In today’s workplace, managers and employees alike are facing unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is defined as “prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair”. It provides a challenge for modern workplaces as it is unconsciously performed. That is, you don’t even know that you are doing it half that time. And by the time you do realize it, it might be too late.
The following are some realities on bias that are common in the workplace:
* Bias is pervasive; it exists because people exist
* It is activated without control, leading to snap judgments and blind spots
* Bias grows over the years in the world around you
* It is fueled in the comfort zone of working with people like yourself
* Bias is expedient
* It surfaces in unexpected places, such as words used in job descriptions and holidays employees celebrate
* Bias comes across when the gender of the working parent triggers questions about parental responsibilities
As you can see, unconscious bias takes on all sizes, shapes, and forms in the workplace. It’s everywhere, whether we realize it or not. But, it is up to us to address it in our own organizations.
Here are four tactics you can use to combat unconscious bias in your own workplace.
Grow the diversity in the future workforce
Bias is typically based upon casual observances. We tend to form opinions based on what we see in the world around us, resulting in our brains training themselves on repeating patterns. We think to ourselves, “that is the way I’ve seen it, so that’s what it should be”. In order to combat that, we need to have a balanced workforce. It needs to include people with different genders, ethnicities, and challenges. This is what is most representative of the workforce of today and in the future.
We need to do our best to tackle this with our schoolchildren, as they are going to be tomorrow’s leaders. The earlier we can teach and surround them with diversity, the less likely they will form a bias. Why? Because they will have been surrounded by diversity from the start and come to know and accept that is the way it ought to be.
Collaborating with academia to change the DNA of the workforce
Unconscious bias is a human-sourced concept. Ultimately, there are no boundaries for it, no matter what a company does inside of its walls. Bias is a pervasive action that takes place across the extended enterprise, and therefore, requiring collaboration to address. Collaboration between enterprises to join forces to take action is vital. And that collaboration needs to extend to academia.
As mentioned above, the schoolchildren of today are going to be the workforce of tomorrow. It’s going to be key to educate these children on the concept of bias and address it in the classroom before it even reaches the workplace. Ideally, this is going to give children the background they need on bias and be conscious so they can take action before it’s too late.
Rethink how you construct teams—with unconscious bias in mind
Cross-pollinate your trams with diversity in mind. Diverse teams must be staffed with people who represent different mindsets, not just one standard segments. These teams benefit from a wide variety of people, viewpoints, and opinions. More often than not, these teams are going to be the ones who are more innovative than those without diversity. Cognitive diversity is not about who you are but how you think.
So for every project you develop, think about putting together a team of people who all have different ages, backgrounds, experiences, ethnicities, and more. You never know what ideas they will bring to the table. And you never know—one might just be the winner!
Quantify the performance of the enterprise
As a leader in your organization, you want to measure the performance of your enterprise. While subjective conclusions are difficult to measure, quantifiable performance outcomes matter. You want to be measuring if the overall performance of the enterprise is affected by diversity. Studies show that there is a positive correlation between diversity and financial performance of an organization.
It is important to make sure that these outcomes are measured, tracked, and communicated at your enterprise. Additionally, it is important that you spread the results across the company to raise awareness of how positive diversity can be.
While it may seem impossible, battling unconscious bias is achievable if you have the right foundation in place. Education, collaboration, and more can help you create a culture that fights against uncommon biases—and prevents them before they even start. If you raise awareness company-wide, you will see that the results are nothing but positive.