These biases can make us turn a person into a stereotype or affect decisions we make with social categories like race, affinity, beauty, and gender.
Most people experience some form of these unconscious biases, but when they get brought into the workplace, they can cause real problems. It can wreak havoc on recruitment, impair diversity, slow production, and hinder worker development. Unconscious biases can creep up when we are making decisions on hiring and promoting, but they also can cause us to overlook poor performance.
Businesses can run into problems when they skip over the man looking to become a nurse or the woman who applied for the mechanical engineering position. It can create issues when a Caucasian is given a promotion over a minority, or vice versa if the business is looking to make a statement and only promote the minority.
These strong biases can be considered a form of bullying, harassment, and discrimination, and they can put a company at risk of a lawsuit or create damage to its reputation.
Unconscious biases can be difficult to overcome because they are created in our subconscious, and often we do not recognise the fact that we have them. It takes time to recognise and accept that we have a certain bias toward a group of people. Once a company becomes aware that this is happening, then critical thinking skills can be used to work through them and put a plan in place to control these thoughts.
By promoting a culture that encourages respect for all people, we inspire employees to share ideas that lead to enhanced creativity, innovation, and production, and we strengthen the company brand. Here are a few ideas that a company can use to eliminate these unconscious biases.
- Monitor your employees for these biases and don't be afraid to question comments that are made regarding any stereotypes.
- Educate your staff on the different types of unconscious bias.
- Share with your workers the negative effects these biases can have and any consequences that your company puts in place to curb this behaviour.
- Slow down when making decisions. Ensure that the rationale behind each decision you make is based on facts, not biases.
- Create a Diversity, Ethics, and Inclusion (DEI) committee, or hire a DEI consultant to recognise and change negative behaviours so you can create a positive work environment.
As with most business decisions, negating these biases starts with becoming aware of the problem and mindfully working through a solution with your team. Create a policy that allows you to set best business practices around any biases that are called out in your company, and take ownership of the process to ensure that it is followed. By doing so, you'll create a work environment that includes everyone and becomes much more authentic and productive.