Many Organizations’ Inclusion Efforts Not Addressing Everyday Bias

Despite organizations’ efforts to advance inclusion in the workplace, many of today’s professionals are experiencing and witnessing bias on a regular basis and it’s impacting how they show up and perform at work, according to a new external marketplace study featured in Deloitte’s “2019 state of inclusion survey” released today.

Key takeaways from survey

  • Most professionals believe their organization fosters an inclusive workplace and provides opportunities to connect with others from diverse backgrounds; yet, many feel they frequently experience and witness bias, often to the detriment of their productivity, engagement, well-being and overall happiness.
  • Professionals mostly experience or witness bias that is subtle and indirect, versus blatant and obvious, making it hard to address in the moment.
  • People believe they are allies and say they feel comfortable talking to others about bias, but do not always act when they see it in the workplace.

“Our survey clearly reveals that even well-intentioned organizations have much work to do to close the gap between overarching goals and the actual experiences of their workforce,” said Joe Ucuzoglu, Deloitte US CEO. “It’s important to shine a light on the issues holding back inclusive change and leadership, which includes recognizing and addressing everyday subtle biases that can negatively impact an organization’s workforce.”

The impact of bias: experiencing versus witnessing
According to the external marketplace survey of 3,000 full-time U.S. professionals, nearly 8 in 10 say they believe their company fosters an inclusive culture, yet 64% of them admitted to feeling that they either experienced and/or witnessed bias in the workplace within the last 12 months. Among these professionals, 83% say that it was indirect or subtle — which is often framed as a microaggression. 

Among professionals who have recently felt they experienced workplace bias, 61% say that it has occurred at least once a month and as often as several times per week; this number increases slightly to 63% for professionals who say they felt they witnessed bias.

Additionally, for respondents who have experienced bias within the last 12 months, 84% say that bias has a negative effect on their happiness, confidence and well-being to some extent.

What’s more, more than two-thirds of respondents say experiencing and/or witnessing bias has had a negative impact on how engaged they feel at work (70%) and on their productivity overall (68%).

Are you an ally?
A major finding that emerged from the survey is most people believe they are allies, but many do not address bias when they witness or experience it. An overwhelming 92% of professionals consider themselves an ally in the workplace and 73% say they feel comfortable talking to others about bias in the workplace. However, only 29% of respondents say they actually speak up in the moment when they perceive bias, and nearly one-third ignore it.

Encouragingly, 65% of respondents say they have confided in their colleagues or manager when they experienced or witnessed bias, highlighting the importance of courageous conversations and supporting others.

“Being an ally requires action and dedication to supporting others who have different experiences, backgrounds or perspectives from you”, said Dr. Terri Cooper, Deloitte chief inclusion officer. “Colleagues and managers can play a critical role in helping to close the gap between intention and action when it comes to allyship. They can encourage conversations among each other to build empathy, authenticity and awareness.”

For additional insights and findings from the inaugural State of inclusion survey, please visit our Deloitte Inclusion Insights page to review the report.