(Time to read this Blog article is about 3 minutes)

‘Greetings’…I goofed again!  When this Blog went out at its regularly scheduled time (10 AM EDT)  it contained a link that although it worked when I tested it, wouldn’t work for you.  Sorry about that.  So, I’ve redone the Blog and instead of providing a link, I’ve cut and pasted the actual article below. 

Before we get to our important topic, ‘Happy Canada Day’ to our Canadian readers, ‘Happy 4th of July’ to our American followers and, just so the rest of you don’t feel left out, July 3rd is ‘National Eat Your Beans Day’!  I do not make this stuff up.

Now, to this week’s important topic. There’s no better time than right now to look at our biases when hiring and promoting in our business.  The real battle in business today is the battle for talent and talent comes in all shapes, sizes, genders and colours.  And lots of research shows that diverse Teams make better decisions and take more effective action, by a wide margin.

Below is an insightful article by Harvey Schachter on how our unconscious biases affect our hiring decisions…and how to do it better. Harvey has been writing brilliant management articles for the Globe & Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, for many years.  Since I couldn’t possibly write anything on this subject as well as Harvey just did, I’ve copied his article below (with his permission)…


Fixing corporate Canada’s unconscious bias towards hiring white men:




As a white man, I want to address my fellow white decision-makers for a minute.  If you believe in hiring the best person for the job, that probably means you unconsciously believe in hiring white men.

Ah, that’s not true, you say. You’re colour-and gender-blind. You know how to spot the best person for a job.

But Stefanie Johnson, a professor of organizational leadership at the University of Colorado, says research and reality suggest you’re wrong.  The reality is that an overwhelming number of leaders in our organizations are white men, all chosen by meritocracy managers like yourself.  Seeing all those male leaders, she argues that white decision-makers have come to see leadership as a male endeavour – something men are better at – and give those candidates the nod, often going against the grain of the gender balance in the organization.  Similarly, you downplay the talents of people of colour.

She points in her book Inclusify to a 2010 research study in which when participants were given resumes and asked to rate them based on merit, they chose men, even though the names on the resumes were randomly changed so the same qualifications might be given a male name or a female name.  A similar study found Black applicants half as likely to receive a callback or job offer after job interviews as white applicants, even though they were all trained to standardize their interview behaviour. Black and Latino applicants fared no better than white applicants supposedly just released from prison.

“The results indicate that when you tell people to hire on the basis of meritocracy, they actually favour white men. When they told individuals that an organization valued meritocracy – rewarding people in accordance with their performance – they responded by favouring a male employee over an equally qualified female employee. Making a hiring decision based on meritocracy caused them to adopt very un-meritocratic decision-making by giving an unfair advantage to men,” she writes.

The problem, let’s repeat this because it is so counter-intuitive, is that the belief in seeking merit gives reign to our stereotypes to delude us. That’s important to realise with all the recent calls to attack systemic racism in our organizations. We could double down on our desire to hire and promote on merit – a seemingly anti-racist act – but still fail if we don’t grapple with our mindsets.

Meritocracy managers, she argues, miss out because they end up with homogeneous teams, leaving them with organizational blind spots and competency gaps. Just like you can’t build a successful football team by only hiring quarterbacks, you need to find people with different skills.

Her call is to “inclusify,” an enticing if vague phrase that boils down to celebrating uniqueness and encouraging belonging. As an “inclusifyer,” you should lead in a way that recognizes different and dissenting perspectives while creating a collaborative and open-minded environment in which all employees feel they belong.

She says inclusifyers “don’t try to be blind to race, gender or sexual orientation, as many people proudly say they are.  Seeing everyone as the same denies people their basic human need of uniqueness.  I think of my race and gender as something that adds value to the conversation, rather than something that should be ignored.”  

Johnson recommends your organization remove names from applications before evaluating them.  When promoting, create a list of the best-qualified candidates rather than defaulting to candidates nominated by managers. Compare those two lists and look for diversity disparities. Also, become more transparent about recruitment, promotion and pay. According to research, such transparency results in higher productivity and innovation and lower turnover.

“Increasing transparency will require you to consider how you are setting the criteria for ‘the best person for the job.’  Try to research all the nuances of how promotions are made, how pay is determined, how anyone gets into the high-potential pool, then examine those practices to see if there’s any way they could be biased,” she writes.

To make your workplace inclusive, Johnson believes you must notice and celebrate difference. See the uniqueness in people, appreciate it, and use it to build a better organization.  Value and accept people for who they are.  Treat them fairly.  Spend more time talking to people so that you can better understand their perspectives.  Mentor people who are different from you.

Move beyond the belief that you aren’t susceptible to biases, and accept that you probably are.


That’s it for this week…

Stay calm…live brilliantly…and do at least 3 important or kind things each day!       

Donald Cooper 


How Donald can help during the Covid mess:  Until it’s safe for groups to meet in person, we’re offering remote Business Coaching to business owners and managers around the world who want to improve performance in some or all of these 5 key areas:

  1. Create compelling customer value and experiences that give them a clear competitive advantage.
  2. Market and promote more effectively in a crowded and cynical marketplace.  There’s no point being the best if you’re also the best kept secret.
  3. Attract, lead and retain a dedicated and top-performing team.  The real battle in business today is the battle for talent.
  4. Manage smarter and improve long-term profitability…and to,
  5. Create a clear direction for the future of their business…and a clear Action Plan to get there.

To chat about how I can be helpful, just email me at donald@donaldcooper.com, or phone us at 416-252-3703 in Toronto.  

One Response to Fixing our unconscious biases when hiring and promoting in our business:
  1. Donald, thank you so much for sharing this tip! it is incredibly valuable!
    To comment on article… here, north form the border, fitting into corporate culture is a big deal. Almost at all interviews I was told something along these lines: you are qualified to do this job, no doubt about it! Our main concern is: how will you fit our culture!
    I was more than shocked by this approach for many years and one can argue why is this so important? However, this approach may be one of the reasons why people hire people similar to them and to the team they already have.


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