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E146 | How To Get Sh*t Done And Tackle Workplace Bias, Bullying & Injustice with Trier Bryant & Kim Scott

We met Kim Scott last year when she was on the podcast talking about how to give difficult, impactful feedback in the workplace, following the release of her book, Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Today Kim is back, but with Trier Byrant this time, to discuss their latest book, Just Work, Get Sh*t Done, Fast & Fair

While bias, prejudice and bullying may be present in the workplace, they aren’t inevitable in the workplace, say Kim and Trier. It is possible to combat workplace injustice so that everyone can get shit done and enjoy working together. 

Be warned, the book makes for uncomfortable reading because it makes you reflect on times when you should have been an upstander and called out injustice, instead of not speaking up when you could have. 

In today’s episode, Kim and Trier highlight what injustice, bias and bullying can look like and how you can tackle it, and when you should stand up and when you can go easy on yourself. 

This issue is hard, they’ve written a difficult book, but it’s a book everyone should read. This is a great conversation, we’re sure you’ll find it as illuminating as we did. 

On today’s podcast:

  • Why Just Work
  • The importance of having difficult conversations
  • Recognising bias, prejudice and bullying at work
  • Being a bystander v an upstander
  • How to respond to bias, prejudice and bullying
  • Bias to be aware of


How To Combat Workplace Injustice And Get Shit Done

It’s everyone’s job to fix workplace injustice, argue Trier Bryant & Kim Scott. We all have a role to play to ensure we all work better together.  

If you’ve ever heard bias, injustice or bullying in the workplace, and you didn’t speak up, you were a bystander. Trier and Kim encourage everyone to be upstanders, to choose to respond when they see workplace injustice occurring so that we create the kind of workplace in which we can all do our best work and enjoy working together. 

Essentially, it’s everyone’s job to fix workplace injustice.

Just Work

Kim and Trier co-founded the company Just Work to help organisations and individuals create more equitable workplaces.

“Radical Candor is largely about feedback. And if you write a book about feedback, you’re gonna get a lot of it. I was doing a Radical Candor talk at a tech company in San Francisco. When I finished, a black woman pulled me aside and said, ‘Kim, I got to tell you, it’s a lot harder for me to put Radical Candor into practice than it is for you.’ As soon as she would offer somebody even the most compassionate criticism, she would get labelled with the angry black woman stereotype.”

At that moment, Kim had three revelations:

  1. She herself had not been the kind of upstander she wanted to be.
  2. She had always been in denial about how much harder Radical Candor was for her to put into practice than men. 
  3. She failed often as a leader to create the kind of environment in which everyone on her team could just work and not get tripped up by injustice in the workplace.

Difficult conversations

“It’s hard to deal with unconscious bias, it’s even harder to deal with it when it’s an actual prejudice.”

It’s a lot easier to have conversations about gender because men can grasp the simple difference between men and women. When it comes to colour, people will deny there is a difference.

“I still have conversations with people who will say, I don’t see race, right? We’re just all humans, there’s one human race, and I don’t see you as a black person.”

It makes it so much harder to have a conversation around identity when not everyone is comfortable acknowledging the differences. 

“That is really just a cop out, quite frankly, because we all have similarities, a lot of similarities, but we also have differences. And we have to acknowledge that, especially in our organisation as leaders, that people live at their intersections every day.”

Upstander vs bystander 

“In the framework, we define upstander as a bystander who intervenes. So a bystander is observing, you typically default to silence and an upstander is intervening and you stand up to the injustice that you are observing, whether that is bias, prejudice, bullying, or some other type of injustice.”

If you know you’ve been a bystander, and that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t beat yourself up about what you should have done, instead, hang on to those feelings of discomfort you experience, say Trier and Kim, recognise they don’t feel good and use them next time to empower you to be an upstander. 

So what should you say? 

“One of the things that was most helpful for me in thinking through this was to distinguish between bias, prejudice and bullying. And to have different responses for each one.”

The responses

If you think you hear bias, respond with an ‘If’ statement, which invites someone to understand things from your perspective. 

If you think you heard prejudice, start with an ‘It’ statement, which should appeal to their common sense. I.e. It is an HR violation… 

If you think you heard bullying, start with a ‘You’ statement, i.e. you can’t talk to me like that.

“If an ‘I’ statement invites someone in, a ‘you’ statement pushes them away a little bit.”

The problem is, a lot of the time, people think these three instances are the same experience, when in fact they’re very different situations, which require different solutions. You can’t respond to bullying the same way you’re going to respond to bias. 

Bias interrupters

“We want to cultivate a culture where we all can have changed behaviour, and sustain that changed behaviour. And so one of the things we talk about biases is how do we interrupt it? We call it bias interrupters.”

It can be uncomfortable calling it out when you hear it, but the more you do it, i.e. waving a purple flag when you hear instances of bias, the more people get used to it, and realise it’s a learning moment, which allows people to get better at not doing it.

Most people don’t want to be biased. If they have bias, they’re unconscious biases. From mansplaining to he-peating, there are multiple biases we can have. One bias that is prevalent say Kim and Trier is gendered language – i.e. calling the men ‘men’, but the women ‘girls’. 

“In the workplace, when we’re all adults, I don’t hear men referring to each other as boys, but I do hear men use the term girls. And it’s like, we are adults here.”

Bias to be aware of

If you don’t understand the language a community or culture uses, educate yourself, say Kim and Trier. It’s not on them to enlighten you, it’s on you. 

“It’s always shocking to me that people don’t have that knowledge or understanding [about LGBTQIA+]. But I think it’s important just to understand that you need to educate yourself and to ask those questions and have those conversations, and not to put it on the person or the communities of those persons and communities. To go and do your own work and education to be able to have this inclusive language and to have these conversations.”

Other bias includes:

  • Your whole team looks like you.
  • Language bias i.e. he’s a real leader, she’s a real mother hen. 
  • Parental bias i.e. assuming women are parents, not men.
  • Head office vs regional office bias.
  • In person vs remote workers – bias against the people on screen.

How can we make hybrid work for everyone?

“I think that what we optimise for is what works best for our employees. There’s not one thing that’s going to work well for everyone. So how do you create flexibility? You do what is best for you. And just put some boundaries in place, and then let people go and be as efficient as they can within the workplace.”

Finally, Kim and Trier say, we have to get comfortable using uncomfortable language. We need to say what we mean. There’s so much fear around calling it out, but it’s everyone’s job to do so. And it all starts with leaders. Leaders have to move past their fear or they’re never going to make the change they need in their organisation. 

Book recommendations

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