April 4, 2024

Everybody has biases that can influence decisions and interactions in subtle yet impactful ways. Often, we don’t recognize our own unconscious biases, but it’s likely we have personally experienced bias at work. 

Do these scenarios sound familiar? 

“The Invisible Voice” 
In team meetings, you share innovative ideas and insights, only to have them brushed aside or attributed to someone else moments later. It’s frustrating to witness your contributions being overlooked while similar suggestions from colleagues are embraced. Despite having the same qualifications and experience, it feels like your voice carries less weight because of your identity. 

“The Assumed Role”  
On team projects, you notice that certain tasks or responsibilities are automatically assigned to you based on preconceived notions about your background. Despite your expertise in other areas, you are consistently pigeonholed into roles that align with stereotypes about your identity. It’s limiting your professional growth and perpetuating assumptions about what you’re capable of achieving.  

5 questions unconscious bias training should answer

To combat unconscious bias, companies should invest in training, but what questions should such training aim to answer for employees? Here are essential questions that unconscious bias training should address to help individuals recognize and challenge biases at work. 

1. Where do biases come from?

Biases are sneaky, creeping into our minds through a variety of channels ─ our upbringing, media, personal experiences and societal stereotypes. They develop unconsciously over time, without us even noticing, and are mental shortcuts our brains take when making decisions or judgements.

2. How do biases affect workplace decisions?

Picture this: you’re in a meeting, discussing potential candidates for a new role. Suddenly, a familiar bias whispers in your ear, nudging you to favor someone who reminds you of yourself or fits a stereotype. Biases don’t just sit idly by. They actively shape our workplace choices, including hiring practices, performance evaluations, promotion decisions and everyday interactions among colleagues. Understanding how biases affect the workplace is an essential step towards mitigating their effects and promoting fairness.

3. What are common types of bias?

There are several types of biases that can pop up in the workplace, including:

  • Confirmation bias: This is when you tend to look for or understand information in a way that already matches what you think. You’re only seeing the parts of a story that support what you already believe.  
  • Halo effect: You know when you think someone is awesome just because they’re good at one thing? The halo effect is like wearing rose-colored glasses for one specific trait and letting it overshadow everything else.  
  • Implicit association bias: Sometimes we make snap judgements about people based on stereotypes we don’t even realize we have. Your brain makes quick, but not always fair, connections between groups of people and certain qualities.
  • Affinity bias: This is when you naturally feel drawn to people who seem like you. It’s like gravitating towards folks who like the same movies or grew up in a similar place. 
  • Attribution bias: Ever jump to conclusions about why someone did something based on how they seem? That’s attribution bias. It’s assuming you know someone’s whole story from just a small piece of it. 
4. How is unconscious bias related to microaggressions?

Unconscious bias and microaggressions are best buddies. Microaggressions, which are subtle, often unintentional actions or comments to individuals that undermine feelings of inclusion and belonging among affected individuals, are tiny but mighty manifestations of unconscious bias.  

5. How can individuals and organizations reduce unconscious bias?

Addressing biases by proactively taking steps to counteract them is like decluttering your mental workspace ─ clearing out the biases to make room for fairness and inclusivity. Here are some ways to do that: 

  • Increase awareness through training and education. 
  • Practice mindfulness and self-reflection to recognize personal biases. 
  • Implement blind recruiting processes to mitigate biases in hiring. 
  • Encourage diversity and inclusion initiatives to foster a more inclusive culture. 
  • Establish clear policies and procedures to promote fairness and equity.  

These are your first vital steps toward building a more empathetic and equitable organization. Reducing unconscious bias is a team effort, with each one of us playing a crucial role in creating a culture where all voices are heard, and everyone feels respected and valued. 


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Mark Hudson