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How to Overcome Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

By definition, unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, is "bias that results from the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one's conscious declared beliefs." The key word is unconscious – and that word is exactly what makes implicit/unconscious bias so hard to identify and prevent. However, failing to attempt to identify and prevent this unconscious behavior can cause harm within the workplace. If it's unconscious, how does one identify it? It's simple – self-evaluation. Actively take a look at your behaviors and learn how you can improve for the good of your employees and company.

How to Actively Identify and Minimize Unconscious Bias

Company culture is a huge factor in the success of a business and your culture should be evaluated regularly. Adding self-checks, surveys, and other such evaluations to your assessment routine should just be part of the process. Here are 5 ways to overcome unconscious bias.

Identify Physical and Personal Attributes You Avoid

Take some time to think and become self-aware of your feelings towards certain races, genders, religious affiliations, styles, body types, and any other biases you may not be aware of. Do you trust men more than women with projects or vice versa? What do you mean when you say a candidate isn't the right fit? What factors play into who you promote? These are all good questions to ask yourself to identify potential biases.

Rethink Your Hiring Approach

What do you specifically look for when you sift through resumes? You may shy away from certain candidates subconsciously because of physical attributes even if they are the most qualified. Consider having certain information redacted so you choose a candidate solely on their merit. When it comes to the interview process, it's wise to have a script for questions, this way you ask everyone the same questions regardless of race, gender, age, or religious affiliation.

Encourage Employees to Speak Up

This can be done through various methods, but anonymous surveys tend to get more accurate answers. Regular surveys can help you identify where you're doing well, what can be done better, and if people feel as though they are being treated fairly. Honesty is key as growth can't happen if management isn't aware of possible issues within the workplace.

Create a Mentoring Program

Pairing a current employee with a new employee not only helps the new hire adjust to an unfamiliar place but also creates a more welcoming environment in which to work. Consider pairing a new hire with a current employee, or even take it a step further and pair people into diverse groups. This helps your employees gain a better insight into their co-workers' lives and decreases the chance of implicit bias.

Keep Assessing

An empire isn't built in a day and implicit bias isn't demolished with a few moments of half-hearted introspection. Keep assessing yourself, your employees, and your company as a whole so you can develop an environment that is inviting to all.

Onward and Upward

You never know where implicit bias can expose itself whether it be because of height, weight, marital/parental status, disability status, style choices, or extracurricular activities. It can be found in the most unexpected places, in the most unexpected ways so step back and take a look at how you can foster a more inclusive environment.
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