Before answering ‘how do you overcome unconscious bias in the workplace’, it is important to first provide an unconscious bias definition. Unconscious bias is carried out by all of us, usually unwittingly, which is why it is referred to as ‘unconscious’. Simply put, unconscious bias causes us to make decisions in favour of one group or person versus another.
On the face of it, unconscious bias is similar to discrimination. We are making decisions based on stereotypes and deeply ingrained beliefs which can be damaging. Unlike discrimination, unconscious bias is not done with intention. However if left unchecked it can turn into discrimination. Unconscious bias in the workplace can be damaging to both the individual and the organisation.
Avoiding Unconscious Bias
The first thing that needs to happen to overcome unconscious bias is to understand it. We are all guilty of it and this is because for the most part, as mentioned above, people are unaware they are even doing it.
Once there is an awareness of it we can begin to appreciate how it can impact negatively on us and others and manage how it influences us.
Stop and think about your decisions
Why have you made the decision you made? What is the bigger picture? Have you made a choice based on facts or subjective thinking? Take time to consider your thinking and question how you came to your conclusion.
Create inclusive environments
Are your working environments accessible to all staff? Do you greet everyone in the same way? If not consider the reasons why you might treat them differently. Do you always sit next to the same person? Consider why and what you could gain by sitting next to someone else.
If you are a Manager, you have a responsibility to lead by example. If you draw upon the opinion of the same people repeatedly, stop and consider why you do this. We all easily become locked in patterns of behaviour which aren’t necessarily conducive to the best results. Explore different ways of communicating and drawing everyone into discussions and decision making.
Foster a supportive environment
It is very easy for information and understanding to be lost in translation due to poor communication. The use of supportive language can help to avoid this.
Try and consider the feelings of the person you are speaking with and acknowledge their point of view (even if you don’t agree with it).
Be clear in your words and ask for clarity from others
If you are not clear on what is being communicated by others, explore the topic further. Work together to solve problems and ask for input on how others would address a situation.
Consider your actions
Over to you…
An easy exercise you can do to highlight this is to consider how you behave in a group of strangers. When given the choice of where and by whom to sit and engage with, who do you pick? Chances are individuals you choose are similar in ethnicity, gender, age to you. Challenge this instinct and take yourself out of your comfort zone.
Engage in Learning provide eLearning unconscious bias training to help learners recognise when they might be acting or behaving on the basis of unconscious bias, provide them with ways to challenge those biases and counteract them.
Both courses use thought-provoking and challenging activities to highlight the impact of bias; a range of video scenarios to bring the material to life and help learners relate it to their own workplace; and clear explanations and practical techniques to help learners identify, challenge and counteract their own biases.