Overcoming Unconscious Bias in the Workplace
“Even the most well-meaning person unwittingly allows unconscious thoughts and feelings to influence seemingly objective decisions”
Mahzarin R, Banaji
There is no gentle way of saying it, so put bluntly, we are all naturally biased. This is because a bias may not be intentional. One way our brains help us is by automating our thinking which is influenced by our background, our personal experiences and our cultural environment. We may be unaware that we automatically categorise people into groups like us and make unconscious judgements about others. However, by becoming aware of the existence of unconscious bias and, something we all find easier, being alert to the unconscious biases of other people, we can lessen their effect. Another term often used in this area is implicit bias which, although often used inter-changeably, has a slightly different meaning to unconscious bias as it questions the level to which a bias is unconscious if we are made increasingly aware of it.
We know from the training requests we receive, interest in and awareness of unconscious and implicit bias is growing. This is great news as their impact can not only be personal but also effect many areas of our working lives – recruitment, promotion, team-working and engagement to name but a few. By learning about bias, we can take responsibility, acknowledge our own biases and find ways to minimise their impact on both our decision making and our behaviour.
We therefore thought it might be helpful to highlight our one-day training course entitled, “Overcoming Unconscious Bias”, and provide a selection of helpful resources on the subject.
Our one-day course demonstrates the benefits of tackling the effects of unconscious bias to avoid discriminatory acts in business and the workplace. It helps participants discover for themselves the invisible barriers that are raised by their own minds and how such natural tendencies can be counter-acted.
The course covers the impact unconscious bias can have in decision making, how to reduce it at an organisational level, lessen its impact at an individual level, and turn unconscious bias into an organisational asset. It is available UK-wide and is delivered in-house. Suitable for leaders, managers and employees, like all our other courses, it can be modified or customised to meet your organisation’s specific needs.
Overcoming Unconscious Bias Resources
“Are you biased? – I am”
An entertaining 8-minute round up by Kirsten Pressner, the Global Head of HR at a multinational firm. In her TEDx talk she includes a little of the neuroscience behind unconscious bias as well as an interesting test, ‘flip it to test it’.
Dr Banaji Blindspots are Bad for Business
In this 4-minute video, social psychologist Dr Mahzarin Banaji discusses how blindspots are bad for business and how to overcome them in order to nurture careers.
How stereotypes affect us and what we can do
In this 8-minute video social psychologist, Claude Steele, describes the idea and effects of stereotype threat in our daily lives.
List of cognitive biases
A list of almost 200 known biases which are sub-divided on this Wikipedia page into decision making, belief & behavioural bias; social bias; and memory bias.
Race in America: The Invisible Hand of the Implicit Mind
A conversation between forensic psychologist, Jay Richards and Dr Anthony Greenwald, co-author of Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. They discuss Dr Greenwald’s 30 years of psychological research to provide a deeper understanding of our current racial gaps.
Reviewing Applicants – Research on bias and assumptions
A booklet produced by the Women in Science and Engineering Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
The cognitive bias cheat sheet
A different approach to categorising the list of cognitive biases on Wikipedia by Buster Benson with a visual by John Manoogian III called the Cognitive Bias Codex 2016. Buster started with the Wikipedia list, removed duplicates and grouped similar or complimentary biases. Those left were categorised by the problem they’re trying to solve which he has defined as information overload, lack of meaning, the need to act fast and how to know what needs to be remembered for later.
The Real Effects of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace
An 8-page white paper which provides examples of how unconscious bias manifests itself in the workplace; explores its impact; provides steps that can be taken to uncover and minimise its effect; and gives examples of employers who are addressing unconscious bias in their organisations.
Unconscious Bias in Higher Education
The review’s aim is to help higher education institutions understand unconscious bias and discover how to reduce its impact.
Why men still get more promotions than women
An article from a 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review, outlines why this may be following analysis of in-depth interviews carried out with 40 high-potential men and women who had been selected by their large multi-national company to participate in its high-level mentoring programme.
The resources, set out above, are also included in our Equality and Diversity Resources page.