We have all been in meetings where biases are present. We have all, I am sure, experienced the uncomfortable feelings that it stirs in us and for many of us have played the ‘could have, would have, should have’ game in our heads after the event. Berating ourselves at what we should have said.

The truth is whilst calling out bias sounds like a good idea in theory; in practice we often fear risking judgement, rejection, or conflict. We don’t like to reject a senior person’s views incase it jeopardises our own position. As a coach one of the things, I hear a lot is about how a leader wants to gain gravitas whilst in the room with senior leaders, and the difficulty in this when the client in the room only wants to hear from the senior leader. So, we keep quiet, even when we hear bias and we disagree. Yet this risk aversion can contribute to derailing individual progress in the long run even though it feels like the safer option in the moment.

One of the core areas we are often called to coach in is areas of tricky communication like this. Couple this dilemma with a parent just returning to the office after a period of parental leave and it can be even more commonplace to keep quiet.

There is no one way fixes all. As with all communication we have to understand the relationships that exist amongst those that are wishing to communicate. If relationships are good enough, we encourage a 1-2-1 with those that we may disagree with in areas of biased communication. Maybe the way, for example, a leader may speak about working mothers or fathers. And then we take time to explore the how, when and where’s of the communication. All in service of busting biases and building reputation of positive and courageous leaders.