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7 Ways to Reduce Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

While most (if not all) of us think we’re unbiased or unprejudiced, we actually tend to favor one person or group of people over others. This universal phenomenon, referred to as unconscious bias or implicit bias, is natural and part of our psychological makeup. The sad part is that even though this is normal, it can affect our behaviors and cause us to make unfair or impartial decisions.

Unconscious bias, when present in the workplace, can negatively affect business culture and result in a lack of workforce diversity. Most of these biases are usually influenced by culture, backgrounds, and personal experiences. Employment law attorneys also note that it is common for implicit biases to result in specific individuals or groups being treated less fairly or discriminated unintentionally.

Here are a few tips on reducing unconscious bias in the workplace:

1. Be aware of your own biases

Each of us has implicit biases, and being aware of them and how they affect others can help address the issue. You can take Harvard’s Implicit Association Test to determine your own biases. It is also a good idea to raise awareness in the workplace to help employees recognize certain instances of unconscious bias.

2. Slow down your thinking

People are more likely to make decisions based on unconscious bias when pressured or anxious. This is why it pays to take a step back and slow down your decision-making process. You should also question your first impressions and extreme reactions to things or individuals before voicing them out. Walking in other people’s shoes when making a decision is also beneficial.

3. Determine where biases affect your organization

Unconscious biases can creep in different situations and affect who gets hired or interviewed (for a job position), who gets promoted, who gets a pay raise, and others. By determining where implicit biases occur, you can reflect on such situations and make better or informed decisions.

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4. Improve your hiring process

Implicit biases can significantly affect the hiring process. So, to keep them from negatively affecting hiring decisions, it is best to create a structured recruiting or interview process to compare applications fairly. You might also want to try conducting blind hiring (initial phone interviews instead of video) to minimize your vulnerability to judge someone based on their looks, height, and others.

5. Expand your horizons or widen your work/social circle

To learn more about yourself and reactions to unfamiliar situations, try to look for new experiences or widen your social circles. If possible, try to spend time with people from different cultural backgrounds than your own. Establishing connections with other individuals can help expand your perspective and make significant changes in your organization.

6. Make your workplace more diverse

Prioritizing diversity and inclusivity is essential in creating a thriving business. People from different backgrounds and experiences can encourage innovation and creativity, as well as bring new ideas and perspectives to the business. Other benefits of diversity in the workplace include higher revenue, well-rounded employee experience, better decision-making, and competitive advantage.

You can improve workplace diversity by:

  • Creating inclusive workplace policies
  • Avoiding exclusive prerequisite requirements (like only considering people who graduated from well-known schools or those who have years of experience)
  • Making the hiring process transparent
  • Bringing in a diverse group of people into your hiring decision
  • Welcoming multilingual employees
  • Promoting diverse employees
  • Value and embrace different perspectives

7. Speak out if you notice biases

Failure to address biases or offensive behaviors might cause others to think that the behavior is acceptable and tolerated. If someone, for instance, has made a cruel joke about someone, address the issue privately and respectfully. You should also encourage your team members to speak out if they notice biases. Create a business culture that promotes open dialogue.

Becoming aware of these biases and taking steps to overcome them can help build stronger organizations. This will also put you into better positions in serving clients and customers better.


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