Why It’s Important to Look Past Bias & Deepen Relationships

PNC recently initiated an important dialogue around uncovering unconscious bias. Diversity advocate Michael Fosberg explains why it’s vital to confront bias and to listen and understand realities other than one’s own. The outcome is a workplace where everyone is able to do their absolute best, and together, achieve greater results.

PNC celebrates the diversity of its employees, customers, suppliers and communities throughout the year by acknowledging the nationally recognized history and heritage months. During Black History Month in February, for example, PNC recognizes the contributions and achievements of African Americans in the United States.

“We all benefit from the accomplishments of those who have come before us,” said Marsha Jones, PNC’s chief diversity officer. “We have a responsibility to keep their legacies alive by acknowledging and honoring the contributions they have made.”

Michael Fosberg, an actor and diversity and inclusion trainer, recently offered 600+ PNC senior leaders, managers and individual contributors a part one-man show, part Q&A called INCOGNITO: An American Odyssey of Race and Self-Discovery. The presentation combined his personal story with a larger message about unconscious bias and inclusive environments.

“As we continue to foster an inclusive culture at PNC,” said Jones, “we recognize that unconscious bias impacts our efforts to embed diversity and inclusion into every facet of our business. The INCOGNITO presentation introduced attendees to this concept and how it shows up in our everyday lives."

Our hope is that this introduction will help us have open dialogue and enable us to better connect to each other, our customers and communities in a more authentic way.

Finding his Story

Twenty years ago, Fosberg set out on a cross-country road trip with the goal of writing a family memoir along the way. As he traveled, he reached out to his Armenian-American mother to learn more about the biological father he’d never met.

Michael Fosberg
Michael Fosberg was in his 30s when he discovered his biological father was African-American

His mother told Fosberg about the early years just prior to his birth and up to age 2, when his father disappeared from his life. But she neglected to share one not-so-minor detail: his biological father was African-American. 

In the course of my journey to find my biological father, I uncovered much more than a family. My story has become a vehicle for people to have deep meaningful conversations about who we are and how we look at ourselves and others.

Fosberg offers ways to confront the cultural misunderstandings he says everyone has.

1.    Be Conscious of the Unconscious

The first step is being aware that everyone has biases. This is universal. People react to being called “racist” or “homophobic,” but the fact is, we all have some prejudices or preferences that we’re unaware of.

Once you’re aware, make this awareness part of your regular thinking when working with colleagues, interviewing potential candidates for positions, interviewing suppliers, etc. Ask yourself, “How am I judging this person? Am I aware of any specific biases here?”

2.    Confronting is Key

Directly confront unconscious bias and cultural misunderstandings in the workplace. Those kinds of biases and misunderstandings are impediments to a more efficient, more unified, more creative workforce and workplace.

Confronting them can open up doors of understanding, new ideas and best practices. We all bring different strengths to the table, but unconscious bias keeps us from truly hearing others’ perspectives.

For example, women often aren’t heard to the same degree as men in professional settings. So when we become aware of such biases, we open the door to more creativity and unity in the workplace.

3.    Finding Common Ground

Sharing personal stories between majority and minority populations will lead to the discovery that we have more in common than we do differences. It’s important to “get comfortable being uncomfortable” and to allow each other space to make mistakes.

4.    Take Action

Strive to understand realities outside of your own bubble. See things beyond your personal lens and open yourself up to really listen to your colleagues and employees. This kind of listening leads to solutions, to creativity, to meaningful connections.

“Whether between managers and employees, or colleague to colleague, we must look beyond our biases and surface interactions to deepen our relationships with each other,” said Fosberg.


Learn more about PNC’s commitment to Diversity & Inclusion »

Marsha Jones
Marsha Jones is PNC’s chief diversity officer

We continue to be steadfast in our efforts to create a diverse and inclusive culture at PNC. We must be aware that we all possess unconscious bias and subsequently understand its impact.

–Marsha Jones

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