Just Work | Kim Malone Scott

Summary of: Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast & Fair
By: Kim Malone Scott


In ‘Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast & Fair,’ Kim Malone Scott offers fresh insights and practical tools for navigating bias, prejudice, and bullying in the workplace. The book highlights the challenges and uncertainty faced by individuals when they encounter unconscious bias, and how silence adversely affects all involved parties. By understanding and defining bias, prejudice, and bullying, Scott paves the way for effective communication strategies that invite understanding and correction. The book encourages self-awareness, open-mindedness, and growth, helping readers to build healthier, more productive relationships at work and in their personal lives.

The Costs of Staying Quiet

Kim Scott’s encounter with a man who mistook her for an event staff on the day she was to speak to Silicon Valley executives is an excellent example of how keeping quiet can be terrible for everyone involved. Though she was uncertain how to deal with the situation, staying silent had consequences far beyond her alone. Kim believes that keeping quiet when one gets stereotyped as “over-sensitive” or “angry” can be bad for your relationships with your colleagues, fosters resentment, and gives little room for the person exhibiting problematic behavior to change. In her book, Just Work, Chapter 2 delves deeper into the costs of staying silence and ways to confront such situations.

Reacting to Harmful Stereotypes

Learn how to effectively respond to bias, prejudice, and bullying with the right statements.

In the face of bias, prejudice, and bullying, it’s not always easy to know how to respond effectively. However, it’s important to react quickly and address harmful stereotypes. The first step is to understand the difference between bias, prejudice, and bullying. Bias refers to unconscious stereotypes, while prejudice reflects consciously held beliefs. Bullying is simply being mean.

When faced with bias, use an “I” statement to give the person a chance to correct their behavior. For example, saying “I don’t work here, I’m about to make a speech” can help correct the person and address their bias. On the other hand, an “it” statement can be used to respond to prejudice by appealing to laws, HR policies, or common sense. For instance, saying “it is illegal” or “it is ridiculous” to judge someone based on their gender can help set boundaries.

When confronted with bullying, it’s crucial to push the person away with a “you” statement or question. “You can’t talk to me like that” is a great example. If that feels too risky, using “where’d you get that shirt?” can also work. This kind of statement puts you in an active role and forces the person to respond to you.

By understanding these different types of statements, you can effectively respond to harmful stereotypes. To learn more, check out Chapter 2 in the book Just Work.

Overcoming Personal Bias

Unconscious biases and prejudices are common but not unchangeable. We must learn to identify these biases and invite feedback from others to make changes. When our biases are pointed out, we need to avoid becoming defensive and take concrete steps to make amends. Bart’s story in the book illustrates how he tackled his personal bias and turned it into a growth opportunity for his company. He acknowledged his bias, developed a training program for his team, and enlisted the help of his colleagues to ensure that his colleague, Avery, wasn’t always the one correcting him. We can all learn to do better by practicing vulnerability, being specific in our apologies, and taking action to change.

Being an Upstander – How to Interrupt Bias, Prejudice, and Bullying

Aileen Lee, a partner at a venture capital firm, experienced unconscious bias in a meeting with senior executives where they ignored her and directed their comments towards her male colleagues. Her male colleague disrupted the bias by asking to switch seats with Aileen, which led to her being included in the conversation. Such individuals are called “upstanders” and play a vital role in interrupting bias. Instead of pointing out bias themselves, victims of bias can delegate, create a distraction, document the event, delay and check-in with the person later. Upstanders should not try to play the role of “white saviors,” as it is counterproductive. Being an upstander means intervening for everyone’s sake.

Dealing with Bias and Bullying in the Workplace

As a leader, how can you effectively prevent bias, prejudice, and bullying within your company? Enrolling staff in workshops or outsourcing the problem to HR will not suffice. Leaders need to take action by:
1) Teaching the team to disrupt bias in the moment by making it routine and creating a shared vocabulary.
2) Developing a clear code of conduct that outlines the rules of respect and collaboration.
3) Implementing consequences for bullying, including conversational, compensation, and career repercussions. The message is clear: don’t promote that “brilliant jerk.” To learn more about preventing these harmful behaviors, read Chapter 5 of Just Work.

Preventing Discrimination, Harassment, and Physical Violations in the Workplace

Leaders must take proactive steps to prevent discrimination, harassment, and physical violations in the workplace. When a person in power puts their biases or prejudices into practice, discrimination is the result, which can lead to harassment and physical violations. Leaders must be accountable for responding in a way that minimizes the chances of it happening again and supports those who are harmed. To prevent discrimination, leaders must quantify bias and design people management systems for justice. To prevent harassment, leaders must create checks and balances and not allow any leader to have unilateral decision-making power. To prevent physical violations, leaders must create a culture of consent, ensuring they get permission before touching someone. Companies must measure diversity and inclusion to prevent systemic injustice. Furthermore, Just Work’s chapter 6 to 8 covers more topics on the subject matter.

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