11 Jun Remote collaboration: How to manage bias at the workplace
Do you want to access talent everywhere, or just in specific markets? If the answer is everywhere, you need to be at least open to the possibility of remote work
Remote working has led to social disconnect resulting in behavioural bias amongst the digital workforce. Companies need to put on their thinking caps and come up with a clear action plan for handling any issues related to heuristics and interpersonal sensitivity. Let’s look at some of the ways leaders can manage biases and misconceptions proactively that would help in maintaining a cordial relationship with their teams for achieving better business outcomes.
In the new ways of working, managers do not get a chance to interact freely with their colleagues on a regular basis. Due to this they could end up enforcing their beliefs and opinions on their teammates which would result in lack of two way communication and exchange of ideas. This would result in a trust deficit within the team leading to confirmation bias. People leaders need to be wary of this bias and learn to manage it proactively by having open conversations with their staff and providing them with developmental feedback for growth and stability. Managers need to engage with their teams positively and be ready to acknowledge differences through empathetic understanding and inclusivity. It would be important to listen to other people’s views and analyse all the relevant data points before jumping into hasty conclusions.
Digital workforce is operating in an environment which is socially isolated. There is a tendency among managers to pass the buck for negative experiences on others due to parochial thinking leading to attributional bias. Managers need to be aware of the situational realities and constraints that deliver bad results. Having regular one on one sessions with team members would expand their personal ken and approve their ability to understand the intentions of the team members in the right perspective. Managers would need to reflect on what went wrong and take corrective action for solving the problem rather than externalisation of blame and carrying on pointing fingers at others. This would also help address and remediate potential conflicts with the other team.
New age technological tools like podcasts, webinar, video conferencing and skype meeting gives ample opportunities for conducting meetings with different groups. There is an inherent risk of amplifying the individual biases of the group due to lack of diversity in groupthink sessions. The purpose of having such sessions would be defeated when the group is largely homogeneous carrying a similar set of ideas and perceptions. It would be more appropriate to have a mix of heterogeneous groups of people from different backgrounds and thinking that would help in building a successful intergroup relationship. This would enhance interpersonal bonding and reduce the chances of prejudice and discrimination. Having informal chats and casual connect sessions with team members can help in narrowing the physical distance and help in building a good rapport with them.
It is easy to judge people selectively during their peaks and lows based on preconceived notions. The mental schema distorts our understanding and decisions are made based on the perceptions inferred from the past. Managers need to take cognisance of this fact and try to go beyond the realms of evaluating the performance of the employees subconsciously without getting down to brass tacks. Having regular performance evolution sessions would help in setting the expectations right and evoke active participation from team members resulting in free and fair appraisals.
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