I am part of the IC at my organisation. I have been on the committee for the last 1 year. During the last investigation, I have felt that the IC is prone bias and is becoming stereotypical in their conversations (especially when we receive the complaint email). It’s affecting our ability to judge a situation appropriately.
Yes – This is an important and a critical aspect. This is called as Unconscious Bias – Especially because those members do not understand how it impacts their judgement. It has a very strong impact on the judgement as the investigation generally steers in a direction that shows how the judgement was true.
The IC team, because of Unconscious Bias, does not realise the need to disprove those judgements with the help of facts.
Our recommendation is to have an Advanced session on ‘Unconscious Bias’ and the impact it has on the small as well as big decisions that they make.
a. Most people who understand and are made aware of their biases, are able to overcome those even in their daily decision making process.
b. It is also helpful to change the environment to ensure that biases don’t play a role – For example, sharing the complaint and respondent’s statement with the team, at first, without the name or gender of the person. At this point, the IC has to decide if this is a complaint of Sexual Harassment or not. So, take the first step without any bias.
c. Also, if you are talking to the woman, during the first meeting, try not to discuss post the meeting.
d. However, have the Fact-finding team search for evidence based on the allegations made.
Using a fact-finding team also helps to reduce bias, as they are separate group, who are unaware of the nature of the complaint. They will just present the facts that is as is.
This will help the IC to make a bias free decision.