Combating “unconscious biases” @ Work

Your background, personal experiences, societal stereotypes and cultural context can have an impact on your decisions and actions without you realizing. Unconscious bias happens by our brains making incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realizing it. Unconscious biases are created and reinforced by our environments and experiences. Our mind is constantly processing information, oftentimes without our conscious awareness.

When we are moving fast or lack all the data, our unconscious biases, fill in the gaps, influencing our perceptions, negatively impact our decision making, and interactions with coworkers.

Unconscious Biases comes in many forms by:

  • ignoring relevant information
  • giving excessive weight to an unimportant, but salient feature of the problem
  • involving a decision or judgement being affected by irrelevant information

Bias, prejudice, and discrimination all live under the same roof.

Bias is defined as a tendency to lean in a certain direction, often to the detriment of an open mind. It is an inclination toward one way of thinking, often based on how you were raised. For example, in one of the most high-profile trials of the 20th century O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder, but many people will remain biased toward him and treat him like a convicted killer anyway.

〉 Prejudice is a feeling toward a person based solely on their affiliation with a group. It often casts an unfavorable light on someone simply because they’re a member of some family, church, or organization.

For example, millions of people around the world consider Tom Cruise to be a very talented actor. He’s also labeled as one of Hollywood’s nicest guys, purportedly treating his cast and crew with the utmost kindness and respect. However, his affiliation with Scientology prompts all kinds of negative press, causing some people to feel prejudice toward him.

〉 Discrimination comes into play when one starts acting upon an inherent prejudice they possess.For example, during the time of slavery, men and women held prejudices against African Americans and, in turn, discriminated them through slavery, segregation, and other heinous acts.

Examples of Bias Behaviors

  1. If someone is biased toward women, they might display that bias by hiring a man over a more-qualified woman.
  2. If someone is biased toward a certain religion, they might show it by making rude or insensitive comments, or go as far as vandalizing religious buildings.
  3. If someone is biased toward same-sex couples, they might discriminate against them by refusing entrance into a club or hotel.
  4. If someone is biased toward a political affiliation, they might show it with name calling or refusing to believe their opponents could be right about anything.

We all have to ingest daily doses of our perceptions with a discerning pair of eyes. Choose what to believe and what not to believe, but most of all, always remain open to the opinion of someone standing on the other side of your fence.

Helpful Suggestion:

Consider Unconscious Bias Training. It is aimed at raising awareness, sparking conversation, and initiating action that, hopeful help us to create workplaces that are not only fun and innovative, but allow each of us, no matter our background, to achieve more than we could anywhere else.

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