Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

We all do it.

Every day we make routine assumptions about the people around us based on nothing other than our own unconscious bias.

That’s why so many of us routinely associate the colour pink with girls and the colour blue with boys.

It’s also why very many people will automatically assume that the nurse they have an appointment with will be a woman, whilst the consultant will be a man. It’s why we assume youngsters are better handling technology than older people and taller people make better leaders than those of a more diminutive stature.

Interestingly, we all assume that every other person we meet will be making judgments based on these unconscious factors, though we ourselves would never do so.

Unconscious bias is a very real factor in the workplace too.

It’s now becoming common practice for companies to ask for CVs to be anonymised so that the recruitment process is free from the unconscious bias we all have in relation to age, gender and names.

And recruitment agencies and HR departments will have processes in place to ensure any job adverts are free from language which might show an unconscious bias towards the sorts of candidates who might be favoured.

In some professions – stage and screen for example – there are even blind interviews for roles to try to remove any potential gender bias from the recruitment process. This might involve the candidate being screened from the interview or audition panel so that they cannot actually see the person they might select for the role.

If you want to guard against subconscious bias in your workplace, there are a number of things you can do.

1. Try not to use generalisations

Generalisations, both in thought in language, always build stereotypical views. By saying “Why does the HR department always do….” Or “Our new recruits are never capable of doing….” you are inevitably building a sweeping picture of a whole group and not treating individuals as people in their own right.

2. Challenge your decision-making

Test and challenge your own decision making. Ask yourself why you have made a certain decision, what the evidence which supports your conclusion is, and how much bias might be involved. Did you just appoint the new employee because they were the best person for the job or because they made a good first impression? Remember, the more tired and stressed we are, the less likely reason and evidence are to play a part in our decision making.

3. Avoid the herd mentality

We all like people who are like us. But by listening to and promoting only these people we are likely to build a herd mentality where everybody thinks the same and decisions never get challenged. This is not just dangerous for the group, it’s dangerous for the business.

4. Challenge yourself to think differently.

If your company only ever employs people from a certain sector or demographic, it is missing out on huge pools of talent.  Make sure you look for any opportunity to get outside your comfort zone, consider where you might recruit new talent from and look for ways to involve yourself with groups who have different backgrounds.

And don’t forget, if you need any help dealing with any of these issues we offer a free consultation. Just click on the button and we’ll do the rest.

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