Intention Bias vs Judging Behaviour

Intention Bias vs Judging Behaviour

There is a hypocrisy most of us struggle with.

Intentions and behaviour are legitimate ways to evaluate human conduct.

The problem is that we are conveniently biased towards intentions when considering ourselves, and towards behaviour when evaluating other people.

We trust our own intentions – because we know ourselves pretty well. Not perfectly (but that’s a whole other topic).

Because we can’t see or feel the inner working of another’s mind, then we judge someone by what we can see – their behaviour.

Both intentions and behaviours are important and so the challenge is we need to apply them more uniformly.

Rarely would someone intend to reverse into someone else’s car. But focusing on our intent can limit us from taking responsibility for our behaviour. Despite my intentions, I did reverse into their car. So I’ll take responsibility, apologise and pay for the damages rather than drive away.

While intentions are important, they don’t atone for all behaviour.

“I didn’t mean for that comment to be sexist.”

Does our intention matter? Yes, but again rarely would someone intend to be sexist.

Even if we get feedback from the world – “That was a bit sexist” or “that was very sexist” or “We only have 27% women in leadership roles”, we have a tendency to place undue emphasis on our own intentions.

This limits us from taking responsibility for the ‘impact’ of our behaviour, or how these behaviours are contributing to the problem.

BlokeCoaching is a program for male executives within organisations to understand more about the behaviours that perpetuate gender inequality, take responsibility, and work to fix the system.

For most of us, we do not intend to be sexist. Yet it’s difficult for us to ignore that there is a problem that hasn’t gone away. The feedback is that there is still a lot of work to be done.

We all need to start taking responsibility.

And not drive off.

How much did my gender or my other characteristics, give me an edge?

How much did my gender or my other characteristics, give me an edge?

“People who think that have claimed the greasy pole on their own misunderstand how much luck had a part to play and how society, directly or indirectly, also helped them rise.”

~ Minouche Shafik.

You can read Minouche’s full article here.


For me, a couple of years ago I had a realisation – I’m not sure that I would be where I am today if I were not male, not white, not heterosexual, not western, not speaking English as a first language, not able-bodied… the list goes on, with almost all of my demographics being favoured by society.

It has been easier for me to conform to the system. Easier for me to get ahead and succeed.

But growing up, and until recently I lied to myself that my successes were wholly earned by me.

Yes, I worked for my successes. But did I work as well – or better – than the woman to my right or the indigenous colleague to my left, in order to obtain my success?

How much did my gender or my other characteristics, give me an edge (consciously or unconsciously) in an interview or a pitch to a client?

🏃 It’s like running a race, where my competition has hurdles in their lanes but my lane is clear.

Of course, I’m going to run faster than most of my competition. A couple of people – despite their hurdles – are still able to run faster than me.

My privilege – my arrogance – tells me that we were all running the same event.

But ask anyone else in the race, and they will tell you about the hurdles in their lane.

Not only do I not see their hurdles but upon hearing them complain about the hurdles, my immediate bias was to challenge their assertion that the hurdles existed in the first place or they are barely noticeable.

In my unconscious mind, they are just disappointed that they didn’t win, and perhaps looking for special treatment.

And those that do win – despite the hurdles – are then providing evidence in my mind that those hurdles don’t matter.

Sadly, that was me until recently.

With this insight, I want to help more men to become aware of and understand their privilege and use this awareness to address the hurdles that have been placed in other people’s lanes. Hurdles that we may pretend – selfishly – don’t exist, in order to preserve our own mantra that we earned our success.

#Blokecoaching is a program we have designed for senior male executives to understand male privilege, patriarchy and prejudices, and continue progress towards achieving gender equality.

Chat to me about whether this program would be a good fit for your organisation.