Some times the human brain creates certain prejudice in our minds. These prejudices often result in an unconscious bias that we may not even be aware of. It is usually uncomfortable to discuss issues of prejudice, bias, and diversity within the workplace. However, unconscious bias can have real consequences that hinder an employee’s positive experience within the workplace. This could result in employee frustration and in the long run impede the organization’s ability to carry out business and reach its set objectives. So, what is Unconscious bias?
Unconscious bias, which is also known as implicit or hidden bias, refers to the links that are made between a different individual or group qualities and social categories such as race, gender or disability, due to some facts or past experience. They often take the form of stereotypes or misinformation that has a negative effect on decision-making. They result in judgments that are made without conscious awareness and happening beyond control. Unconscious bias is usually triggered in an automatic way, followed by quick decisions. This could lead to discrimination or treating other people in an unfair manner without realizing it.
Manifestations of biases as described above have a negative consequence on any organization’s efforts to achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion within the workplace. Unconscious bias affects how work performance, talent, promotion and assignments are evaluated in the workplace. Generally, they constitute a major hindrance to workplace diversity and need to be addressed in an intentional manner.
A recent survey by the American Management Association (AMA) on DEI revealed that about 80 percent of the more than 700 participants admitted to unconscious bias, and nearly 83 percent said they have witnessed unconscious bias by others in the workplace.
Examples of instances in which unconscious bias manifests are: presumption that a younger-looking professional is not the leader of a team, assuming that an older or less educated employee does not want to use the latest technology, African-American women being mistaken for administrative or custodial staff, thoughts that resumes with African-American/ (Canadian), Asian, South Asian and Hispanic names are less likely to get callbacks for interviews, etc.
5 ways in which unconscious bias can be handled in the workplace are discussed as follows:
1. Set expectations on employee interaction
It is important to let employees know that the organization places utmost priority on mitigating bias within the workplace. This requires that all employees understand and key into the values diversity, equity and inclusion values. This can be clearly stated in the organization’s handbook or employee manual.
2.Educate employees on bias and stereotyping
Organizing continuous training on DEI with a focus on the need to eliminate bias and stereotypes within the work place will be beneficial to both the organization’s management and employees. Such training will also serve the purpose of reassuring the underrepresented employees and others who may feel excluded that the issue of bias is being given due attention and efforts are being made to address it.
In addition to the above, educating employees about bias and stereotyping helps to raise awareness and make individuals, intentional about addressing their perceptions and stereotyping behaviors.
3.Transparency in the organization’s hiring and promotion process
This will assure employees that there are no biases in the processes bothering on their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or other factors that promotes stereotyping. This allows employees to build trust in the organization’s hiring and promotion processes. Organizations may choose to use blind evaluations to ensure that the job candidate is represented solely by their work and not their race or gender.
4. Responsibility and accountability of organization’s leaders
Making the management or decision-makers accountable for the organization’s DEI values will demonstrate to the employees that the organization prioritizes an unbiased workplace and operates a work culture that promotes zero tolerance for stereotyping and unfair perceptions.
5. Providing a channel for making anonymous complaints and feedback
This allows employees have a safe avenue to report an issue without fear of retaliation or being picked on. Feedback can be gotten through the creation of anonymous employee surveys focused on getting details of bias and unfair perception issues they may have faced within the workplace and what steps they think the organizations should take to address it.
On the whole, tackling issues of unconscious bias within the workplace by implementing strategies to reduce the negative impact attracts the benefits of increased productivity of employees, employee turnover, and overall financial growth for the organization.