Professor Kandola Live and Uncut

As part of an inclusive environment, how can we start? How can we, how can I create an environment that is inclusive, that is generous, that is caring, that is kind and nourishing and also produce the goods?

Professor Binna Kandola admits “This is a process of learning and learning, being self-reflective, getting feedback and actually trying to do better is the most important thing.  “I had to educate myself when I was writing the book Racism at Work; the Danger of Indifference.  I am learning myself.  There’s lots of other things that I don’t know about.  I am learning about myself!   Sometimes I just need to listen. When somebody tells me something, I need to pay attention.  Obviously its up to me to make up my own mind. That’s the big, biggest thing I’ve learned”.

Binna continues: 

The critical qualities, of inclusion start with my family. The way my mum and dad would relate it to other people, the way that they responded and behaved towards other people.  I never got a sense from them actually that just because somebody is a bit different, has a different  religion or different colour,  they should not be treated with the same amount of respect or shown that they were valuable and their lives were worthwhile.   The background, my family is Sikh, I’m not a practicing Sikh, but my dad had a lot of Muslim friends, as he told me and my brother that he was asked by some of his Sikh friends, “Do you like Muslims?” He said, “I don’t know, I don’t know them all.”

Professor Binna Kandola

Talking about a post pandemic world, Binna is optimistic. “As  difficult as it has been, there are things that we can take from this that can enrich our lives going forward.  We did a survey three years ago of 5,000 people looking at doing a race survey in the workplace. It covered the experiences of people in the workplace related to race.  We have just repeated it this year to see what’s happening.  The findings are fascinating and threw up a lot of surprises.   There’s a lot that has happened.” We were in different actually different than two years ago and this gives me hope”.  

I mention Dr  Kathrn Mannix’s book to Binna entitled “Listen”.   This is a powerful book about life, death, relationships, mental health and how to talk about what matters.  He smiles. “ Yes, that is definitely making my book list. “

Binna Kandola, a Business Psychologist and author of Racism at Work, The danger of indifference  is co-founder of Pearn Kandola   


00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host, Tesse Akpeki and co-host, me, Paula Okonneh.”TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share, hear and tell your personal stories and your experiences. Top expert and thought leaders are creating opportunities, navigating a diverse range of challenges and confronting their dilemmas while shaping the future. Today, we have an amazing guest, his name is Professor Binna Kandola. And this is live, we call it live because it’s not practice. We’re going to be talking about his passion on inclusion. I’ll tell you a bit about Professor Binna Kandola OBE. Binna is particularly interested in the study of gender bias and unconscious bias in organisations and the value of difference. His most recent book “free to solve, race and wellbeing an organisation” in which he edited, explores the relationship between race and wellbeing in the work place. He has been a member of the board of trustees of the British Psychological Society. In 2002, he was elected as a chair of the division of occupational psychology and he is a visiting professor at Leeds university business school and Ashton university business school. Binna is on the Asian power list of 2020 and he is a Business Psychologist and co-founder and Senior Partner of Pearn Kandola. Welcome to “TesseLeads” Professor Kandola, it’s fantastic to have you here.
00:01:53 Prof Binna: Thank you, its a pleasure to be here.
00:01:56 Tesse: Welcome Binna, I say now and I’ll say it again that you’re my favorite professor and so I indulge in this guilty pleasure of knowing more about you and the work that you do. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Paula and I, we were talking about this and as we prepared, we said, this is Professor Kandola Live and Uncut. It’s your personal story cause I get a sense that, you know, you bring so much personal wealth to this agenda that you’ve had for decades and which continues to change lives and to change things. So I’m going to start with a warm up question, like, when I read your work and when Paula engages in your work as well, something that comes to mind is if we, as individuals and organisations are going to become inclusive individuals as part of an inclusive environment, How can we start? How can we, how can I create an environment that is inclusive, that is generous, that is caring, that is kind and nourishing and also produce the goods.
00:03:11 Prof Binna: I think that the answers in your question, what can I do? How can I do it? Too often people say, oh, what is the organisation going to do? Yeah, what are they going to do to create an inclusive environment? And actually the thing is we all create the culture. I know some people have more significance. They may have been in the organisation a lot longer or they they be more senior. Whatever it is, the first thing we have do do is to look at ourselves. What am I doing? How do I behave? Do I behave inclusively with everybody? Do I replicate the excluding behaviours that I see other people engage in. I think the first thing is to educate ourselves, listen to what is happening around us, to listen to other people, see what is going on. Then to reflect on my own behaviour. That is something that I have had to do and continue to do. Saying things like ‘thank you for sharing that, thank you for drawing that to our attention. I agree with you completely. That’s something that I’ve been doing, I mean, that’s something I’ve had to do and continue to do. And of course there is a resistance, you know, when people say, well, you did this in that matteeeee, we did that there. In the first instance people can be quite defensive. Nobody’s perfect and I far less perfect than many other people. So this process of learning and learning, being self-reflective, getting feedback and actually trying to do better is the most important thing I think.
00:04:34 Paula: Your podcast, “Making the world fairer” has opened up my eyes to a lot of things that I didn’t know about. You talked about educating yourself and others and you did a lot of work in educating the world about how racism came about, how it wasn’t in existence in the 16th century but became more prevalent in the 19th century and you walked us through that. And sometimes what people need to know because you don’t know what you don’t know but when you’re educated, when you find out, when you do research or you get a different perspective, you can sit back and say, hmm, all right, now I know better.
00:05:09 Prof Binna: And the course I had to educate myself, I didn’t know that and so when I was writing the book, “Racism at work” the story starts with the transatlantic slave trade but slavery has always been around. Before the transatlantic slave trade most of the slaves in the Greek and Roman empires, the slaves were white but then the transatlantic trade, there was that some trade, slave trade was actually kind of a different magnitude again. But this notion of colour prejudice, there was a time when it didn’t exist and there’ve been books written about that and I remember reading these books and it’s been astonished because that prehistory as you’re saying Paula, we don’t get told about. And of course there is a source of optimism, I ended up very optimistic. It’s a past the way we were, why can’t we fix it? Why can’t we be that again?
00:05:59 Paula: Absolutely. Change comes sometimes by hearing something with a different ear and understanding it from the origin and then realising that “I can be the first to bring about the change.” So, yeah, I love that. So as we were talking, sorry go ahead.
00:06:16 Prof Binna: No, no, I was just agreeing with you.
00:06:17 Paula: So I’m fascinated by that, because “TesseLeads” is about personal stories and your focus is really on inclusiveness and diversity and race within the workplace, et cetera. What’s your personal journey?
00:06:31 Prof Binna: Where would you like to start?
00:06:34 Paula: Wherever you feel comfortable.
00:06:36 Tesse: Start wherever you feel comfortable.
00:06:39 Prof Binna: Yeah, I think, in terms of those qualities, you’re talking about that there, they start with my family. The way my mum and dad who would relate it to other people, the way that they responded and behave towards other people, you’d never got this sense that, I never got a sense from them actually, just because somebody is a bit different religion or different colour, I never got any sense at all that they shouldn’t be treated with the same amount of respect you should treat anybody with. So it really started there. Then you find that people don’t hold those same values and same attitudes. So the background, my family is Sikh, I’m not practicing Sikh but my dad had a lot of Muslim friends, as he told me and my brother that he was asked by some of his Sikh friends, “do you like Muslims?” He said, “I don’t know, I don’t know them all.” So it was pointed out, take your people as like, as a maintenance man. I’ll make friends with someone if they seem like a decent person, I might not be friends with them and I thought that was a great answer actually. So a lot of this comes from growing up and upbringing and this sort of stuff.
00:07:43 Tesse: I really like what you said Binna, that it is about being real. It’s about connecting with the things you care about and others care about and then other things happen along them and that, that sounds quite safe to me and it just seems something that is not just sustainable but actually is so enriching and as you have adopted this kind of way of embracing without judgement, what have you learned along the way? What are you learning as you do that? And yes, you know, you business psychologists and all the technical pieces and how does that feed or fuel your hopes for the future?
00:08:28 Prof Binna: Yeah what I am learning is, as much as I know about some things, there’s lots of other things that I don’t know about. So when the Racism at Work book came out, I was doing some, I was a bit more active on social media, so I would send tweets out, you know, reflecting things back to the book and that sort of thing. And commenting on something that’s going on in the news and I know there’s one person who started following me on Twitter, they would say, “yeah, great page. Always utterly respectful, always polite.” He would say great point, you know, absolutely, totally agree with what you are saying.” And this is same for travellers, gypsies and Roma and I’m thinking what? And I do, I do another tweet about something “yeah, yeah, another great point. Thank you so much for drawing that to the, sort of drawing that to attention. Like, you know, I agree with you completely. It’s the same for travellers, gypsies and Roma.” Well, why do you keep banging on about? I didn’t respond to, I didn’t interact with him, but it lodged. And so last year before the pandemic hit, I started reading a lot more about travellers, gypsies or Roma identity and this, I genuinely, I’m genuinely shocked, uh, I of a, my word. And then I tried to find this person on my Twitter following thing and I couldn’t find him, I think he just got fed up with me and I wanted to thank him actually, just say look, I haven’t done anything with it yet but you’re very polite prods have simulated me to come look into this a bit more and I do want to look into it more, I want to look into it further but it’s just, there is him saying this and there’s me kind of going, what, what on earth are you banging on about? I’m not sure I want to engage with this used to me, even though he was utterly charming, always polite and respectful. Even then I was backing off. It’s kind of learning that about myself actually that sometimes I just need to, when somebody tells you something you need to pay attention and I need to, and obviously I will make up my own mind. I will make up my mind. And that’s the big, biggest thing I’ve learned Tesse.
00:10:34 Tesse: But that sounds like I’m listening deeply, listening well, listening compassionately and being open.
00:10:43 Prof Binna: Yeah and my wife said to me that a few months ago, so I’ve read recently again about, about something known as a benevolent sexism, right. Benevolent sexism. And she said something about the research shows that when people do this, the question was, if you with somebody, when you open a door and you’re with a woman, do you open the door first as you can go through first? And I said, why? Because she just read the paper, but it shows that the men who do that are more like there’s an association between men doing that and being holding benevolent sexist attitudes. But still not hostile towards women, we just feeding them. And she said this to me, it’s just so very defensive, of course I am doing for everybody. It’s just, I’m just being polite. You know, recently I’ve just been polite and I don’t just do it for women. I don’t, I just do, and that’s what I meant then after I calm down a bit. And there’s that sense of defensiveness, which is fine, I don’t mind that as long as it reflects the kind of thinking that it wasn’t a point now, it’s not telling me something. I know I’m not perfect but I see,I know I’m not perfect in the abstract sense but when you come down to you, you’re not perfect in this particular way. That’s where the defensiveness arises.
00:12:05 Tesse: Yeah. I mean, I love hearing what you’ve said and I know you love books. So there is a new book that is coming up in a few weeks time called “Listen” by Kathryn Mannix. And then she had the medical background, but she also talks about how we become aware of ourselves and how we become aware of our flaws, fatal or otherwise and how we into our listening. It’s one of the best, and I kid you not. It’s one of the best books I have read on this, amazing. She’s a medical person, she’s a specialist and she did a lot of work during the pandemic in hospitals, I would say this is one through your bookshelf. Prof, you will love it.
00:12:49 Prof Binna: Listen?
00:12:49 Tesse: Listen. Just says what it does on the tin. It’s Listen and it’s Kathryn Mannix, M A N N I X. Fantastic. Fantastic. Absolutely brilliant. Paula?
00:13:02 Paula: I’m writing that down too. And as I write that down because I know that Professor Kandola, his line of work, he’s interested in this book, ‘Listen” I’m wondering what initiatives you’re working on next, if you could share that with us?
00:13:18 Prof Binna: Yeah, we’ve got a big, we’re doing more research. So we did a survey three years ago, 5,000 people looking at, doing a race survey in the workplace, the experiences of people in the workplace related to race. We did that three years ago and we are repeating it this year and just to see what’s happening, there’s a lot has happened. Regarding that three years ago as Tesse, and you know, the subtitle , of my book is Racism at Work; the Danger of Indifference because actually three years ago, actually two years ago, we were different.
00:13:49 Prof Binna: And then, you know, the, the murder of George Floyd Black Lives Matter all of a sudden. Uh, people started paying long overdue attention to the topic of race and organisations. And what we want to do is do the survey again. And obviously with some changes there, just see actually what has been happening whilst there’s a lot more attention given to it.
00:14:06 Prof Binna: What are the changes that are being felt in the workplace? That’s a big piece of work that we’re working on that.
00:14:13 Tesse: Wonderful. Wonderful. We have to get you back again to talk about that. It’s wonderful. Wonderful. The dangers of indifference or the shift that is possible. Yeah, because we are paying attention to pretty important human.
00:14:28 Paula: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, as you said that the zoom culture or the remote working culture took down a lot of barriers, we are able to connect a lot faster and probably people were more comfortable because we had less choice to, you know, be aware of the world. And you know, what goes on apart from what goes on in their neck of the woods, you know,
00:14:50 Prof Binna: be interesting to get your views on this.
00:14:52 Prof Binna: Actually it made people kind of reflect on their own lives. More. So actually how we operate as a society. You know what I mean? I’m hoping what I sense a real change because of a lot of discussions about people, about the way that society is constructed and who wins and who loses. And these discussions don’t just seem to be superficial discussions.
00:15:13 Prof Binna: The question is, how actually, we really try to understand what’s going on?
00:15:19 Tesse: Yeah, I think, I think my reflections have been like yours that we get to choose by being more aware. And we’re very intentional about our choices. And for me personally, I have, because I suffered a lot of losses there during the dynamic and from non pandemic related incidents, Black Lives Matter got me into a different kind of connection with people – connecting even more empathetically.
00:15:45 Tesse: I’ve known Paula most of my life. And I feel that I’ve connected with Paula even more deeply than I ever have. And there is that thing about being intentional about it, but also being comfortable with not knowing. I’m very curious about reading up a lot about people and their experiences and asking them questions and saying, you know, if you feel comfortable, talk about it, chat about it.
00:16:10 Tesse: And I actually feel that I’ve been catapulted in a good way into a new level of awareness, level of compassion and a new level of empathy and a new level of experiencing my voice and my connection with others. And so for me, I feel it, it’s not just about me. I feel that other people have experienced that as well and are consciously choosing to be in the world in a different way.
00:16:35 Tesse: Paula, what do you think?
00:16:37 Paula: I agree, 100%, you know, um, I guess we had no choice. The world had no choice. We just had to come together. We just have to be aware, with COVID affecting everybody, you know, we opened up, uh, as people became more aware of other human beings, you know, Yeah. And then, because we didn’t know what was coming next – empathy and our sympathy and our awareness and just being a good human being.
00:17:06 Paula: I think I saw that kind of bubble up to the surface more and more because we were all in this together. But like everything else in life, all good things have to come to an end. Professor Binna do you have any last words? Yeah. It’s a pleasure
00:17:22 Prof Binna: as always to talk to you. And I think that the kind of message to take away is what we’ve learned from the pandemic.
00:17:28 Prof Binna: It as difficult as it has been. There are things that we can take from this that can enrich our lives going forward. I agree with you. Totally.
00:17:38 Paula: Absolutely. So I’ve got to just do the outro now so that we can let you go, sir, For our listeners, we want you to know that your precious stories and your lives matter.
00:17:49 Paula: Please share them with us. We support and encourage and nurture people. And let our listeners know that we are never alone. So for our listeners, please make sure you head over to Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, or anywhere else. You listen to podcasts and click subscribe. And if you have found this episode interesting, please let us know in your reviews.
00:18:11 Paula If you’d like to be on our show, head over to to apply. Thank you so much Professor Binna for being a part of our show Tesseleads.
00:18:27 Tesse: Yeah. Thank you. I knew that we would love Professor Binna Kandola Live and Uncut.
00:18:33 Professor Kandola: Thank you so much. Thank you.