Practical solutions to managing unconscious biases

Practical solutions to managing unconscious biases

Posted by Amanda Furness


What can individuals do about their unconscious biases?

There are various areas an individual can look at to manage their unconscious biases:

Testing – although you will find free tests available on the internet, do treat them with caution as, if you don’t receive support to interpret the findings you may find it difficult to understand if a bias is highlighted which has never affected your behaviour. A qualified coach can provide a much more useful test which can help to identify the types of your unconscious biases and their strength. Being provided with the feedback from the coach can, amongst other things, help you to avoid making decisions about groups you know you have negative associations with and assist you to look at strategies which would help you to mitigate the impact of such a bias.

Nutrition – ensure breaks are taken during long or emotional meetings and ensure your brain has enough energy to maintain your body’s natural bias control guard. Tea and biscuits during meetings fulfil this requirement although the natural sugar provided by a piece of fruit might be the healthier option.

Awareness – only you will know how motivated you are to try to change or manage your biases. You cannot expect to change deeply held views but you can learn to manage them in various workplace situations, and through reading or learning more about unconscious bias improve your awareness of the impact it can have in so many areas of your life.

Repetition – if you find it hard to keep reminding yourself to be fair in certain situations (e.g. interviews, appraisals etc.) keep written prompts where only you can see them.

Performance – be aware of your behaviour at work. Do you ask for advice or delegate to those you’ve worked with longest, spend your lunch break with or the person you think would be best qualified? How do those you don’t include feel and how does that affect their performance? Be aware therefore of how your unconscious biases can not only affect your performance, but the performance of those around you and ultimately the organisation as a whole.


What can organisations do about unconscious biases?

Many organisations are now reaping the benefits of tackling unconscious bias:

Training – offer training to management and staff to give them an understanding of what unconscious bias is and how it can affect their decision making.

Awareness – have a brainstorming session to pinpoint the areas where the unconscious bias of both management and staff could be impacting on the effectiveness of the organisation. Common areas include selection and interviewing procedures, performance appraisals and decisions regarding promotion.

Working Practice – look at the organisation’s practices and procedures and try to introduce mechanisms to minimise the effect biases could have. These could be as subtle as reminding managers that they may be greeting those they are biased towards more coolly than others within their team or as obvious as introducing a blank cv policy to be used during the recruitment process.


A few interesting articles on unconscious bias

Overcoming your unconscious bias

BBC staff take “unconscious bias” course to encourage more diverse recruitment

The considerable cost of recruitment bias

In Equilibrium have introduced an on-site training course entitled Overcoming Unconscious Bias