woes in the retail sector. However, many areas are still significantly underretailed and opportunities exist for both savvy cities and smart retailers.

Since fewer retailers are moving in this challenging environment, competition for those new projects and locations is fierce. How can a city help get its name on the expansion list? Here are some tips we’ve found to be effective as we help cities recruit new businesses:

  1. Believe in and utilize public/private partnerships. Cities can assemble land, provide needed public infrastructure and ensue the development process is as pain-free and efficient as possible. Now is the time for innovate approaches to incentives and improving internal processes.
  2. Know your city/sites well, from a development perspective. What would make them attractive (or not) to a particular retailer? Does the site fit the retailer’s criteria?
  3. Get your demographic house in order. Using the numbers from the last census is NOT providing current, actionable information for the site selection process. Numbers generated via internal studies (not independently verifiable) are also not helpful. Use a reputable source for solid demographics based on a reasonable trade area.
  4. Understand the development process from the development side. Knowing how to work with site selectors, brokers, developers, leasing agents and retailers is crucial to ensure a smooth process and positive outcome.
  5. Craft a marketing position and use it. If your city logo/motto reflects 150 years of history but not where you’re headed, or what new residents or businesses can expect in the future, you’ve missed an opportunity to shine. If your city web site looks like an internal project, you’ve missed another one. Cities selling themselves need the same tools as other companies with products to sell… good logo, solid identity, good product information, great marketing vehicles to share it all.
  6. Own your own economic development efforts. Chambers of Commerce, industrial development authorities, and other quasi-governmental bodies cannot “pull the trigger” on projects, yet the decision-making process and the ability to get things done in a consistent manner is an integral part of economic growth and development.

It’s not easy to get noticed by national retailers and other site selectors, but using these tips will help your community put its best foot forward and increase the chances you’ll get a shot at new business expansions or developments.

Rickey Hayes is the principal of Retail Attractions, LLC, a firm dedicated to helping cities and developers successfully find retail sites, close deals and improve the quality of life for our client cities.Mandy Vavrinak is the principal of Crossroads Communications, LLC, a firm dedicated to effectively marketing places and spaces and specializing in working with retailers and cities. They’ve successfully partnered on a number of projects, attracting more than 6 million square feet of retail to the right locations over the past 6 years.
Share

What does Bill 132 (Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act) mean to you and your workplace?

One in four women and one in ten men say they have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Of the reported cases of workplace sexual harassment, 55% were committed by co-workers; 39% of which involved a supervisor or manager. 8% of those who are sexually harassed at work report the harassment.

Recently there have been some changes made to Bill 168 – Violence in the Workplace, which gives employers’ statutory obligations. Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, which received royal assent on March 8, 2016, requires all employers to have policies and programs including an investigation procedure. The essential changes brought by Bill 132 include: an employer is required to create a workplace harassment program; the program must include reporting and investigating tools for incidents of workplace harassment and violence; the employers must ensure that all complaints are investigated, and investigations are completed in a timely fashion and a new power to the Ministry of Labour (MOL) to order an independent workplace harassment investigation at the employer’s expense.

September 8, 2016, now looms for companies as the date for compliance with Bill 132. The amendments stand to change dramatically how workplace harassment is addressed in Ontario. The new OHSA obligations and expectations have been set and are accompanied by expanded government oversight. Harassment in the workplace is already a challenging issue that could engage multiple forums, with complaints possibly being advanced through a grievance, civil claim, complaint under the Human Rights Code, and, depending on the severity of the conduct, the criminal justice system.

Also, and particularly, the Bill amends the OHSA to require an employer to conduct an investigation of a workplace harassment complaint that is “appropriate in the circumstances.” The phrase “appropriate in the circumstances” is not defined. Further, the Ministry of Labour has not published any guidance material to communicate what factors will be considered by inspectors when determining whether an investigation meets this standard. Assuming that the inspectors could be evaluating investigations against expected best practices which would include such things as an impartial investigator, a collection of all relevant information, and procedural fairness to the alleged harasser could create challenges for employers as the appropriateness of an investigation may be evaluated in hindsight.

Consequences of flawed investigations would impair or prejudice the employer’s ability to establish just cause for termination or discipline. There would also be an issue of due diligence under the OHSA and Human Rights Code. Consequences would include aggravated, punitive or Code damages; penalties from the Ministry of Labour under the OHSA and reinstatement in unionized workplaces. Some of the critical mistakes some employers are making include: failing to act at all; taking the complaint seriously; failure to train investigators; inability to plan, improper or inadequate files; and retention of evidence.

Many situations happening in the workplace may prompt the necessity for an investigation, such as allegations of discrimination or harassment, workplace bullying, inappropriate use of the internet or social media, policy breaches, or statutory violations. Often, employers attempt to resolve minor issues informally through discussions with the employees involved. When the allegations are more serious, employers may depend on managers to conduct internal investigations. However, in many situations, having an organization deal directly with the problem is not necessarily the best approach – informal discussions may rapidly collapse, and basic investigative steps may be overlooked by inexperienced managers, making matters worse. A vital skill for any employer is identifying when a formal investigation by an external investigator is appropriate.

Note: meeting the requirements of Bill 132 could lead to mistakes that can be costly to your organization.

Be prepared. Be proactive.

Contact Monika Jensen, Principal Aviary Group at mjensen@aviarygroup.ca  or (905) 683-9953 if you need a complaint investigated or mediated.

Share

Embracing Civility for a More Satisfying WorkPlace

Complaints of harassment, discrimination, bullying and now violence and disrespectful workplaces have become a standard concern for managers and Human Resources specialist. As we cope with the many arising situations, I have found the word incivility is becoming frequently used. So what does incivility mean? To define it, let’s look at how the Institute of Civility describes it. Civility is about more than merely being polite. Civility requires a profound self-awareness being characterized by true respect for others. Civility involves the tremendous hard work of remaining present even with those with whom we have inherent and perhaps fierce differences. It is about continuously being open to hearing, to learning, to teaching and to changing. It pursues mutual ground as a start point for discussions when differences may occur, while at the same time be aware that differences are heartening. It is persistence, grace, and strength of character.

Recently research has expanded our practical understanding of incivility by identifying behaviours which employees have deemed disrespectful. The most frequently occurring forms include: neglecting to turn off cell phones; talking behind someone’s back; doubting someone’s judgement, using demeaning or disparaging language, gestures or behaviours; communicating with the intent to belittle or degrade, eye rolling, giving the silent treatment and using sarcasm; gossip and slander; paying no attention or ignoring someone; taking credit for someone else’s work or ideas; intimidation by intentionally using fear to manipulate others. It may also include yelling, invading personal space, throwing things, slamming things and losing one’s temper; and sabotaging by setting someone up to fail or intentionally creating a situation to make another person look foolish or incompetent. Also may include hate-ism by deliberately pointing at a victim based on age, gender, race or sexual orientation are instances of profiling because of an “ism.”

Many examples include blaming others rather than accepting responsibility; checking email or texting during a meeting; using email to send a difficult message to avoid facing the person, which may be misunderstood and misinterpreted; not saying “please” or “thank you”; not listening and talking over or down to someone.
The cost of incivility is high. It is not only about money! There is research to support impacts on performance through lost time and absenteeism, lack of creativity, less helpfulness and less likely to assist another employee. The impact of teams is on the level of energy, emotional engagement, and performance. The conduct reaches into our physical health; impacts our customers and commitment to the organization and willingness of employees to stay with their companies. All affecting the bottom line of productivity.
So how do we address these issues? I would like to explore some recommendations for your consideration. It starts with us as individuals. Managing ourselves. How? If you throw a ball at the wall…it comes back. It works with people too. If you are, mean…it comes back! People will be mean to you.

How can you be kind and patient all the time when life is so stressful—and just plain hard? You do it by embracing civility! Civility requires self-awareness.

With self-awareness you can:
 Control your attitude
 Manage your moods
 Choose behaviours that do not negatively impact your life or disrupt those around you

Can you…
 Feel and express annoyance, irritation or frustration without hurting others— and then let it go?
 Accept and even appreciate that other people have needs and opinions which are different from your own?
 Encourage and enjoy the successes of others?
 Recognize when someone else feels irritated, upset or frustrated and keep yourself from reacting impulsively in response?

As leaders, we need to model. The Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy wrote: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves.” Employees look to leaders for guidance and someone to aspire too. What are they seeing? Watch your language and put away your smartphones when engaging with your staff. Be mindful of the perils of emails and other electronic communication. Pick up the phone or set up a face to face meeting instead. Take immediate and corrective action when warranted. Rude and disrespectful behaviours emerge quickly and sometimes without warning. As the leader, you need to respond at the moment. By delaying a reaction or action, it sends out mixed messages to the offender as well as the entire team. Take all complaints seriously, realizing that coming forward by the individual is difficult, and they need to know they are supported.

We attend seminars and workshop on harassment prevention, Creating Respectful Workplace and Violence in the Workplace. I have put together a workshop on “How Embracing Civility can Create More Satisfying Work Environments”. The agenda is:
• Why Civility Matters
• It Starts with You!
• Do What You Say and Say What You Mean
• Good Fences Make Great Neighbours
• Working in the Salad Bowl
• Eliminate Gossip and Bullying
• You Can’t Always Get What You Want
• Taking It to the Extreme
• Paving the Path to Civility

Contact Monika Jensen, Principal, Aviary Group, at mjensen@aviarygroup.ca  if you are interested.

Share

What is your Asset Management Plan?

 

What is your Asset Management Plan?

 

After nearly ten years in and around Municipal Government, I understand the pressures you are face. Staff turnover, increasing administrative and operational demands, and reduced outside funding are just some of the significant pressures municipalities are facing. Unfortunately, the forecast isn’t so rosy either.  The aging workforce, deteriorating infrastructure, and will only make things more challenging in the years to come.  This is why it is more important than ever to get the most value out of each and every dollar spent by developing and implementing an Asset Management Plan.

 

What is Asset Management Planning?

 

Prioritizing needs over wants by ensuring timely investments in infrastructure.

 

Needs for an Asset Management Plan     

  • Aging and decaying infrastructure
  • Higher expectations from the public regarding levels of service
  • Higher health and safety standards
  • Increased regulations
  • Growth

Top Benefits of an Asset Management Plan

  • Reduces unpleasant surprises
  • Helps in achieving consistent levels of service
  • Helps in establishing policies and benchmarks for performance
  • Provides for easier budgeting
  • Reduces Municipal risk

·          All Federal Government Gas Tax recipients will be required to have an Asset Management Plan in place by March, 2018.

 

Develop a clearer picture of the state of your assets by developing an Asset Management Plan. You and your stakeholders will be better informed about asset operation, maintenance, and renewal decisions.

 

Contact Richardson Municipal Solutions today for your free Asset Management assessment.

Share