Proximity bias and coaching

Proximity bias and coaching

workplace meeting

6 September 2023

Siobhan Lynam comments on a current diversity and inclusion issue. Add your own comment to this on LinkedIn.

In last month’s issue of The Psychologist, the journal of the British Psychological Society, Nicky Hayes discusses the social psychological effect of hybrid working on the workforce:

The social psychological implications of our hybrid future

She discusses the adverse effect of proximity bias on less visible employees. Proximity bias has previously been described as the adverse effect of spatial distance on working relationships – that less visible employees are treated less favourably than those who are more visible and spatially closer to their colleagues and managers.

However, Hayes’ definition includes psychological distance, covering the preferential treatment of others we perceive as like us or on the same wavelength as us. This means we are more likely to include more visible colleagues and those we perceive to be like us in conversation and group tasks, and that we preferentially consider them for new hires or promotion.

Hayes points out the adverse effect this can have on minoritised groups that are perceived as different in some way.

The role of proximity bias is also important in coaching. As coaches, we are in danger of not tuning into the wavelength of our minoritised coaching colleagues and coachees. As a result, we may not be aware of issues affecting them, and we may not pay adequate attention to their more diverse and creative way of problem solving.

How can we reduce proximity bias in the coaching space?

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