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  • Writer's pictureKelly Burns

How to Minimize Bias and Stop Oppression in Your Organization

Updated: Apr 4

Successful companies understand that efficient systems benefit the whole ecosystem of an organization. Employees can work smarter rather than harder, customers are better served, and the bottom line gets a healthy boost. From assembly lines to modern-day deliveries that allow us to get packages hours after placing an order, systems streamline our processes, create consistency, and remove redundancy.

So what’s not to like?


As Peter Senge (1990) reminds leaders, our systems are highly informed by the mental models of those who design and apply them. Often, leaders and companies overlook - or are unaware of - how these systems or “professional norms” can affect the engagement and well-being of different populations in their community.

Mental models are built on our assumptions, beliefs, values, traditions, and biases. They sit at the core of our systems individually (personal worldview) and institutionally (policies and procedures), so leaders must critically examine if members of their team are left out of an engaging experience at work as a result. When individuals are disengaged and disenfranchised, it is experienced as a structural form of oppression.


This structural oppression can play out in numerous ways. One example is when employers use the concept of “fit” as a hiring criterion. When we ask if someone “fits” the company, we are often subconsciously asking if they will continue the current comfort level and feel of the organization. This is often harmful for diverse candidates because fears surrounding social and cultural differences or concerns about an individual’s identity can be hidden under the umbrella of “fit.”

In this case, “hiring a good fit” is a mental model. On top of that, fit also becomes a structural component embedded in the hiring process. This becomes a consistent pattern for departments and companies, culminating in a homogenous workspace and further marginalizing minoritized individuals.


When systemic and structural barriers are recognized, leaders can work with those who are negatively impacted to create processes that are more inclusive and accessible. Effective leaders can uncover where their systems are oppressive by critically examining how employees respond to questions such as:

  • What identities are represented in each level of leadership in the company?

  • Which employees feel engaged to participate in extracurricular work functions like company picnics, ballgame outings, etc.?

  • What cultures do our company policies embrace? What cultures do our policies inhibit?

Our CultureID survey provides leaders with the option to include four carefully crafted DEI questions that reveal critical insights into fairness, equity, and inclusion at the individual, team, and company levels. This information allows leaders to increase their intercultural competence and more effectively create a welcoming and inclusive organization that inspires individual growth for all.

For more resources, guidance, and details about the CultureID platform, subscribe to our newsletter or schedule a demo and learn how we can make your dream work culture a reality.

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