Weekly Training Tip
Overcoming Unconscious Bias
Unconscious bias is a phenomenon that affects almost everyone’s decision-making processes and is something we all have to some degree, although we may not be aware of it.
How does unconscious bias work?
Our past experiences impact the decisions we make, and we tend to create “mental shortcuts” to help us process new information. Unfortunately, these shortcuts can be based on social norms and stereotypes, which can lead us to form quick opinions about a situation or a person without really having enough information to form that opinion. Unconscious biases can lead us to make incorrect assumptions based on flawed logic, stereotypes, and poor interpretations of data. These biases can be damaging in day-to-day interactions with others.
Combating these biases requires first acknowledging they exist and then employing purposeful strategies to overcome them. Here are some tips.
Perspective Taking: Putting yourself in another person’s shoes and focusing on how his or her experience in a situation may be different from your own may help you recognize biases you didn’t even know you had. When you can, before you make a decision, try to “walk a mile in the other person’s shoes” or imagine the world from their vantage point.
Creating Processes: Because unconscious biases happen at lightning speeds, overcoming them can be helped by slowing down our decision-making. For example, next time you are about to tell a joke or rib someone, ask yourself, “How would I feel if someone told a joke like that about me, or about something important to me, like my race, religion, or physical appearance?”
Creating an Inclusive Environment: Think about new ways to engage, collaborate, and step out from your usual group at work. Share ideas or challenges with members of other teams—you may tap into expertise you didn’t realize was there. If you can, leave your desk and try working in a different area for a few hours. This change of perspective may lead you to interact with people you otherwise wouldn’t.
Recognizing Assumptions: Think of those teen movies where the shy guy doesn’t ask the girl out because he thinks she’ll say no. When he finally does, she says yes—and asks what took so long? Next time you find yourself making an assumption about someone, stop yourself. Ask the person the question so they can answer for themselves. Even if you confirm your assumption, you now have information that can help in future interactions.
The topics of inclusion and diversity can seem overwhelming. But the more aware we are of our biases, and how important it is to look outside of our “group”, the more we can consciously challenge our decisions and help improve our work environment.
Remember, you are part of a larger team, and you can’t solve the inclusion problem all on your own. You do, however, play a part in minimizing the impact of biases and embracing the benefits of a diverse, and inclusive workforce.