Diversity in the modern organisation is regarded by management theorists and academics alike as a positive for performance and financial results. After a diversity literature review Marquis et al (2008) observed that the business case for diversity was strongly supported adding that a diverse workforce does improve performance and boost the bottom line”.
However, diversity is impacted by the biases we all have, some conscious and some unconscious. Even the most egalitarian of us use stereotypes to make our way in the world. A complex world, getting more complex daily, requires us to breakdown and categorize things and people around us. This is OK so long as we are aware of what we are doing. Many are shocked to find that they are operating under the illusion that they have no biases. These biases can be unearthed using psychological tests where congruence and reaction times are measured.
Take one example. Try for a moment to think about a regional accent that you are aware of, and the characteristics that you associate with that accent, either good or bad. If you list those characteristics, you might find that you have a belief or an assumption about people who speak with that accent. Do you think that this could influence your hiring practices or your promotion practices within your organization? Taking the regional accent as one example of bias try to think of similar examples. Many leaders, often with the best will in the world, have biases about gender, race, skin color, nationality, age, or educational background. Sometimes we are positively biased, but this can also lead to an imbalance as the leader unquestioningly behaves more positively towards the individual or individuals in a group towards which he or she is positively biased.
Remembering that when people think too similarly then groupthink is a challenge (blamed by many for the financial crisis of 2008), leaders must continue questioning their biases about those with whom they surround themselves. Diverse opinion leading to positive conflict is very good for leveraging the best from leadership teams.
According to Hofhuis et al (2016) what is termed a positive diversity climate (culture) does enhance outcomes in the workplace through improved trust and more honesty in day to day team communication. Van Knippenberg et al. (2004) observed that diverse teams are better able to access a greater resource of knowledge and experience, which also enhances team effectiveness. In terms of your biases, moving them from subconscious to conscious through awareness helps a lot especially for the trustworthy and morally minded leader.
Its ok not to like some people of course but try to be aware and try to be fair.