What’s the #1 barrier for inclusion and diversity?
Most people say they appreciate diversity. However, human beings innately perceive anyone different as a threat because our brain has an evolutionary requirement to do so. Our human tendency is to divide the social world into groups, in groups (the groups we belong to), and out groups. As a result, we treat instinctively ingroup members with care and outgroup members with caution. We tend to stay in our comfort zones and connect with and favour people who are just like ourselves. This is called “affinity bias”, and this is the number one cause for exclusion. Not the fact that we exclude intentionally people who are different from us, even if this can be true in many cases. Unfortunately, some people are deliberately racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. Affinity bias turns meritocracy into a “mirrorocracy” in most organisations [i]. An insidious way affinity bias manifests itself is through the “fit question”. When people ask “Will he or she fit into our culture?”, what they’re really looking for is reassurance that the new person is similar to the group.
Three other biases closely related to affinity bias:
- The confirmation bias. When you like someone, usually because the person is similar to you in some ways, you’ll scan the reality in a very selective mode. Everything that confirms your gut feeling will be kept, everything that goes against it will be ignored. And that’s how you rationalize opinions that are not based on facts to begin with, but come from feelings of comfort