Unconscious Bias in the Workplace: Here’s How You Can Influence Change

It’s a necessary ability to have in the workplace. The ability to differentiate.

You’re constantly making decisions in which you show a preference for one idea or process over another.

Your brain was trained to distinguish between differences from birth.

The problem is that the way your brain inputs information can lead to an unconscious bias.

This bias – though it’s unintentional – can affect the people around you, your productivity and can even damage the health of your organization.

As a leader in your company, the battle begins with you.

Types of unconscious bias in the workplace

Take a look at the different types of bias that can affect you and your team:

  • Affinity bias. You’re naturally drawn to people who are like you.
  • Perception bias. Your brain naturally forms stereotypes and assumptions about people-groups that remove your ability to make an objective judgement.
  • Halo effect. When you like a person, you tend to think everything about them is good.
  • Groupthink. You’re susceptible to losing your own sense of identity when you try too hard to fit into a particular group by mimicking them or not speaking your mind. In the workplace, a person who has fallen into the trap of “groupthink” won’t share their valuable creativity and innovation.
  • Confirmation bias. Your brain tends to look for information that confirms your bias and assumptions.

It’s important to remember the unconscious nature of these types of bias.

As a leader, the battle against unconscious bias begins with you. Do the work for the good of your organization. #improvtips

Having these tendencies doesn’t make you a terrible person or unfit to lead.

You still need to work toward a growing awareness and take the necessary steps to change.

Here’s what you need to consider as you take an active role in overcoming unconscious bias.

1.Determine your organization’s perception of diversity

People should share their views of your organization’s inclusion and diversity strategies.

Ask them to express how they would like to see each concept enacted.

Then, everyone should evaluate how successful they think they are at putting the ideas into action.

Here are some sample questions to guide your thinking:

  • Do other people think I understand their point of view?
  • Do I ask respectful questions when I don’t understand something different about one of my colleagues?
  • Am I known for leveraging other people’s strengths?

This process is an effective means of uncovering unconscious biases that you and your team may have.

2. Set goals and make a plan to remedy unconscious bias

It’s important to have a concrete plan of action for reaching your inclusivity and diversity goals.

Find activities that will deepen your sensitivities – and those of your team – to people and ideas outside your comfort zone.

Try regularly engaging in some, or all, of these exercises:

  • Take a class about listening or one about inclusive leadership.
  • Read books and listen to podcasts that will help you and your coworkers understand different cultures.
  • Delve into current social issues that affect minorities or other marginalized groups.

3. Be accountable to eradicate bias

At this point, you and your team have probably made some discoveries about where you’ve been holding unconscious bias and you’ve started to move toward making changes.

Accountability is key.

You can even go so far as to match each person in your organization up with an “accountability partner” with whom they can periodically check in.

Putting it all together for change

It’s worth the effort to bring unconscious bias into the light of day and to take aggressive action to weed it out of your organization.

It’s not good for your bottom line or for your office culture.

On a grander and even more important scale, executives and business leaders like you have the power to spur real change in society by advocating empathy and openness.

Are you willing to do the work to uncover your unconscious bias and work toward making a change?

Takeaway: Get feedback from your team about how they perceive the inclusivity of your organization.

This article is 100% written by a human named Karen Hough. She is the Founder & CEO of ImprovEdge, in the top 4% of women-owned businesses in the US, a 3-time Amazon bestselling author, Yale grad, wife and mom of three.