Tug of War Bias

Understanding patterns of unproductive conflict within demographic groups

Tug of War Bias is when there’s bias against a marginalized group of people, which then creates conflict between people from that marginalized group as they compete against each other for limited career opportunities. 

Microlesson Description

This skill-building microlesson shows how tokenism and tug of war bias create unhealthy competition and conflict between underrepresented employees and how to interrupt and stop that bias in real-time and in the flow of work. There are also downloadable exercises to help leaders and teams discuss Tug of War Bias and help them practice stopping that bias in real time.

Definition of Tug of War Bias: Tug of war bias is when bias against a group fuels conflicts within that group.

Key Concepts

  • Tug of war bias is when people in a marginalized “out-group” compete against each other in an unhealthy way for scarce career opportunities.
  • Tug of War Bias also occurs when there is tokenism and a lack of diverse representation.
  • Skills to stop Tug of War Bias in the flow of work.

How to Use this Content:

Use this content as part of your manager and leadership development programs, as part of ERG learning materials, and in the flow of work for hiring team training and before performance reviews. Joan C. Williams’ book, Bias Interrupted, is available now.

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Interested in training your employees with 3-5 minute video lessons that address specific and timely concepts?