What is Unconscious Bias?
To better understand what unconscious bias is (also called implicit bias), it is useful to have a basic understanding of the general concept of bias. Bias is a preference for or against something, someone or group. Having biases isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Problems occur when a bias affects someone in a positive or negative way and creates an unfair advantage or disadvantage.
There are many different forms of bias, which can be conscious or unconscious. With conscious bias (also called explicit bias), a person is very much aware of their feelings and attitudes, which is reflected in their behavior. Overt sexism, racism or ageism are examples of explicit bias.
On the other hand, unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias or hidden bias, occurs whether a person realizes it or not. In fact, unconscious bias can even be in direct conflict with the person’s belief system. A person may think they are fair and without prejudice but their bias may cause them to act otherwise. Based on social stereotypes or preconceived opinions, unconscious bias goes beyond gender, race and age and can be based on many factors, including religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and abilities, to name a few.
Research confirms that everyone has unconscious biases – it’s the way the human brain processes and categorizes vast amounts of information. However, if left unchecked, unconscious biases can lead to unfair or discriminatory behavior with negative consequences. As part of a multipronged approach to improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), unconscious bias training can help individuals recognize, manage and minimize their own biases and create a more respectful, safe and inclusive workplace.
Unconscious Bias Training
Unconscious or implicit bias training is one of the positive steps that organizations can take to help employees, at every level, recognize, understand and manage hidden biases that can lead to poor decision making and undermine DEI initiatives and goals. Some common examples of unconscious bias are believing that male employees are better at physical work, or that women will leave the workforce after becoming a parent, or assuming that individuals or certain groups have a particular skill because of their race.
This course is part of Traliant’s Building a Culture of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Suite that includes:
Unconscious Bias Training consists of three bite-sized episodes:
Understanding Bias: This episode explores the concept of workplace bias — both conscious and unconscious — and how hidden biases can interfere with decisions at work and life in general. It also covers risk factors that make individuals more susceptible to the influence of unconscious biases.
Recognizing Bias: This episode covers some of the most common types of biases and how they can affect people at work. These include confirmation bias, affinity bias, height bias, attribution bias, beauty bias, gender bias, ageism, the halo effect and many others.
Addressing Bias: Although biases are part of the human condition, they can be managed to reduce their negative impact. This episode explores some of the practices, processes and strategies to counteract workplace biases. It also addresses what individuals can do if they witness, experience or are accused of bias.
Employees and Managers gain a deeper understanding of:
- What is unconscious bias?
- How biases can influence workplace decisions and interactions.
- How to recognize different types of workplace biases and make more informed decisions.
- The relationship between unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion and preventing discrimination.
Research confirms that everyone has unconscious or implicit biases – it’s the way the human brain processes a constant flow of information and makes sense of a complex world. However, when people aren’t aware of their biases they can’t manage them, which can lead to discriminatory practices and decisions. As part of a holistic approach to improving diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias training can help individuals recognize and manage their own biases, avoid discriminatory practices and make better decisions that benefit the entire organization.
Addressing and Managing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace
Unconscious bias can have a significant influence on any workplace decision — including hiring, recruiting, promotions, performance reviews and discipline. Unconscious bias can also affect interactions with people outside of the organization, such as customers, vendors, partners and association members. There are many different types of biases — based on a wide range of characteristics and assumptions — and all of them can result in poor decisions or discriminatory behavior. For example, dismissing a qualified candidate because they aren’t a good ‘cultural fit’ or have a ‘foreign sounding name.’
Increasing awareness and understanding of unconscious bias is an ongoing process. Monitoring hiring policies and promotion criteria and including a diverse team to weigh in on key decisions are some of the effective ways to reduce the risk of implicit bias. Implementing a system for anonymously reporting incidents and conducting regular surveys to uncover unconscious bias are effective steps, too. In addition, facilitating regular discussions and conversations between different groups and departments, promoting mentoring and allyship and creating a sense of belonging are actions that contribute to reducing unconscious bias and its impact on workplace culture.
There are a number of things that people can do to help counteract biases. For example, reading articles and books on the subject of bias, being aware of stereotypes that are reinforced in the media, and inviting more people from different backgrounds and perspectives into their circle. Supervisors and other leaders in the organization can reduce the damaging influence of biases by seeking out opinions and ideas from everyone, not just the usual group, and establishing well-defined criteria for making decisions around hiring, promotions and work assignments. And, importantly, managers should be aware of making snap judgments, and instead be intentional about taking time to think through decisions. Research shows that decisions are more likely to be influenced by unconscious biases when they are made quickly or under stress.
Benefits of Unconscious Bias Training
Providing unconscious bias training on a regular basis is one of the cornerstones of educating employees and managers on essential DEI issues. Effective training should focus on raising awareness of what unconscious biases are, how these stereotypes and blind spots affect a wide range of decisions, and what individuals can do to counteract them through inclusive thinking and actions.
The Traliant Difference
Traliant creates modern, interactive training courses to help organizations meet the challenges of today’s workplace. We bring together an experienced team of content creators, eLearning specialists, instructional designers and video producers to deliver interactive learning experiences that raise awareness, drive positive behavior and help foster a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace.
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