What is unconscious bias?

May 15, 2018

Unconscious bias is something that has been highlighted over the past few years and many organisations are now investing money in raising staff awareness of what it is and its effects in the workplace.

 

 

It is important to ensure staff are aware of their potential biases and how that may affect areas of their work, such as decision making.  However, it is important to ensure the right training is provided.

 

Here is a quick run down of what unconscious bias is and its effects.

 

What is Unconscious Bias?

Unconscious bias occurs when people favour others who look like them and/or share their values. For example, a person may be drawn to someone with a similar educational background, from the same area, or who is the same colour or ethnicity as them.

Ref: ACAS.org.uk

 

Someone may potentially be more supportive of another with a similar background or education route as themselves as it reminds them of their younger self.

 

There is also another form of unconscious bias known as the halo effect.  This is where an assumption or positive trait is assumed about a person without really knowing them.  An example is someone that dresses in business dress may be seen as capable in an office, purely based on their appearance.

 

How does it affect me in the workplace?

Unconscious bias can affect how decisions are made.  This may be based on you own perception of someone; your behaviour (how friendly you are towards certain people); how much you listen to people and your attitude (how you react to certain people). 

 

It is important to be aware of all of these areas so that you can be mindful in future of your own personal biases.

 

Do I have Unconscious Biases?

Yes.  Everyone has unconscious bias, we’re all human and our brains work in a way that takes in information based on our own experiences or what we have learnt and read.  Our brains work very quickly to process all of the information we receive on a minute-by-minute basis and a by-product of this quick reaction is unconscious bias.

 

How Do I Change?

The main way to prevent unconscious bias is to be aware of it and to take your time when making decisions.  Specifically, in work situations such as recruitment.  It is also really important to be mindful of unconscious biases when it comes to protected characteristics as this can turn to discrimination. 

 

Raise awareness in your organisation of unconscious bias, sometimes simply making people aware of it can help prevent it becoming an issue in the workplace.  Unconscious bias is called ‘unconscious’ for a reason, most people don’t even know they are doing it.  It is therefore important to raise that awareness when possible.

 

Allow people (and yourselves) a little longer to make decisions and make sure you can justify reasons for activities such as hiring new staff.  Also try to work with a wider and more diverse range of people, this will bring different view points and perspectives to the table which can be valuable when making decisions.

 

A Final Thought

Organisations that embrace a diverse workforce and create systems that support it can reap numerous benefits such as increased adaptability; better customer service; greater innovation and easier recruitment and retention.

Ref: Mind tools

 

If you would like to discuss unconscious bias training, please contact us via the contact form on the website or via email on tracyb6263@gmail.com

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