Unconscious Bias

It can be the most frustrating thing in the world.

You work your socks off, produce great results but somehow never seem to get the recognition you think you deserve from the boss.

Part of the reason could be unconscious bias.

And it could be just as much on your side as on your boss’s.

Unconscious bias can influence all sorts of decisions in the workplace – involving recruitment, promotion and performance management. And it can be discriminatory when the unconscious bias relates to a protected characteristic.

It occurs when people favour those who look like them and/or share their values. So, it might be that your boss is not recognising your achievements because you have a different ethnic background or gender. This would be discriminatory, and you would have a case for action against the individual.

But the boot might equally be on the different foot. It might be that you, as a man, do not respond well to being managed by a woman and look for fault where there is none. Have your efforts really gone unrewarded or are you simply failing to hear the praise from your manager because of your own unconscious bias?

Similarly, if you think less capable people have been promoted ahead of you, take a step back and carefully examine the evidence before jumping to a conclusion you might regret. It might be that the successful candidates have all sorts of qualifications you are unaware of and it is your own unconscious bias which is preventing you from seeing it.

That’s not to say that employers don’t overlook talented workers in favour of those who share their own characteristics or views. Or that we make instant judgments based on first impressions which can shape our relationship with that person for years to come.

One way that some companies are tackling this issue is the use of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

These give all workers the chance to talk through issues as they arise – and share their own views on some of the forces at play – but also allow an opportunity for a company to bring in outside guests and speakers.

That means not only do staff have a voice and line of communication to managers, but that ongoing training can be introduced to help overcome issues and shape the thinking of both staff and management.

If you would like to discuss these issues, or other HR concerns then please

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