Furlough and bias: An open letter to business leaders facing tough decisions

In moments of stress, business leaders default to autopilot behaviours, with social structural prejudices baked into them.

by Roshni Goyate

Business leaders are facing some of the toughest people-related decisions of their careers. One for which there is no blueprint, no guidelines. It is a great unknown. Whether having to furlough staff, give out redundancies or simply lay them off, there is something those decision-makers need to be aware of more than ever: unconscious bias. 

In moments of stress, we enter fight or flight and we default to autopilot behaviours, led by our gut instincts with social structural prejudices baked into them. These are the moments when bias, conscious or unconscious can be most prevalent. And what could be more stressful than a global pandemic? 

At this time, marginalised people within teams are at most risk of facing bias from the leadership. People of colour, mothers, parents, carers, women over 45, people with disabilities – who already face barriers to progression at work – will most likely be disproportionately affected by these decisions. 

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