IN THE 1970s, some symphony orchestra directors tried a new way to hire musicians: blind hiring. Musicians played behind screens and walked on carpeted floors so the judges couldn’t tell if they were wearing heels.
Symphony musicians had mostly been white men. The new method increased the chances that women were hired and also encouraged more women to apply because they were confident they would be treated fairly.
Hiring is one of the most important parts of work, but it can also be the least rigorous. Managers often ask questions that don’t actually test what people will do on the job and people are attracted to people who are most similar to them, often unconsciously.
1. Watch your language
“Manage”, “exceptional” and “proven”. When job adverts include these words, more men apply. Words like “sympathetic,” “fosters” and “empathy” attract more women.
Instead, words that both men and women respond to in equal number are “extraordinary”, “visionary” or “premier”. Adverts with gender-neutral language fill 14 days faster and bring in more diverse candidates.
Benefits like family leave, an on-site gym and performance-based incentives filled jobs fastest. Offering holidays or sabbaticals, as opposed to leave, slowed down hiring and benefits like on-site massage or pet leave had no effect.
2. Treat people equally
Workplace discrimination can range from blatant to subtle. Here’s how to address these issues.
Hiring equitably is the first step. Next is treating colleagues respectfully. Discrimination happens in overt and subtle ways, like people interrupting in meetings, taking credit for ideas that weren’t theirs or handing out promotions and raises to people most similar to them. Not only is it hurtful, but it harms people’s careers and stifles the flow of good ideas. Groups that penalise such behaviour end up having more creative expression, found research by Jennifer Chatman of the Haas School of Business.
3. Practise what you learnt in preschool
Basic kindness goes a long way towards building respectful workplace cultures. Below are some of the manners suggested by Fran Sepler, a workplace training consultant:
1. Greet people;
2. Don’t interrupt;
3. Credit the people who come up with good ideas, not the people who most loudly take credit for them;
4. Don’t multitask during a conversation;
5. Don’t write in email anything you wouldn’t say in person.
4. Learn to listen
Meetings are cesspools of disrespectful workplace behaviour. There are ways to make sure everyone gets heard:
Certain people tend to dominate the conversation, so stop to ask if everyone has had a chance to speak. Don’t forget those on the phone or video conference.
Don’t allow others to take credit for other people’s ideas. Redirect the conversation back to the person who originally raised it, saying something like: “She just raised that same idea. Would she like to tell us more?”
In a brainstorming meeting, ask people to come up with ideas alone and then discuss them together, then have the leaders share last. That way people aren’t swayed by the group conversation or by people more senior than them.
5. If you’re a freelancer
Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and background. Remember that one reason companies hire freelancers is to add fresh ideas and diversity to workplaces that have grown dull and repetitive.
6. If you are a boss
Your actions speak louder than words. People are watching them closely.
Below are a few suggestions of small changes you can make that will help change the tone in your office:
• Set the example for a flexible, empathetic culture – leave before dinnertime, even if you keep working at home. If you leave a meeting early for family reasons, tell everyone that’s the reason.
• Embrace diversity, equality and respect for all – choose deputies who don’t look like you and have different backgrounds than yours. Show up at diversity and sexual harassment trainings, and parties celebrating someone’s promotion.
If you’re there, people will know it’s important.
• Tell people their work is important and show it, too – make sure they know how it fits into the organisation’s broader mission, no matter how junior the person is. Do the work yourself. Spend a day on sales calls or delivering products.
• Talk to your employees – ask people what they want to do in five years and how you can help them get there. Let people work on the stuff they’re most passionate about.
This article first appeared in The New York Times.