Ask Sheree: When an Employee Suffers Cultural Bias

What to do when you sense cultural bias at your job

What should I do when I sense that my manager is culturally biased against me?

First of all, let commend you for being able to openly discuss the discomfort that you are feeling over cultural bias. We all seek a sense of belonging. This creates a sense of value in us. When a sense of belonging is absent this decreases creativity, performance, innovation, and even self-esteem.

Our intuition alerts us to feelings and emotions even when we are not speaking.  Tuning into our intuition and trusting it gives us the courage to speak our truth as you are doing now. Intuitive signals start first in our heart, and the message is sent to our brain.Whenever we take a stand and express what we sense inside, it can be scary. You might feel awkward or unsure about whether to bring your concerns to your manager.

Let’s face it; not everyone is capable of reacting positively to anyone who does not look like them, or does not have the same religion, family, or educational background. You did not identify the specific cultural bias that you personally are facing, but research backs up what your intuition is telling you. Recent studies show that people with an accent are less likely to be believed when they share the same information as people without an accent.

First, I am going suggest that, if you have a mentor in your organization that you trust, consider discussing your experience with them and seek their insights on how to handle the situation. If you have not developed a mentor relationship, this is a good time for to seek one out.

Even without a mentor it is not too early for you take immediate steps to deepen your relationship with your manager.

Here are steps to implement a plan:

1. Ask for a Meeting With Your Manager

Tell your manager that you have been giving a lot of thought to your interactions, and that would like to discuss your work relationship. Tell your manager that your professional relationship is very important, and you want to make sure that you are both in tune with each other. Stress that your partnership at work provides the support you both need to do the best job possible.

You might say, “I just learned a new technique to do this. I would like to take a few minutes for us to each answer a question that would help improve our communication. How would you rate our work relationship: fair, good, or excellent?” Once your manager gives you their answer, ask what you can do to turn your work relationship into an excellent one.

2. Stay Calm yet Confident

When it comes to your own response, describe your feelings in a calm, beneficial way. If you are confident, you can share without sounding judgmental.

You might start with something like this: “I rate our relationship as good, but lately have been feeling uncomfortable. We all face cultural bias, and one that I face as an _____________________ is ______________________.”

Then, finish it with a strong closing statement such as: “We are all on the same team, and I want to make sure everyone feels comfortable.”

3. Check in Regularly

After your meeting, ask if the two of you can periodically check in to strengthen your team results. It is also important to build a community to address your concerns.

Creating a dynamic team between you and others is important. The only thing that you can control is yourself, when it comes to dealing with workplace stress.

4. Focus on the Positive

Everyone has worked for someone they are not in sync with; you either need to be actively engaged in changing the relationship with your manager, or you are going to continue to live in discomfort and eventually quit. Focus on the things you like about your present position.

5. Talk to Human Resources

If things do not improve after your conversation with your manager, consider discussing with your human resource department what they are doing to create culturally inclusive spaces as well as what type of cultural competency training your organization offers.

6. Focus on You

The only thing that you can control is yourself, when it comes to dealing with workplace stress. That’s why it is important to take care of your health and wellness. If you do not already have a daily meditation practice, consider starting one to help reduce your stress level.



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