Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

Employers have to create a healthy environment for employees with bias awareness. It is essential for promoting corporate communication and personal connection within an organization. For this to happen, employers need to find out if there are any unconscious bias in the workplace and take action to create awareness around them.

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias, also called implicit bias, was first introduced in a 2006 paper. It stated, “The new science of unconscious mental processes has a substantial bearing on discrimination law.” This means the longstanding belief that humans are guided solely by explicit beliefs and by their conscious intentions is true. We receive 11 million bits of information every second. We can only consciously process 40 bits, and so, more than 99.99% of information is processed at the unconscious level.

Unconscious biases are typical social stereotypes or behavioral associations individuals formulate about different groups of people. Often we are unaware of this type of bias, so it is out of our control. It is a bias triggered by our brains automatically making rapid assessments or judgments of people and situations. Usually, the stereotypes are influenced by our personal experience, background, and cultural environment.

According to Harvard implicit test, we instinctively categorize people and things using easily observed criteria such as age, weight, skin color, and gender. Nevertheless, we also classify people according to education level, disability, sexuality, accent, social status, and job title. Then we automatically assign presumed traits and subconsciously put them in groups.

What is unconscious bias?Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Examples of unconscious bias in the workplace are:

  • During staff recruitment processes: The hiring team may manifest unconscious bias in short-listing candidates, interviewing and appointments. However, communication and personal connection are often pleasant with people they identify with or vice versa.
  • When advertising for job vacancy: The advertising teams may choose words, or images that portray a level of discrimination. This automatically discourages potential candidates from applying for the position.    
  • When promoting staff: There is a noticeable gender difference in the proportion of females and males being nominated for promotion. Instead, the person best for the job should get the promotion regardless of their gender, age, race or social status.    
  • When giving feedback: Specific group opinions matter more than others while some groups have a hard time communicating or connecting with others on a personal level.

Impacts of unconscious bias in the workplace

Studies show that discrimination in the workplace can affect the performance of your staff, job satisfaction, commitment, communication, personal connection, and work tension. When employees feel like there is unconscious bias, it can lead to mistrust, employee turnover, and lack of enthusiasm. In addition, employees may file for grievances against you or your organization. Facing legal charges due to discrimination can hurt your organization’s reputation that you’ve worked so hard to build. To be safe, Find out how far you are protected from these consequences by your country or state’s law.

How to minimize unconscious bias in the workplace

How to minimize unconscious bias in the workplacePhoto by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

You can address these biased issues by expanding your familiarity with your unconscious inclinations. Also, you can create plans that benefit as much as possible from the talents and capabilities of your colleagues.  Some ways you can minimize unconscious bias in the workplace are:

1) Learn what unconscious biases are

The first step to curb unconscious bias is by creating awareness. This is the easiest way to allow employees to identify signs of bias in the workplace. You can introduce awareness training in your organization to help you recognize unconscious bias and how to minimize it.

2) Acknowledge that unconscious bias exists 

Every employee wants a diverse work environment. Therefore, to increase exposure to biases in the office, declare your intention of valuing a diverse workforce. Send a clear message that unconscious bias exists, but you can consciously choose to be inclusive  in your organization. Remember, exposure to bias is not a bad thing. It is up to you to choose if you are unconsciously biased or if you will choose to be inclusive.

3) Create an open communication channel

It is difficult to have good communication and personal connection within your organization if you let your unconscious bias drive you. To create an open communication channel, assess employees and commend their accomplishments equally. For instance, if managers expect women to be team-oriented and men to be independent, women may be pushed into supporting roles rather than the core positions that lead to executive jobs. Therefore, consciously choose to be inclusive and mix things up.

4) Write and communicate an inclusive job description

The secret is your intention in communication. Women are less likely to apply for jobs that have a long list of requirements if they feel like they don’t fit the job description. Research shows that women water down their achievements and are less likely to negotiate salaries. To avoid that, consciously choose to invite and be inclusive in your communication of job descriptions when advertising for candidates.  Additionally, consider giving candidates sample assignments to see what their work contributions might look like. Yet again, acknowledge that unconscious bias is present, but choose to be inclusive. 

5) Set conscious inclusion goals to promote personal connection

Conscious inclusion is empowering to team members. Partake in a conscious inclusion workshop and work towards breaking the bias to achieve your conscious inclusion goals.  This is especially important during the hiring processes. Make sure you track your conscious inclusion progress. If your goal is to hire a diverse staff, start by breaking the bias patterns of yourself and your current staff. Otherwise, you may continue hiring the same unaware and unwilling to choose inclusion homogenous workers—despite your best intentions.

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