Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Unconscious bias can affect our decisions in all areas of life, but especially in the workplace. In this article we explore 3 common types of biases, and how to reduce their impact.

We may try to be as objective as possible when making important decisions, especially when our decisions relate to work. However, as human beings, we are all subject to unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) in one way or another, but the more we are aware of this, the more we can mitigate it. In this article, we’ll define unconscious bias, explore 3 common types of bias that might affect decisions, and offer suggestions for how to mitigate bias in the workplace.

What is Unconscious Bias?

Unconscious Bias can be defined as follows:

  • Assumptions about social identities (race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion disability, etc.) that – without awareness or conscious control) – that shape our likes and dislikes and our judgments about ability, potential, and character.
  • Exists because of our socialization, experiences, and repeated exposure to images/ideas.
  • We all have them.
  • A judgment made without being aware that we are doing so.

3 Common Types of Biases:

  • Like-Me Bias: Bias toward someone who looks like you or has a similar background as you.
  • Confirmation Bias: When we only listen to information that confirms our preconceptions.
  • Anchor Bias: When your mind anchors to the first piece of information that you are given about someone. (can affect salary negotiations, for example salary history on an application)

How We Can Improve Unconscious Bias

  • Become Aware of your biases (What, Where, When)
  • Find your trigger (does it happen when you talk to a specific group, or person; or when you are stressed?
  • Slow down, when you notice a trigger, pause and consider your decision; take 3 deep breaths to help shut off automatic decision.
  • Know and understand organizational policies.
  • Widen your work circle: Work with a more diverse range of people and get to know them individually. This will help to improve your cultural competence and lead to a better understanding of others.
  • Invest in training: Regular, ongoing unconscious bias training can help organizations address issues systemically and effectively.

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