The Intersection of Bias and Organizational Culture

Posted by Senam Apaloo on Thu, May 16, 2019

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Have you ever wondered what happens at the intersection of bias and culture? We just wrapped up a project with one of our clients and we found ourselves pondering over this theme yet again. Over the course of the last decade working with organizations across multiple industries, one of the issues most organizations continue to grapple with is 'culture.'

The great Peter Drucker’s famous proclamation “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is often brought up in conversations around culture and its importance in organizations. And rightfully so because when culture begets a thriving organization where people show up day in, day out, willingly and consistently bringing their best selves to work, the organization hums, sometimes in spite of strategy.

So what’s the relationship between culture and bias?

By definition, an organization’s culture is its set of chosen, learned, and therefore, normalized behavior. Verna Myers, VP of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix and thought leader, describes biases as “stories we make up about people before we actually know who they are.”

Bias plays a significant role in how we behave and shapes behaviors that either anoint exclusion or support inclusion. The good news about bias is that we all have them. The bad news about bias is that we all have them. When bias is interwoven deeply in the fabric of an organization, it poses a real threat to a thriving culture - where everyone can show up as their authentic self and bring their best to work.

How do we start exploring the role bias plays in the creation and maintenance of culture?

From a ten-thousand-foot view, we know that behavior shapes culture. We believe what is worth exploring is what really drives culture and how bias might play a role in shaping and defining it. The answer to that is perhaps a little more complex and nuanced, but we’d like to invite you to reflect on the questions below:

  • What behaviors are we anointing and/or tolerating consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously?
  • How do individuals in that culture behave consistently?
  • How has that shaped the culture and identity of an organization?
  • Who are the individuals that make up the organization?
    • Who is on the senior leadership team?
    • What is the majority group?
    • Who makes up the minority group?
  • What are the implications of a majority shaping culture?
  • How do people get to know each other?

So what is the real story of your organization? What really drives its culture?

If you are on a journey to create a thriving culture and an inclusive organization, reach out to us! We’d love to explore that journey with you. Contact us or call (404) 634-4332.

Why Clearwater Consulting? Find out here

Topics: bias, organizational culture

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