Interview Bias Impacting Hiring Decisions

Even the most seasoned of interviewers may fall victim to some common interviewing bias. Managers need proper training to conduct interviews that are non-discriminatory in nature and to avoid exposure to discrimination claims. In addition, awareness of these biases can make interviewers more effective in selecting the right candidate. Some forms of bias are described below.

  • Stereotyping. Stereotyping involves making generalized opinions about how people from a protected class such as sex, religion, age, race, etc. appear, think, act, feel or respond. For example, assuming a male would prefer being employed in a construction job over a teaching job.
  • Inconsistency. Some managers utilize different sets of questions to interview for the same job position amongst different individuals. For example, asking Hispanic candidates about their bilingual skills versus Caucasian applicants is not a recommended practice.
  • First Impression. First impressions can leave a lasting impression. Sometimes during the interview process, the interviewer takes the first thing he or she notices about the candidate and forms his/her opinion regarding the applicant on the first impression. This bias may benefit or harm the candidate’s chances of selection.
  • Halo/Horn Effect. If the interviewer finds one good trait, he or she will favor the candidate (halo). When the interviewer finds one negative trait, he or she will see that to be a disqualifier for the position (horn).
  • Contrast Effect. Contrast bias is present when candidates are compared against each other rather than evaluated based on the job requirements. The tendency is to base a candidate’s individual ranking on one’s position relative to others in the group. If the interview pool consists of a number of outstanding candidates, an average candidate will not be selected. But in a substandard pool, the average candidate may appear to be highly qualified.
  • “Similar to Me”. The “similar to me” effect occurs when the interviewer identifies with the candidate on a personal level, rather than evaluates the candidate on job-related criteria. For Example: The candidate attended the same university as the interviewer.
  • Cultural Noise. This occurs when the candidate’s responses are not factually based, but are socially acceptable answers. Basically, the applicant tells the interviewer what they think the interviewer would like to hear or will help secure the job.

Interview bias may occur intentionally or unintentionally. It is important to be aware of how biases may affect your decision-making when interviewing candidates. Keep biases at bay to ensure equality and effectiveness in the interview process.

The Rewards of Trust and How to Get Them

Why do people stop trusting in one another? And what happens to a team when trust disappears? To answer these questions, let’s start with a fable.

About a year ago, Abigail began her first day on a new job. She was a software engineer, new to the workforce, and eager to make a good impression on her colleagues. At the end of the day, she noticed a fine, jagged line on the floor of the office, stretching the length of the building. She examined it, puzzled. She was pretty sure she hadn’t noticed it earlier and almost as sure that it hadn’t been there when she’d arrived. For a moment she considered asking someone about it, but she didn’t feel comfortable inquiring about structural integrity on her first day.

Truth be told, she wasn’t the only employee who noticed the jagged line, and it had just appeared that day. But no one else had brought it up.

The next morning, the line had grown to an unmistakable crack. Javier, another software engineer, saw it straight away and thought about mentioning it to his supervisor, but the last time Javier spoke up about a problem, his supervisor had scolded him for not also presenting a solution. He had no solution, so he said nothing.

Dipendu thought he had an easy fix for the ugly crack, but he too was hesitant to speak up. The last time one of his designs hadn’t worked out as planned, the executive team was livid, and his manager threatened to demote him if his work ever failed again. Lupita, a senior designer, also had a solid idea for repairing the crack, but she’d seen too many of her good ideas stolen by others in the company, who received the credit for her ingenuity. Both Dipendu and Lupita kept quiet.

As the days passed, the crack expanded several inches. Everyone stepped over it as nonchalantly as they could so as not to acknowledge its existence. After a few weeks, the rift was several feet wide, and HR quietly updated job descriptions to say that the physical requirements of every job might entail some jumping.

Finally, after office supplies, a laptop, and Fred got lost in the rift, management decided to acknowledge the issue. But its message was inconsistent. In some instances, management seemed to take the gap seriously and promised it prompt attention. At other times, management seemed less committed. Only after an OSHA inspector showed up on an anonymous tip and summarily disappeared into the rift did company leadership clarify their position. Whatever the cause of the still-growing crack, employees were at fault for not speaking up sooner, and they’d just have to live with the consequences.

The consequences, however, were not sustainable. Valuable team members and intellectual property got lost in the abyss, electrical wires and phone lines got disconnected, and team meetings involved a lot of shouting over the gap. Soon everyone only communicated if they absolutely needed to, and oftentimes not even then.

What happened to this company may sound farfetched, but the rift is real. While you probably won’t find gaping holes in workplace floors, you will find trust destroyed by broken promises, lies, spin, retaliation, and inconsistency. And when trust is lost, relationships and teams break apart. In the workplace, people keep their distance from others, withhold information, refrain from identifying problems, and erect barriers to protect themselves. In short, they stop working together.
 

Benefits of Trust

The whole point of forming a team is to facilitate cooperation. Trust is the foundation of that cooperation. With trust, teams increase their productivity, improve their ability to communicate and collaborate effectively, act more creatively, delegate work more easily, and achieve greater financial success. Trust enables teams to accomplish what they’re designed to accomplish. Trust creates a sure footing for success. But without trust, cooperation cracks, shatters, and dies. People can’t act as a team. 
 

Building Trust

Trusting your employees and gaining their trust isn’t easy. As Wendy Dailey says, it takes time and effort. It’s work.

But trust is achievable. And worth it. We human beings are social animals, after all. It’s normal for us to trust one another. All of our social institutions require it. That’s one reason violations of trust feel so wrong and hurt so much. They cause rifts in friendships, romantic partnerships, families, neighborhoods, churches, teams, and other organizations. And yet those rifts are not the norm. They’re not what we typically expect. In the workplace, we expect to be able to trust our teammates, at least as far as work is concerned. So how do we get there? Let’s examine a few practical ways to build trust at work. 

Learn What Trustworthiness Means to Your Employees
Laurie Ruettimann, author of Betting on You and host of the Punk Rock HR podcast, advises organizations “to learn more about how their employees define, value and evaluate trustworthiness — and act on it.” What establishes and strengthens trust with one employee may be different than what builds trust with another. For one thing, every employee has their own reasons for being an employee of their organization and expectations for what that relationship entails. For another, everyone has their own experience with building and losing trust. All else being equal, gaining the trust of someone who’s had their trust in others betrayed will be more difficult than gaining the trust of someone who’s not experienced such devastating betrayals. It’s vital to understand these differences. 

Build Relationships on Authenticity, Logic, and Empathy
Executive coach Sarah Noll Wilson offers similar guidance. There is “a complexity to trust because what everyone values and what they need is going to be different based on every situation,” she writes. Her team recommends a framework they call the ‘Trust Triangle.’ We build high-trust relationships at work by being authentic about our values and impact, logical in how we’ve come to our conclusions, and empathetic in all our interactions. 

Give Employees Your Time and Attention
Consider this simple advice from HR author and speaker Steve Browne: show “a little respect.” Respect brings people together. It empowers people to trust. We show people respect in the workplace by “acknowledging that their efforts make an impact and meaningful difference to the success of the company.” For Browne, we engage people with respect by giving them two things: “our time and attention.” 

Acknowledge People’s Emotions
Researchers Alisa Yu, Julian Zlatev, and Justin Berg arrived at much the same place. Writing in Harvard Business Review, they explain that the best way to build trust at work is to acknowledge other people’s emotions. Acknowledging another’s emotions communicates that you “care enough to invest in that relationship.” Interestingly, the authors found that “acknowledging negative emotions boosts trust more than acknowledging positive emotions.” Why? Because most people “see acknowledging negative emotions as being more costly in terms of time, attention, and effort.” Acknowledging emotions can backfire, however, if “your coworkers believe your actions are motivated by selfish reasons.” 

Act with Transparency, Clarity, and Consistency
We trust others when we believe that they are worthy of that trust — when we believe that they are honest, good, reliable, faithful, compassionate, and fair. How do we inspire others to believe that we are trustworthy? By keeping our promises. By being transparent about our decisions, clear about our expectations, and consistent in our practices.

Believe in Your People
Trust can’t go just one way. Rifts in the workplace will form if trust isn’t reciprocal. That means that we also have to show employees that we trust them. This can be challenging because we’re often inclined, and not unreasonably, to perceive employees as costs, risks, and liabilities. And yes, they certainly can be, but they’re also any company’s greatest asset. If we treat employees only as a danger, we tell them loud and clear that we don’t trust them.

The alternative? Find strength in vulnerability. Acknowledge the rights of your employees and your responsibilities to them (the employee handbook is a convenient place to do this, but your overall attitude matters too). Invest in their growth and success. Celebrate their wins. Give them reasonable opportunities to mend mistakes and make up for failures. In sum, treat employees like you trust them to do good work. Will some betray that trust? Yes. But that’s on them. Believe in them, and you’ll inspire trust. Assume betrayal, and you’ll get something else.  

Trust enables people to work together. Pour everything you can into that foundation. You’ll build stronger and more productive relationships with your employees, notice and mend cracks more quickly, enhance the capabilities of your team, and achieve greater success. 

Avoiding Burnout When You Work In HR

If you work in HR, you know that employee burnout remains pervasive. You also know that the task of supporting overly stressed employees often falls on your shoulders. But you’re exhausted too. Burnout isn’t just a problem you have to help others solve; you also have to solve it for yourself. Here are seven ways to do that.

Set Boundaries
First and foremost, set boundaries. You cannot possibly be all things to all your people, available at all times no matter the cost. That’s not your job. More to the point, your job is not the supreme ruler of your time. Having a job means that you’ve committed to using some of your time to complete a certain amount of work, but you should still think of that time as yours. After all, it’s your life, your energy, your health. Don’t feel bad about giving time to your needs just because you’re working. The mindset that you can never prioritize your needs while on “company time” is an unhealthy one.

Place boundaries around both the time during which you work and what you spend your time doing while working. If you say that you’re done with work at 6 p.m., don’t do any work after 6 p.m. Emails and Slack messages can wait until the next workday. If people at work need to be able to reach you in an emergency, establish a specific way for that to happen (e.g., a call or text to your cell) and make sure the people who may contact you know what qualifies as an emergency and what doesn’t.

You can set boundaries during the workday by delegating tasks that don’t need to be done by you. HR is a big job for one person or even one department. Not every personnel issue even should be handled by you. Managers and department heads should be able to handle a lot of those issues themselves, and only come to you for help if it’s actually needed. If they are bringing you so many small problems that you don’t have time to resolve the big ones, you may need to set different expectations or train managers to resolve certain issues themselves. If you’re having to manage employees for them, they’re not doing their jobs (and may need to be developed or replaced).

Know What You Can and Cannot Control
In HR, we often feel responsible for everything related to employees. If there’s an issue, it’s on us to address it. A problem? We own the solution. Something not improving? We’re at fault. This belief that we are responsible for all the things causes stress to mount and leads to burnout. It also isn’t true.

We can’t be responsible for what we can’t control, and so much that happens in the workplace is simply out of our control. It’s vital—both for our work and our mental health—for us to know what is and isn’t in our power to change. If employees are quitting as a result of ineffective workplace policies, and you have purview over those policies, you can probably do something about this attrition. But if they’re quitting because there are better opportunities for them that your organization can’t match, there may be nothing you can do. Spending time trying to solve unsolvable problems isn’t going to have a good return. Or, as the old saying goes, if there is no solution, there is no problem.

Implement Clear and Simple Policies and Practices
The more ambiguous or complex your workplace policies and practices are, the more questions people will have about what they mean or require. If you find that your people often come to you asking what they’re supposed to do in a given situation, look at what you can do to answer their questions proactively. Do you have an employee handbook? Standardized practices for managers? Granted, some employees aren’t going to read any policy documents you give them, but in general you can save yourself (and others) a lot of time by defining policies and practices so that they are clear, accessible, and easy to follow. Accordingly, you should ensure that leaders are aware of where the handbooks, policies, and guidelines reside so that employees may self-serve whenever possible.

Train Your Colleagues
Being the only one who can do a certain essential task may be good for your job security, but it isn’t good for your health. If no one else can do what you do, you can’t truly get away or be guaranteed to focus on one task to the exclusion of all others. People can only cover for you if they have the knowledge and skills to complete the tasks you need covered.

Realistically, you can’t plan for every contingency, but teaching colleagues the skills and knowledge they’d most likely need when covering for you increases the likelihood that they’ll be able to handle whatever arises while you’re away or focused on an urgent project.

Take Time Off
Speaking of getting away, take time off. You need a break from work as much as anyone—maybe more so—and you don’t need to justify it. You don’t have to feel sick or especially overwhelmed or have something special planned. Breaks from work are good for you, period. If you feel the need to justify a break from work, take time off to set a good example to everyone else that they should be taking time off too.

When employees see leaders in their organization taking ample time away from work, they feel more confident taking time off themselves. That helps save those employees from burnout, which in turn saves their leaders’ time.

Connect with Other HR Professionals
Working in HR can be a lonely profession, especially if you’re a department of one. When you’re in HR, friendships at work range from tricky to ill-advised. You may not have anyone at work you can really open up to or who appreciates the challenges of your job. Fortunately, there’s an active community of HR professionals online who are more than happy to share ideas, answer questions, or just listen. You can find them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and elsewhere by searching #hrcommunity or #hr. They’re a friendly and chatty bunch, eager to converse about the latest trends, specific pain points, and the generally daunting challenges of working in HR.

Consider following a few HR practitioners, participating in a conversation, or just watching from the sidelines until you feel more comfortable. It’s not quite the same as having a close friend at work, but what it lacks in close proximity, it makes up for in shared experience.

Treat Yourself
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret,” Special Agent Dale Cooper says to Sherriff Harry S. Truman in the television series Twin Peaks. “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.”

The present doesn’t have to be extravagant. Cooper’s examples include a catnap in one’s office chair and taking a few minutes to enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee. Yours might be a 20-minute walk to get some fresh air and Vitamin D. The point is to be not just reasonable, but generous with yourself every day. The work we do in HR is stressful, emotionally taxing, and tiring. We spend our days supporting others in difficult situations. Our job is giving time, comfort, and care to others. It’s important to give those things to ourselves too.

 Managing Your Managers

As business owners, executives, and supervisors are all aware, managing employees is one of the hardest parts of running a business. You must balance their strengths and weaknesses, their personalities, and their skill sets, all while trying to earn and maintain their loyalty. And then, like a marching band conductor, you must bring them all together so they’re working in unison for the success of your organization—each member playing the right note, at the right time, from the right location on the field.

Managing your managers is no different. They act as your section leaders, training and directing those in their departments, and providing coaching and encouragement as needed. But they still need direction from the highest level. You’ve still got to pick the music and write the drill.

The principal reason to manage your managers is to ensure that they operate as a team. Each of your managers has a distinct personality and approach to management that affects their leadership style. One may be deadline-driven, another prone to dawdle. One may focus on building their team’s strengths, another on correcting their team’s weaknesses. One may communicate a lot, another only a little.

These differences can work, but they can also cause trouble. Employees who report to or work with more than one manager may not know what is expected of them. Or they may find themselves overworked if managers don’t coordinate workloads. Cross-team efforts may be delayed or even ruined due to misunderstandings or failures to communicate (imagine the tubas and the piccolos trying to inhabit the same space on the field). The organization may be guided by several conflicting personalities instead of single, unified company culture.

To bring managers together, you need something to unite them around. This is your company culture—the personality of the organization, its mission, and values, working environment, policies, and practices. But a company culture can’t exist in the abstract. It needs flesh and bone. So have your management team develop a set of shared goals and priorities—and make sure they’re specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (aka SMART goals). Think of this as your musical score.

Of course, you won’t have much of a half-time show if everyone isn’t on the field, instruments in hand, and ready to play. Hold regular management meetings to ensure managers are working well together and that their teams are working well together. In other words, confirm everyone’s on the same page. These meetings should have clear objectives, provide managers a chance to work through conflicts, and give you an opportunity to coach them. This would also be an opportune time to ask managers what they need from you and from each other.

Even if your managers are talented and can be trusted to lead their teams, it still helps to direct their management efforts towards a singular purpose. Even a band with top notch section leaders will be improved by a skillful conductor. Likewise, to coax the best results out of your organization, ensure that you give your managers ample direction and the tools they need to lead their teams to success.

Exploring Some Causes of Toxic Workplace Cultures

Describing a workplace as “toxic” has become almost cliché in recent years; although all offices have a negative element or two, there are some that are truly toxic, meaning the culture is so negative that it has negative impacts on the business. These impacts can range from poor morale and lowered productivity to employee disengagement and high turnover.

Toxic Cultures and the Turnover Tsunami

In an article for BBC Worklife, Katie Bishop tells us that about 20% of U.S. workers have left their jobs because of toxic environments and that 64% of employees in the United Kingdom “said that experiencing problematic behaviors at work had negatively impacted their mental health.”

Of course, no one would argue that toxic workplaces are desirable, but they exist nonetheless. So what are some of the factors that contribute to toxic cultures, and how can those factors be mitigated?

Factors Contributing to Toxic Workplace

A toxic culture isn’t necessarily about the size or structure of the organization. “A common conception is that toxic behaviors are often found in large corporations where competition is fierce and accountability is low – and yet some workers report that the same damaging culture can just as easily be found in smaller, less hierarchical organizations,” says Bishop.

Instead, toxic cultures often thrive when one or both factors are present: resource constraints and weak leadership and culture. Looking first at resource constraints, it makes sense that employees in companies with less money to spend on staff or other resources will be stressed and struggle to keep up with their workload, and stress is always a potential source for negative attitudes, hostility, and general toxicity.

When Toxicity Is Pervasive and Ongoing

Negativity and unhealthy behavior can crop up in any organization. What sets truly toxic cultures apart, though, is that they take root and stick around. That’s where the second factor comes into play. Organizations that lack strong leaders to stamp out toxic behavior or strong cultures that make such behaviors unacceptable become fertile ground for toxicity to grow and thrive.

While some workers might casually throw around the term “toxic workplace,” there are some organizations that truly deserve the label. Companies that are resource-strapped and lack strong leaders and robust cultures are often ripe for toxicity to spread. Addressing these underlying factors may not only help address existing toxicity but also prevent it in the future.

How Leadership’s Understanding of “Psychological Safety” is More Important than Ever

Whether you’ve been leading a remote workforce for decades, recently ventured into this space, are dabbling with hybrid models or fully returning your staff to in-house status, one thing is certain: The concept of “workplace” has changed forever. The pandemic effectively recast it. And the hard, sacred work of nurturing company culture has gotten even more dynamic in the process.

psychological safety

Plus, we all have a front row seat to “The Great Resignation” as the country and the job market has opened back up and the perception of boundless options prevails (all while making this workplace and cultural undertaking even more fraught for leadership). The talented and the hopeful are not wrong – There is an opportunity boom as we emerge from this period, but what remains is more important than ever: the need to get a few things right, and these all play into the primal need of feeling psychologically safe. Offer or no offer, no one’s coming back to your office, live, virtual or otherwise, if they don’t feel safe and included within the culture.

Therefore, inclusion and belonging have taken on a heightened level of importance within the workplace. Once buzzwords in the workplace, and often used only for PR purposes, these traits are now business imperatives. Talent is more intentional now than ever about interviewing the company they will lend their skills to, rather than simply being interviewed by a potential employer. Value and career alignment, community, allyship and trust are dominating interview conversations more and more.

This war on talent is opening the eyes of global companies and leaders to rethink their strategy for attracting and retaining the world’s top talent. When employees leave an organization to take on other opportunities or resign without another offer in hand, there may be a true disconnect in value, career alignment or trust. Here are some immediate questions to consider:

  • Did the employee speak up about concerns prior to resigning? If no, why not? If yes, were there follow-up conversations and realignment on actions?
  • Did the manager have regular conversations with the employee on career goals and timing?
  • Did the organization make inclusion and belonging visible priorities and central business strategy?
  • How safe do your employees feel to share their frustrations or misalignments? On a scale of 1 to 10 (1= not safe at all, 10=extremely safe).
  • How inclusive is your leadership?

As I share often with other Diversity & Inclusion executive leaders, the role of psychological safety and trust continues to be the solution for regrettable attrition. Dr. Timothy Clark, author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, defines psychological safety as “an environment of rewarded vulnerability”. If we take this definition and use it to assess our current culture in many organizations we see the missing ingredient. It is imperative that executive leaders, managers, and supervisors all rethink what workplace inclusion and trust look like. It means we sometimes have the uncomfortable conversations with staff, and ask questions like,“What are you hoping to get from your time in this role?” or “How do you see this opportunity playing into your overall career goals?” These basic questions create opportunities for alignment and realignment throughout their time in the organization.

We hear the statement all the time that people don’t quit companies, they quit bosses. And often when talent quits a boss, it is because somewhere along the journey, that talent lost trust in the boss’s ability to place the employee’s interest in mind.

“Do you have me and my career and my ability to excel in this role, in mind, when you’re leading? If you don’t, then I’ll go somewhere where I am celebrated and recognized for my value add.”

So, take a moment. Step back. Reflect and ask yourself those questions.

Psychological safety is not simply something to “achieve” or a box to check. It’s something to embody. And it takes continuous work and improvement.

It’s also not something that any one person can achieve alone for an organization. It’s on each of us – from CEOs and tenured leaders to new hires experiencing their first day – to consistently work towards… Together.

With that, I encourage you to consider #rethinking psychological safety in corporate culture.

Your HR Partner

AZ HR Hub

 

4435 E. Chandler Blvd., Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85048

877-294-7482

linda@azhrhub.com

Social