Prejudice On “The Voice”

The Voice is a very popular television program that is half talent show and half game show. Singers enter the program as contestants in blind auditions, in which four judges can pick them to be on their team. The most talented singers typically have multiple judges trying to convince them they are the best person to help with their career. After all the teams have been selected, the competition heats up between singers and continues until one singer/one team is crowned champion. Initially, I didn’t pay much attention to this program, but my wife liked it and it started to grow on me. This is one of a handful of shows we watch together.

On a recent evening, a talented singer came on whose voice and style of singing did not match his persona. No big deal as auditions are blind, so voices are judged solely on their quality and not on preconceived notions of who should sing what style of music. It wasn’t until after this contestant was selected and all the judges turned around that some questionable, maybe prejudicial, comments came up. The comments, maybe intended to be complimentary, were about it being a surprising performance from a “white boy.” Initially the reference to color and gender kind of went by me. But then several similar comments were made and it struck me—why wasn’t this just a great performance? What did being white and male have to do with it?

I understand The Voice is entertainment—but would such comments be considered appropriate if they were referencing another color, boy or girl? Probably not, as such comments have so often been used to demean or diminish the accomplishments of people whose skin color or gender did not match the expectations of the time or situation. I don’t think the judges were purposefully trying to be demeaning, but negative biases can be insidious in nature. The contestant was happy to be selected and unlikely to say “Don’t call me boy.” Even if he was offended and wanted to say something, he wasn’t in a good position to tell the judges–who held his opportunity in their hands.

Why is this an important discussion? It points to the need for each of us to be aware of the biases and prejudices that influence the decisions we make. As leaders we need to be self-aware. The decisions we make influence not just the opportunities of individuals, but also the success of our organizations or businesses. It is why quality organizations spend time talking about diversity and how to use multiple talents and perspectives to strengthen team and organizational performance.

Awareness is key and at The Village Business Institute we help organizations, leaders, employees, be self-aware and in tune with the business imperative of being a safe and respectful place for all employees and customers. To learn more, contact me at The Village Business Institute, 1-800-627-8220,

About the blogger
Darrin Tonsfeldt has a background of program administration, employee supervision, and clinical experience, as well as 20 years of experience in organization consulting and planning. He provides oversight of The Village Business Institute, Regional Counseling Services, and The Village Financial Resource Center. He also provides consulting services that include strategic planning; career, leadership, management, and executive coaching; corporate training and group facilitation; crisis response in the workplace; and organizational consulting.