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Employee Wellness

Ways To Reduce Unconscious Bias In The Workplace

In a previous article, we shared some general ways you can build a more supportive, accepting, and respectful workplace. Today, we dive deeper into how you can address unconscious bias in your business and foster a more diverse and inclusive company.

There are many types of unconscious bias (over 19), but here are the four key ones and how you can avoid them:

  1. Gender bias. This is the tendency to prefer one gender over another. Examples include:
  1.  Providing more resources and opportunities to one gender (typically men) over another;
  2. Reviewing an employee of one gender differently from another gender — even when the evaluations are purely merit-based; and 
  3. Rewarding an employee of one gender differently from another gender in the form of promotions, raises or other merit-based rewards.

“Communication is key. Avoid sweeping generalisations and do your research on different cultures. A gesture or custom that you’re indifferent to might offend someone from a different cultural background, and vice versa.”

Salma Sakr, MindNation Chief Growth Officer

A major result of gender bias is the creation of the “glass ceiling,” a metaphor for the evident but intangible hierarchical impediment that prevents women (and even minorities) from achieving elevated professional success. If you want to break this glass ceiling, here are some ways you can avoid gender bias at work: 

  • Set gender-neutral recruitment standards. Do this by defining the ideal candidate profile ahead of time and evaluating all candidates against those standards. 
  • Create diversity goals. Set qualitative gender diversity goals to create a more gender-balanced team. Support and provide resources for women to take on leadership roles. 

2. Ageism. This is seterotyping or discrimination  against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. This can also include ignoring a junior’s ideas because they are considered “too young,” or assuming someone should behave in certain ways because of their age. 

Preventing ageism involves combatting age-related stereotypes as well as engaging older team members in the workplace. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Don’t make assumptions based on age: For example, don’t automatically presume that older workers don’t know how to use technology or aren’t open to learning new skills. Provide equal learning opportunities for everyone. 
  • Foster cross-generational collaboration: Create two-way mentorship programs where a senior team member is paired with a new hire. This kind of collaboration facilitates communication between team members of different stages, which can help break down misconceptions about age. 

3. Cultural bias.  Cultural biases are assumptions, stereotypes, and belief systems about a different culture, based on our own limited experience of that world. In the workplace can create misunderstandings, biased treatment and barriers to career advancement; if you are manager who believes that all South Asians are good in software programming but who like to make a fuss over nothing, for example, you might never give your team members from India the opportunity to speak their mind, causing them to eventually leave the company due to lack of opportunities.

Here are some ways you can be sensitive to individual backgrounds and beliefs when in a professional environment:

  • Notice the little things. Someone from a different cultural background might behave in a way that you interpret as rude, shy, or standoffish, but that could simply be the way you interpret it. You need to think deeper, and really acknowledge that what you call ‘truth’ is actually just accumulated information from your own cultural background.
  • Communication is key. Avoid sweeping generalisations and do your research on different cultures. A gesture or custom that you’re indifferent to might offend someone from a different cultural background, and vice versa.
  • Be flexible. We all operate in different ways and have different views of life – even within the same sub-cultures. In a professional environment, always respect others’ customs, such as national holidays, dietary requirements and political attitudes. If in doubt, talk about something else!
  • Be yourself! We’re all human at the end of the day, and you’ll often find that smiling and offering a friendly face are universally recognised behaviours, wherever you’re from!

4. Race/ethnicity bias. This is any discrimination against any individual on the basis of their skin color, or racial or ethnic origin. It can take many forms, such as:

  1. Direct discrimination: not hiring or promoting someone based solely on their race
  2. Indirect discrimination: happens when a rule or policy set by an employer places people from certain racial, ethnic or national groups at a disadvantage.
  3. Racial harassment: includes any unwanted conduct related to an employee’s race, especially when it violates their dignity or creates an offensive environment.
  4. Victimization. when someone is treated badsly because they complained about discrimination or helped someone who has been the victim of discrimination.

Leaders can put a stop racial discrimination at work by:

  • Creating channels where employees feel safe speaking up about racial issues. It’s important for managers to seek input from missing voices to help obtain different ideas for a diverse point of view.
  • Actively communicating their stance on racial discrimination and what won’t be tolerated along with the consequences for violation. Racism, in any form, should never be overlooked, excused or tolerated, regardless of someone’s rank or title.
  • Spreading awareness by providing resources to educate individuals about the culture of racism and the history of different races. Most individuals are unaware of racial injustice and the comments they unconsciously make towards their BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) colleagues.

Companies can actively reduce bias through training along with embedding processes, policies, and expectations that help create a culture rooted in diversity and inclusion. Ultimately, it’s management’s responsibility to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion and the value it brings to the company as well as holding others accountable. 

MindNation holds webinars to help organizations reduce unconscious bias in the workplace so that team members become happier, healthier, and more productive. Email [email protected] to schedule a session now!

Categories
Employee Wellness

Everyone At The Table: 3 Ways To A More Diverse And Inclusive Workplace

Promoting and improving diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace no longer just means hiring more women in the company or allocating a prayer room for your Muslim team members. These are good first steps but much more needs to be done if you want to create a workplace that respects the unique needs, perspectives, and potential of everyone. 

D&I explained

Simply put, diversity in the workplace means that the company hires a wide range of diverse individuals — people of various race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs.

Inclusion, on the other hand, is the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. Inclusion is about putting diversity into action.

“Unconscious bias in the workplace impacts our recruitment decisions, employee development, impairing diversity and retention rates, as well as promoting a disconnected culture.”

Salma Sakr, MindNation Chief Growth Officer


Benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace

Equitable employers benefit in the following ways:

  1. They gain deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.
  2. Diversity and inclusion can enhance the problem-solving necessary to rethink businesses and reimagine industries in the face of unprecedented disruption.
  3. More diverse teams are better at anticipating changes in consumer needs and buying patterns, which can lead to more rapid product and service innovation.
  4. All of the above positively contribute to the company’s bottom line.

Putting it into practice

D&I has become a buzz word that many companies use for good PR, but genuine D&I requires effort, dedication, and consistency. Here are 3 ways you can make it happen in your company:

  1. Be aware of unconscious bias.
    Unconscious bias (or implicit bias) is often defined as prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair.

Unconscious bias in the workplace impacts our recruitment decisions, employee development, impairing diversity and retention rates, as well as promoting a disconnected culture. 

Organizations who make an effort to address unconscious bias in order to develop and maintain an inclusive workforce enjoy the following benefits:

  1. Increasing company profitability: Teams that have solid problem-solving and decision-making skills can bring a competitive advantage to a company. For example, a McKinsey study found that gender-diverse companies were 21% more likely to gain above-average profitability.
  2. They are more attractive to top talent: By implementing inclusive recruitment strategies, companies are able to reach out to a wider talent pool. Job seekers would also be more likely to apply to companies that prioritize diversity.
  3. Increasing innovation: Diverse teams can bring a variety of fresh ideas to the table, allowing teams to come up with creative solutions that can drive sales. For example, a 2018 study by the Boston Consulting Group found that companies with diverse management teams bring 19% higher innovation revenue.
  4. Higher productivity: University research found that tech firms with diverse management teams have 1.32 times higher levels of productivity. Increased productivity can lead to more efficient project management and implementation.
  5. Higher employee engagement: This can lead to higher job satisfaction, which in turn, can lower the turnover rate.
  6. Making fair and more efficient business decisions: Inclusive teams can make better business decisions up to 87% of the time. These business decisions can help improve a company’s performance and revenue. 

2. Be an ally. This is a critical next step and involves the participation of everyone at work regardless of their title, i.e. whether you are a manager or not. Here are three things you can do if you see an injustice at work, a bias being played out, or a team member in an uncomfortable or even scarring situation: 

Step 1: Point it out using language such as 

“I noticed that…”
“It seems like…”

“It feels to me like…”

Step 2: Avoid making assumptions. Instead, clarify it with the person involved, such as by asking “Did I read that right?”

Then validate it by using language such as“I want to acknowledge how challenging this is…”

Step 3: Work it out together by sharing your intention to help and to develop a plan to problem solve together. 


3. Encourage team identification. High team identification is when members identify themselves as part of a group and feel proud to be a part of it, when they feel that they are not working against each other, but for the same team, and they have the same future, goals, and vision. The higher the collective team identification, the more likely team members feel positively about diversity and are therefore more collaborative and successful. To do this, you need to make sure that people are not merely members of different social categories such as gender or race, but to emphasise the distinctiveness of each individual. 

By following these relatively simple steps you can really make a difference to your employees’ lives and shape the effect of diversity for the greater.

MindNation offers webinars to train your managers on how to foster more diversity and inclusion in the workplace so that you build happier, healthier, and more productive teams. Email [email protected] to schedule a session now!

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Featured Self Help

7 Solutions For Time Management Issues


If your team is struggling with productivity, MindNation has a repertoire of virtual webinars to help employees with time management, manage stress, and avoid burnout. Book these talks for your team by emailing [email protected]

When you are better at planning your day, prioritizing work tasks, and eliminating distractions, you can achieve your goals and be less impacted by stress or burnout. Whether you’re a student, stay-at-home-parent, or working in a company, time management is an essential skill to have.

Here are some things you can do to manage your time better:

“By learning the art of saying a tactful “no” to others, you’ll protect your time budget and improve your focus on your most valuable activities.”

Salma Sakr, MindNation Chief Growth Officer
  1. Avoid multitasking. Many people believe that multitasking makes them productive, but all that shifting back and forth between tasks isn’t actually that efficient because each time you do it, it takes your brain more time to refocus. So try to complete one project or task at a time before moving to the next one; your brain will thank you for it. 
  1. Merge different email accounts into one inbox. According to a 2019 report by management consulting company McKinsey & Co., the average professional spends 28% of the work day reading and email. Get this time back by making a few changes to your email settings and having all incoming email delivered to just one inbox.
  2. Treat your calendar as your time budget. Time isn’t money, but it does behave like money; it must be budgeted because when it’s gone, it’s gone. So when you schedule things into your calendar, think of it the same way you would think about withdrawing money from a bank account. Everyone has a weekly limit of 168 hours; try your best to live within this time budget and never overdraw.
  3. Avoid having back-to-back-to-back appointments. Leave space between your appointments for unexpected interruptions, to take a moment to relax, or to prepare for the next meeting.
  4. Say “No” more often than you say “Yes.” By learning the art of saying a tactful “no” to others, you’ll protect your time budget and improve your focus on your most valuable activities.
  5. Procrastinate properly. When a new idea comes into your head, ask yourself, “Do I need to do this now, or can I do it later?” Appropriate procrastination can help you, because you’re still going to complete those ideas, just at a later date. Don’t limit your calendar to what can be done today or within a week; instead, think in terms of months or even years.
  6. Identify your Most Valuable Activities (MVAs). These are the top two activities that you excel at, the ones that would cost you the most per hour to pay someone else to do. All the other activities that you do during work time other than those two MVAs are your less valuable activities, or LVAs.

In order to achieve maximum results during the limited amount of work time you have each week, prioritize your MVAs in your calendar and delegate LVAs to your team or your colleagues when possible. By leaving less room for options, you minimize the temptation to multitask and improve your overall focus. The result: more disposable time, and you reach your goals faster.

Time will always fill the space you give it, so use it wisely. 

By Salma Sakr, MindNation Chief Growth Officer

Categories
Self Help

5 Ways To Recharge Your Energy

In today’s fast-paced world, multitasking seems like a great way to get a lot done at once. But according to American-Canadian cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, doing more than one thing at a time is taxing on the brain and drains precious mental energy. “Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes [parts of our brain] to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task,” he says. “The rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time.” This leads to a rapid decline in decision-making skills, creativity, and productivity. 

“It’s funny to me to think about how quickly we freak out when our cell phone battery starts to weaken, but how seldom we even notice when our own brain power starts fading away,” says Salma Sakr, Chief Growth Officer at MindNation. 

“So in the same way we  keep an eye on our finances to make sure we don’t go bankrupt, it’s important we pay attention to how we spend and invest our energy so we don’t end up running out. “

How can we best replenish our mental energy and attain consistent peak performance when faced with so many things to do at work and at home? Salma suggests 5 ways we can keep our body and brain primed throughout the day:

  1. Start your day right
  • Hold off on checking email, social media, or any media for that matter, right when you open your eyes. “This way you can fuel your brain with something positive, inspiring, or energizing first,” Salma suggests. 
  •  Don’t rush through your breakfast, coffee, or smoothie. Take time to savor the meal. 
  • Go for a walk, do some gentle yoga.
  • Add a little humor to the morning by sharing a funny story with a friend or family.

“Once you get started and you feel that energy starting to flow, you end up doing more than you expected and you actually enjoy it.”

Salma Sakr, MindNation

2. It’s not just WHAT you eat, but also HOW you eat

  • Make sure to eat slowly, and stop before you think you’re full. 
  • Also make sure that you’re eating often enough to maintain a consistent energy level. Going too long between meals can actually cause your energy to tank and even reduce your immunity.

3. Find time to move throughout the day

“I suggest you try to get up and move for at least 10 minutes every hour using a 50-minute, 10-minute work cycle during the day,” Salma offers. “If you feel more tired, or more stressed, you may want to shift to 25 minutes on and five minutes off, so that you’re recharging even more often. You can even combine strategies, whatever the day calls for.”

4. Don’t forget to practice self-care

“Incorporate the things you enjoy doing into your routine, such as listening to music, using aromatherapy, doing gratitude exercises, thinking about someone you care about, or watching a funny video,” advises Salma. 

5. At night, unwind properly

  • Place your digital device out of reach, because it’s way too tempting to check in when it’s by your bed.
  •  “If you have to sleep with the TV on, make sure to choose shows that are relaxing or even boring, so your brain isn’t trying to pay attention,” Salma suggests. “Also, set a timer for the TV to turn off.” 
  • Listen to an audiobook or read a few pages of a book. “Most people who read before bed only actually read a few pages because their eyes start to get tired and their brain starts to recognize this consistent thing they do when they are ready to fall asleep,” shares Salma.
  • Create a quiet comfortable space to sleep in. Studies show that a cool temperature of about 20 degrees is best for the body to rest, and you should also minimize light and sound. 

Take a few moments right now to write down a couple of ways you can recharge your energy throughout the day. Make sure your plans are realistic, and keep them short and simple. Then, think about someone you could ask to join you from time to time to help you stick with your commitment.

Make sure to  repeat these new habits consistently enough for adaptations to start to add up.  “A good rule of thumb is  the power of two days — never miss two consecutive days of completing a new positive habit,” Salma shares. “You can miss a day — because let’s be honest, life gets in the way and all our plans need to be realistic — but fight the urge to miss a second day so you don’t fall back into your old habits.” So push yourself (though not too much) and use the ‘2-day rule’ as a way to build your habit. 

Finally, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s not easy to break out of old habits and build new ones so be patient, start small, and be kind to yourself. 

If you need help breaking out of bad habits or kick-starting new ones, our WellBeing Coaches are available 24/7 for teletherapy sessions. Book a session now via FB Messenger bit.ly/mn-chat or email [email protected].  

Categories
Employee Wellness

10 Tips For Managing Difficult Conversations

Difficult conversations are inevitable in human life. You have to deliver bad news, call someone out for saying something offensive, or have opposing thoughts about polarizing issues. Most of us tend to shy away from engaging in tough dialogues because we are afraid the other party will get sad, mad, or — in the case of friends and loved ones — not want to be friends or love us anymore. But keeping quiet can lead to a build-up of resentment that will possibly boil over into an explosive confrontation the next time around, or result in improper behaviors remaining unchanged. 

“We tend to view difficult conversations as a personal attack, a power struggle that becomes a win-lose situation,” says Salma Sakr, Chief Growth Officer of MindNation. “But if we treated them as an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, to increase understanding, and to achieve goals, then we can address the situation sooner and with more ease.”

“Falling to engage in difficult conversations with loved ones does the relationship a disservice.”

Danah Gutierrez , Author and R&R.mp3 Podcast Host

For Danah Gutierrez, author and podcast host, falling to engage in difficult conversations with loved ones does the relationship a disservice. “You end up living in this illusion that everything is fine between the two of you, but it’s only fine on the surface. Deep down, something sinister is brewing, which is not good for the relationship.”

While there is no one way to have a difficult conversation, there is a blueprint that we can use to support us as we head into those conversations:

  1. Don’t get into it if you are feeling angry. Never initiate a conversation when you are overly angry, frustrated, or resentful. “While it’s okay to feel emotions, you have to time it right,” points out Salma. “Once you calm down, you’re in a better position to initiate and engage in a conversation.”
  1. Don’t use text, email, or chat, video talk or face to face is better. “Never use emails, texts, or chats to engage in a difficult conversation because things can be lost in translation when written,” says Salma. “And if someone triggers you with their email, don’t take the bait and  don’t defend yourself. Just don’t respond. Ask for a face to face meeting; if that’s not possible, ask for a phone meeting.”
  1. Don’t point fingers, be sarcastic, or call them names. This is especially true when the other person’s words care are racist, homophobic, or misogynistic, thus inflaming our emotions. Call the person out politely and don’t be mean. “Empathize,” Danah advises. “Ask questions and find out why they feel that way. Maybe they were traumatized by a certain race, or those characteristics are the only things they see on tv.” Then respectfully counter these generalizations with your own experiences, such as telling them that you know people from this race who are not what they think them to be. 
  1. Let them share their perspective. When a loved one says or does something that does not sit well with you, ask questions first so you can find out where they are coming from. Danah recommends asking things like “How are you?” “What’s going on?” “I heard you say this, did I hear it correctly?” It’s possible the person only said those words in a moment of heightened emotions or because he or she was confused. 
  1. Use “I” statements. Statements like “From my perspective,” or “The way I see it…” or “I feel __ when you said ___” make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not making accusatory assumptions about the other person’s intentions or behavior. When the other party does not feel judged, emotions de-escalate and a proper conversation can ensue. 
  2. Don’t  lose focus.  If you find yourself facing a lot of resistance, and the person is veering into unrelated matters, Salma suggests a few statements to help get you back on track: 
  • “I understand where you are coming from, but right now we are talking about …”
  • “That may be true but that is not as urgent as what we are discussing now. Let’s prioritize” 
  • “I suggest we park that and come back to it once we finish our conversation.”
  • “Clearly you have a lot on your mind, let’s set up more time to discuss that after we finish what we came to discuss here.” 

“By doing this, you are giving space for their emotions but putting a boundary that this conversation is focused on a certain discussion and that you won’t deviate,” says Salma.

  1. Agree to disagree. “In today’s society, there is so much polarization going on in the form of ‘If you believe this, we cant be friends,’ or ‘If you don’t agree with me, feel free to unfriend me on social media,’” points out Danah. “But when you start living in a bubble of like-minded people, you become out of touch with the reality that there will always be people who think differently than you. We don’t have to fear the people who oppose our views. Instead, offer to meet halfway, and know that you can both walk away from that conversation not hating each other.” 

Now, if the other person is insistent on his or her views, end the conversation politely but with affirmation. “‘I really love how passionate you are about this,’” Danah role-plays. “‘But I don’t want to argue with you, so let’s just agree to disagree.’”

  1. Create accountability. “When wrapping up the conversation related to work performance, make sure to put a deadline within which you want to see the behavior or results changed/improved,” suggests Salma. “Ask them to book it in your calendar so you can reconvene and assess progress. That will ensure they remain accountable to the changes you have requested.”
  1. Don’t expect to change their minds. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion and at the end of the day, it’s not our job to fix other people’s way of thinking,” Danah says. “Always go back to the relationship; know that the two of you can be extremely different but still love and respect each other. Instead of cutting them off from your life because of differing opinions, use these difficult conversations as an opportunity to practice empathy, patience, and emotional intelligence.”
  1. Do set boundaries for future encounters. Anytime a difficult conversation with a loved one feels overwhelming, know that it’s okay to take a step back for your own mental and emotional health. “Some people can be tolerated only in small doses and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Danah points out. 


It is possible to transform difficult conversations into constructive exchanges. We may not be able to control how others think and react, but we can control our own emotions, thoughts, and responses so that the relationship becomes better for it. 

MindNation offers Company Culture Drive Ⓒ Talks — interactive webinars featuring experts on mental health and other dimensions of wellness. One of our most popular talks is “Having Difficult Conversations In The Workplace” where we train managers on how to handle tough conversations with team members, ensuring the well-being of all involved. If you want us to conduct this training for your team, email us at [email protected]