Research Paper on the Perceptual Biases in the Cases of “Affirmative Action at the University of Selkirk” and “Portrait of a Canadian Advisor”
Historically, perceptual biases played an extremely important role in the complicated relationship of human beings. In fact, perceptual biases are typical for practically all organizations and social structures and often they affect the functioning of such organizations and structures dramatically, Nowadays, in modern organizations, it is getting to be particularly important to cope with such biases since they produce the negative impact on the internal atmosphere within the organization, its public imaged and decreases the effectiveness of its work. However, often it is quite difficult to clearly define perceptual biases an organization can potentially face since, as a rule, they are hidden and may be clearly perceived only on the profound analysis of the current situation within the organization. What is meant here is the necessity to analyze the situation from internal and external viewpoints since it will provide the possibility to make a really objective judgment and take essential steps to ameliorate the situation. In this respect, the analysis of two case studies, namely the Affirmative Action at the University of Selkirk and the Portrait of a Canadian Advisor, can be really helpful in a deep understanding of the significance of perceptual biases and the necessity to cope with them. The latter is particularly important and needs the development of an effective strategy to solve the problem of perceptual biases that prevent organizations from normal and effective functioning, undermining the internal stability and threatening to their further progress. At the same time, it will be quite useful to compare both cases while analyzing them on the basis of the same theories since it will help not just practically apply the theories but also profoundly reveal their essence and practically implement them. It is also extremely important to develop an effective program that would help solve the existing problem and difficulties provoked by the perceptual biases that may be found in both cases. On the other hand it is also important to realize whether the current situation in both cases really needs any improvements or, probably, it would gradually normalize and all problems would naturally disappear.
The perceptual biases
On analyzing the two case studies, it is possible to estimate that there are perceptual biases that are, to a significant extent similar, but there are also perceptual biases that make them quite different. First of all, it is necessary to point out that on the basis of the social learning theory both cases deal with the basic problem of effective acquisition of new social experience. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that perceptual biases interfere significantly in the process of communication and deteriorate the general ambiance within the organization. It is not a secret that they create substantial difficulties on the way to mutual understanding of the personnel of any organization. In fact, communication is the primary source of energy for organization. This is why to stimulate effective communication within an organization for its stable and successful functioning.
As for the two cases, it is necessary to point out that both of them inevitably lead to the substantial problems and even conflicts within organizations because of the perceptual biases that deteriorates normal communication between all members of the organizations. For instance, in the case of the Canadian advisor it is obvious that he can hardly afford normal relations with other people who work with him in this organization. It is noteworthy that these difficulties refer not only to his communication with non-Canadian workers but also to his compatriots as well because any organization is a solid and united organism where there is no room for unjust and prejudiced attitude. Even though, it is probably not the case of the Canadian advisor but still he remains in a kind of isolation from non-Canadian employees and, consequently, he cannot establish normal relations with them and the main reason is the perceptual biases that exist in their relations, especially from the part of the advisor. It means that it is really difficult to build up normal relations in the situation when, in actuality, the Canadian advisor practically ignores the peculiarities of the local people. In fact, he rather tends to live in the community he get used to. As a result, he attempts to develop positive relationships with other Canadians and believes that he has no real problems in communication, even with the local employees. However, the reality is totally different that naturally makes normal communication practically impossible even with his compatriots because it is really difficult for them to sustain good relation with this person and integrate in the local community or build up good or even friendly relations with the local employees. In such a way, the Canadian advisor rather tend to create an illusionary world he wants to live in where everything is perfect and he has no real problems, but, in actuality he build a wall of biases that separate him from local employees because does not fully realize the necessity of the integration into the local community, learn the norms of the local life and peculiarities of the local mentality. The situation is deteriorated by his inability to cope with these biases believing that his own culture and lifestyle are self-sufficient to get integrated in the local community or establish normal relations with local people.
Similarly, in the case of the affirmative action at the University of Selkirk, there are also significant substantial biases that prevent the development of normal relationship within the organizations and create certain restraints in communication. It should be said both males and females rather tend to follow the traditional and stereotype system of gender roles and gender relationship than really implement the new approach. In fact, the communication within the organization still remains a bit one-sided since the university still remains male-dominated, consequently, females turn to be the subordinated position and it is only their active position that can really draw the attention of males to their problems. At the same time, it is important not just provide females with the access to new job opportunities, for instance, but implement an absolutely new system of communication and inter-gender relationship which could facilitate communication and eliminate existing perceptual biases, such as subjective attitude to females, unwillingness to delegate them with the higher level of authority, and, finally, take all decisions through affirmative action, i.e. after consultations concerning the extent to which the choice in favor of male was justified and whether there was not a single woman that had the equal skills, abilities, and potential.
Speaking in details, it is necessary to point out that in the case of the affirmative action at the University of Selkirk the necessity of the improvement of the position of females within the organization was not really effectively applied because of the existing perceptual biases which prevented the progressive ideas and innovation to functions effectively. What is meant here is the fact that the University personnel, notably its male majority, did not have sufficient social experience to deal with the implementation of affirmative action, Naturally, they would have to learn how to effectively implement this new strategies aiming at the improvement of the position of women. On the other hand, it is not only male that should change their position but also females that should become more active and conscious of their own power and rights. It should be said that the development of new strategy or style of communication could be quite efficient and contributed to the effective implementation of the concept of the affirmative action. In fact, in order to overcome the existing perceptual biases and made males and females really equal, it is necessary to start with their communication that should be the communication of equals, but not the communication of a dominating and dominated personalities.
Obviously, the main reason for the existing problem is the social experience employees of the University have. Notably, it is evident that basically the University is male dominated and, consequently, males traditionally play dominant role. This is why the wider access of female to job opportunities at the University was new experience which, actually, contradicted to the traditional concept of the prevailing principle of higher effectiveness of employees. As a result, the effectiveness of employees was prior to their gender. However, the view on effectiveness of employees could be and were quite subjective since the criteria of effectiveness were defined from male point of view.
Similarly, in the case of the Portrait of a Canadian Advisor, there is the problem of the objective attitude to the assessment of self-efficacy, as well as the problem of self-management. It is obvious that both cases lack effective self-management. Basically, the Canadian Advisor seems to be unable objectively assess his own position and social experience and do not have effective strategies to really integrate into the new community and social surrounding as well as to his colleagues. In fact, he faces the same problem of acquisition of new social experience as the staff of the University of Selkirk. To put it more precisely, like employees of the University of Selkirk are unable to overcome perceptual biases in attitude to female employees and new ways of female employment and promotion, so the Canadian advisor cannot develop new social skills that are essential in the new social environment, such as language skills, for instance.
At the same time, the basic perceptual biases in both cases concern the problem of equity. To put it more precisely, in the case of the University of Selkirk this is the problem of the problem of equity may be found in the relationship between male and female employees. Practically, it means that the level of equity of their relationships is extremely low and female in this university cannot expect to obtain or maintain equitable or fair exchange relationships through the process of outcome and input relative to others, i.e. male employees of the university. In the similar way the Canadian advisor, even though he really seeks for equity, is still in a different position compared to other employees, especially non-Canadian ones. It should be pointed out that, regardless his attempts and his presumable good relations with other employees, he rather turns to be in a privileged position compared to them and is not fully integrated in the new community he lives and works in.
At the same time, it is necessary to underline that there are also some substantial differences between the two cases. First of all, it should be said that the problem of learning new social experience is quite different in the two cases. In actuality, in the case of affirmative action at the University of Selkirk, the employees are quite conscious of the existing problem and work on its solution but they cannot simply get used to new ways of work and employment, and change their attitude to female and affirmative action at large. Practically, it means that the affirmative action does not effectively implemented not because of the unconsciousness of the parties concerned but rather because of the lack of practices of such action. In other words, the affirmative action at the University of Selkirk is a new way of relationship and communication that needs time in be implemented effectively since there is the will of the personnel of the university to really change the situation and make gender relations really equal.
In stark contrast, the Canadian advisor does not fully realize the existence of the problem but, instead, sincerely believes that he does not have any serious problems with integration at all. As a result, he turns to be totally subordinated to the perceptual biases he has, while personnel of the University of Selkirk is conscious of the necessity to overcome perceptual biases and attempts to change the attitude to females and their role in the University, though the elimination of these biases is quite slow and difficult. Moreover, the Canadian advisor simply aggravates his position by his ignorance concerning the real state of things. In fact, he is not really motivated to change his views and position because he sees no problems. This is why his perceptual biases in relation to the local personnel are substantially enforced by the perceptual biases concerning his own position in the new community he is currently living. This is why, unlike in the case of affirmative action at the University of Selkirk, the Canadian advisor needs to overcome both internal and external resistance, i.e. change his own attitude to his present social environment and make other people change their attitude to himself by creating a positive image of an individual who is really conscious of the existing problems in communication and who is really willing to changed the situation for better.
Furthermore, it is also necessary to underline that the problems the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor face are perceived on different levels. To put it more precisely, the employees of the University of Selkirk perceive the existing problem on both external and internal level, while the problems of the Canadian advisor are getting to be obvious only on the external level of analysis and perception while, internally, the situation is quite normal.
The program to eliminate perceptual biases
Naturally, the existing perceptional biases deteriorate the internal ambiance within the University of Selkirk as well as the position of the Canadian advisor in his organization. This is why it is important to develop effective strategies and programs to overcome these biases and solve the existing problems. Basically, they will be similar for both cases though slight variations are quite probable and acceptable. In this respect, it is necessary to point out that one of the strategic directions of the improvement of the situation should be the encouragement of people concerned to apply essential changes and start a totally new relationship with their colleagues. It means that motivation should be one of the key issues that could really improve the internal situation within both organizations and contribute to the mutual understanding and normal communication. Obviously, this will lead to positive results of the functioning of organizations concerned since, as it has already been mentioned above, the communication is one of the basic components of high effectiveness and energy of organizational work.
In such a way, it is primarily necessary to motivate the personnel of the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor to start essential changes to overcome their perceptual biases. Speaking about the University of Selkirk, it is possible to recommend the development of the program that stimulated employees to make the affirmative action a really effective tool of the realization of females their right to equal opportunities at the University. For instance, it is possible to motivate personnel using the special training programs due to which people will learn that the implementation of the affirmative action does not simply improve the position of females but it will also substantially improve the general ambiance within the whole organization since there will remain little or even no room for perceptual biases that will facilitate the communication between both males and females. In fact, it is necessary to underline that such a perspective will open new opportunities for personal and professional growth of each employee and, consequently, it will probably the strongest motivation for the personnel of the University of Selkirk since each employee can fully realize personal benefits of such a change.
As for the Canadian advisor, it is also necessary to motivate him to improve his relationship with local employees. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the management by objectives. For instance, it is possible to include the Canadian advisor in a multinational group that work on some project. All members of the group should have equal rights and opportunities and the position of the advisor should not be superior to any other member of the team. Furthermore, it is necessary to set a goal that will need close cooperation of the Canadian advisor with other members of the team, including those from the local community. For instance, it may be the organization of some event dedicated to the celebration of some local holiday, or festival. In order to accomplish this goal, the Canadian advisor would naturally need to closely cooperate with his non-Canadian colleagues and, what is even more important, he would inevitably learn more about the local culture and traditions. As a result, he would realize the extent to which he is hostile, or, to put it more precisely, ignorant about the local culture which is as rich and unique as any other culture and which is really different from Canadian culture. Along with the realization of his ignorance, the advisor could also be profoundly interested and, consequently, motivated to learn more about the local culture and traditions. Naturally, the best way to achieve this new goal is to broaden his communication with local employees whom he has a chance to communicate regularly. In this respect, his experience of work, cooperation and communication with non-Canadian colleagues during the work on the project of the event will be quite useful and may serve as a starting point of the development of new, more open and friendly relationship between the Canadian advisor and the local community.
Furthermore, it is necessary to underline that the main problem in both cases is the problem of acquisition of new social experience and, thus, it is the problem of learning that can be solved with the help of effective implementation of the Learning theory in practice. This is why it is primarily possible to recommend starting with the definition of the main goals of the programs. Unquestionably, for both cases the goals will be similar, notably, it will be necessary to: a) make employees of the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor to learn new behaviors by directly experiencing the consequences of their behavior; and b) they will also need to learn by interacting with and observing the behavior of others.
Practically, it means that the employees of the University of Selkirk should reevaluate their behavior and analyze its consequences, notably, the privileged position of males and the lack of opportunities for females. This means that they will have to admit that their affirmation action has turned to be ineffective and, thus, they need to learn new experience and for this purpose it is possible to provide some additional training or some educational programs due to which they could learn successful experience of affirmative action in other universities and organizations. As for the Canadian advisor, the solution of the problem would be a bit different because, as it has been already mentioned above, he is not fully conscious of the perceptual biases that actually prevent him from the normal integration into the new community. Practically, it means that he primarily needs to objectively evaluate his current position and behavior and realize that his subjective point of view is totally wrong. After that, he should plan his actions in such a way that he could learn new experience and develop essential social skills acceptable in the new community. In this respect, it is possible to recommend to widen his social environment and sphere of his communication, namely, communicate more with the local, non-Canadian colleagues and employees, learn local language and cultural norms and imitate the behavior of others on the basis of the newly acquired knowledge.
Obviously, the achievement of positive results can be achieved only through effective realization of the Learning theory and, along with the suggested modeling of behavior described above, it is also important to develop self-efficacy and self-management. Self-efficacy implies that both employees of the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor are able to successfully overcome their biases and develop new social skills. Practically, it means that the employees of the University of Selkirk should be conscious of their ability to change their attitude to women and effectively implement affirmative action, while the Canadian advisor should not simply realize the existing problems but also believe in his ability to successfully overcome it and properly implement new social experience. It is necessary to underline that the self-efficacy is a crucial factor that can predetermine the general success of the programs or, in contrast, doom them to failure.
On the other hand, self-management is also crucial since it helps to properly organize the realization of the programs. In this respect, it should be said that both the employees of the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor should not only learn the models of behavior from others but also control and coordinate their own behavior. To put it more precisely, they need to collect self-observation data that would fully reveal the existence of their problems but, it is worthy to note that in the case of the affirmative action at the University of Selkirk, the employees are quite conscious of the existing problems and rather need to reevaluate their behavior, while in the case of the Canadian advisor the self-observation may be insufficient and he would probably need to critically evaluate views of his social environment on his own behavior. On collecting self-observation data, it is necessary to observe attentively models of behavior of others in similar situations and after that clearly set goals they need to meet. In the case of the University of Selkirk, the employees will need to effectively implement affirmative action and develop objective approach to females role in the University, while in the case of the Canadian advisor he rather needs to change his behavior totally and focus on integration to the local community enlarging his relationship with local people and acquiring knowledge about local culture and traditions due to this relationship and additional learning of language, for instance.
However, before total implementation of learned models of behavior that corresponds to the goals of both programs, it is highly recommended to primarily practice them and only after that start the total self-reinforcement. It means that in the University of Selkirk it is possible to start with the change of policy in relation to females in certain department and, if the experience is successful, than it will be possible to further develop and implement the affirmative action at the scale of the whole university. Similarly, the Canadian advisor should practice the new experience or models of behavior with his non-Canadian friends, for instance, and than extend it to his regular social behavior in the local community.
Also in the case of the affirmative action at the University of Selkirk, it is possible to implement the norm, according to which, absolutely all appointments within the University should undergo the affirmative action and, thus, it will be impossible to ignore it. On the other hand, it is also necessary to encourage the cooperation between females and males. In this respect, it is possible to recommend including both females and males in the process of the affirmative action. This will provide opportunities to establish new more open and equal relationship in the process of elaboration of decisions by means of consultations and close cooperation. It will also open an excellent opportunity to increase the level of inter-gender communication that can help males and females better understand each other, share views, opinions and set of values. Actually, this recommendation is similar to the one concerning the participation of the Canadian advisor in the work on the celebration of some event in the multi-cultural team. By the way, speaking about the Canadian advisor, it is also possible to recommend him get more integrated in the local community not only on the professional level, that is actually recommended for the University of Selkirk as well, but also on the level of informal communication. Practically, it means that he needs to be integrated in the local community at large and learn new socio-cultural experience through direct communication with local population. For instance, the Canadian advisor can develop his relationship with non-Canadian colleagues and visit their homes, get acquainted with their families, spend spare time with them, or invite some of his non-Canadian colleagues with their families to his own home, though it does not mean that he should stop his communication with his Canadian colleagues. In stark contrast, he should rather broaden his sphere of communication that will undoubtedly ameliorate his relationship with his colleagues regardless their origin and contribute to higher effectiveness of his work.
The reasons of the motivation to behave differently
Obviously, in order to successfully implement the developed programs, it is necessary to effectively motivate the personnel of the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor. Primarily, it is necessary to understand what motivates people. In this respect, it is possible to say that the developed programs can really motivate the employees of the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor since it primarily contributes to their professional growth since as they acquire new experience and learn new models of behavior they become more tolerant and integrated into the new conditions of work. At the same time, the program will expose them to new challenges they have to overcome in order to meet the goals of the programs and behave differently. On the other hand, the programs will also match the needs of both the employees of the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor. By the way, in the case of the Canadian advisor the realization of the program will be actually the realization of his actual self-perception which is inadequate at the moment. Naturally, when he realizes the difference between his current position and behavior and desirable ones, he will naturally want to change himself observing behavior of other people. Similarly, the employees of the University of Selkirk realize the necessity of changes and the unjust attitude to females will change their own behavior when they learn new experience that is actually essential in the modern world and matches current socio-cultural trends.
Anyway, the realization of the programs will motivate the employees of the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor because they basically meet the five main needs, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, namely the programs: a) satisfy their physiological needs since it helps to create heterogeneous socio-cultural environment, b) increase their safety since they feel themselves equal to others and expect the same attitude from others; c) they feel their belongingness to the community since it is impossible to belong to the community and, at the same time, exclude females or local employees from one’s environment; d) naturally, the realization of the programs will pose new challenges that can increase their esteem; and, finally, e) the programs will contribute to their self-actualization since both the employees of the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor will realize their social significance, importance and the role they play in the community as well as the extent to which they can realize their internal potential.
Practically, it means that the motivation of employees of the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor are essential since the communication is a natural, or even, physiological need of human beings. As a result, they cannot ignore some part of the community and remain in a kind of isolation. This is why they are naturally motivated to gradually enlarge the sphere of their communication and acquire new social skills and experience. Furthermore, they will feel themselves safer as they realize that all members of the community they live in are treated as equal, consequently, there is no real threat to their own position in the community since they logically understand that in any case they will also be treated as equal. Basically, this is the result of the realization of the fact of their belongingness to the community since, being deprived of their perceptual biases, they really constitute an essential part of their community, while at the present moment the employees of the University of Selkirk as well as the Canadian advisor are isolated or have tensions with a certain part of the community. At the same time, as they change their attitude to their community and themselves they will face certain obstacles they will have to overcome, notably their biases, and, on eliminating their biases, they will realize that they are really able to change and improve themselves and establish good relationship with the community. It will also make them feel that the community really needs them that naturally contribute to their self-actualization.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the discussed case studies reveal the existence of perceptual biases which undermine the internal stability within organizations as well as the position of people concerned. Obviously, their major problem is the inability to be fully integrated in the community and adapt to the new conditions of work that lead to the intolerant or subjective attitude to other people and miscomprehension and deterioration of relationship with social surrounding. Unquestionably, such a situation within both organizations discussed in the case studies is absolutely unacceptable and even unaffordable because it leads to the deterioration of relationship between different members of the community because of the perceptual biases either on the basis of their ethnic origin or gender. Sometimes, such problems can lead to confrontations between opposing parties that is probably a serious stimulus to changes in interpersonal relationships. This is why it is necessary to avoid such conflicts by all possible means in order to preserve healthy organizational culture and ambiance. Consequently, the changes, being essential, should be applied effectively and, in this respect, the programs developed above can be quite helpful. In the result of the implementation of the suggested programs it is possible to expect that the existing problems will be solved or minimized since they meet the basic goals both the employees of the University of Selkirk and the Canadian advisor search for and the situation may be substantially improved due to the improvement of communication between members of the organizations and communities.
1. Greenberg, J. Managing Behavior in Organizations. Fourth Edition, Pearson Education Canada/Prentice Hall, 2005.
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