Managing Unconscious Bias

November 03, 2020 | 1086 Views

Managing Unconscious Bias

Gerry Fernandez

President & Founder | Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance

See Gerry’s 2020 Webinar, Managing Unconscious Bias: De-escalating Cross-cultural Conflict with Guests and Employees HERE.

See Gerry’s 2019 CHARTTalk, The Value of Unconscious Bias Training HERE

The face of America is changing. Sometime between 2046 and 2050, the United States will become a majority minority country. Change is never easy, but business leaders are being called upon to embrace new standards of diversity and inclusion among their employees and guests, in order to lead the way into a future of greater access, greater acceptance, and greater prosperity for all.

To achieve this, it’s imperative that we make the time and devote the effort to understanding and managing our own unconscious and subconscious biases. Our brains are inundated with information and stimulation all of the time, so rapidly that we cannot process it all. As a result, we take shortcuts and make assumptions, without necessarily being aware that we are doing so. Unconscious bias forms over a lifetime, but the good news is that it can be challenged and changed once we are able to recognize it.

It can be hard to see our own blind spots. We may even think or say that we have certain values, but our immediate thoughts and reactions prove that we hold internal beliefs that don’t align with how we want to behave in the world. I will never forget being called out for commenting on a female board member’s looks and nice earrings, when I should have been recognizing her contributions to the organization. I believed I was an advocate for women, but I realized that I had more work to do on my own unconscious sexism.

The point is that we all have work to do on our own biases, but also on our business policies, hiring practices, and standards for guest interactions. The Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance believes that “Diversity of thought, perspective, and experience is the goal, because diverse points of view produce better results. When people feel included, they have the opportunity to rise to the level of their own discipline and talent. With inclusion, everyone wins: the employee, the guest, and the enterprise.” This stance isn’t limited to race, ethnicity, or gender, but extends to all groups of all ages, abilities, backgrounds and experiences.

The hospitality industry and hospitality trainers, in particular, are poised to have a positive influence on diversity and inclusion efforts in their own organizations. Through intentional practices of listening to other perspectives, watching for and addressing individual and organizational blind spots, developing clear and consistent policies for behavior, and preparing for potential conflict by practicing de-escalation techniques, we can create a culture of fairness, dignity, and respect.


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