Will you be part of the solution on May 29th? Are you willing to break the culture of silence?  While Starbucks closes its 8000 company-owned stores for an afternoon to conduct unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) training for 175,000 employees, I invite you to break the culture of silence, by making time to speak up for inclusion and civility.

Unconscious bias workshops are a good start when done well, however these sessions can only build awareness and teach the skills to conduct courageous conversations. Much more is needed to change the toxic environment of hatred, fear and stereotyping. Application and evaluation of results must be part of the strategy.

Our minds, through repeated cultural exposure, are conditioned to associate specific traits, characteristics, and behaviors with certain groups of people. For example, research proves we have biases regarding accents, names, gender, and even height. When we only see a few positive images of Black and Brown men in movies, news reports, and positions of power, yet are bombarded with negative images of  them the tendency is to develop negative biases and stereotypes about the entire group, even if that is not our intention. Biased thoughts inform our actions. Actions can then infer racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc. Only through conscious actions and intentional inclusion can we mitigate the effects of negative biases and the micro-aggressive behavior that develops as a result.

There are many ways we as individuals and as organizational leaders can lay the foundation for long-term sustainable change. One way is to say something when you see something. That’s what several Starbucks customers did when the police were called unnecessarily. Do not rely on the belief that it is not your business to speak up when an obvious injustice occurs that impacts others. Remember the famous poem by Martin Niemöller “First they came for the communists … Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

For the next several days as we approach a half day without Starbucks coffee, I will post suggestions for individual actions and organizational actions to mitigate bias. Although we cannot get rid of bias, we can create inclusive environments that do not tolerate disrespectful and bigoted behaviors, and we can expand diversity of thought that leads to more positive outcomes.

Here are a few ideas to get you started. Let’s #BlockBias together.

Workplace:

  • Evaluate your process for recognizing and rewarding talent. Who are your go-to people? Are they different from you?
  • Create a diverse team to evaluate your company’s recruiting process. Do you tend to rely on only a few select universities? Why? Do you discount non-traditional experiences, such as serving on not-for-profit boards and holding leadership positions in the community?

On Your Own:

  • Identify people who annoy you and analyze why. They might remind you of someone in your background, and now you are projecting your bias onto them instead of seeing who they really are.
  • Intentionally visit a place of worship, restaurant, or an entertainment venue that attracts people different from you. Become “the other” on purpose.

Join the #BlockBias movement by using the hashtag and sharing your ideas, suggestions and stories.