Today’s workplaces are more and more aware of the many benefits that a diversity of perspectives, experiences, and skills brings to the development of teams and organizations as a whole. However, despite significant progress in recent years when it comes to the issues of equality and inclusion, there are still some invisible barriers that negatively (although unintentionally) affect how people interact with each other – in both their personal and professional lives. These attitudes and beliefs are known as unconscious biases. In today’s post, we will explain what unconscious bias is, discuss examples of unconscious bias in the workplace, and consider whether there are ways to deal with it. Let’s get started!
Unconscious bias in the workplace – table of contents:
What is unconscious bias?
Unconscious bias is a term that describes implicit, unintentional, and negative beliefs, stereotypes, or attitudes about certain social groups and individuals that influence how we think, behave, evaluate others, take actions, and make decisions – even if we’re not aware of it. They can stem from a variety of factors: from cultural and media influences and life experiences to lessons passed on by parents or the environment. They often result from automatic thought processes that are difficult to recognize or control without the use of special tools and techniques. Discovering their source, however, leads to more just and respectful social behavior.
Examples of unconscious bias
Unconscious bias can take many forms, affect different social groups, and have various causes in both everyday and professional lives. In business, we can encounter it in the following situations:
- Hiring younger or older employees – such people may be seen as less competent or less willing to change because of their age, and this perception may not be based on their actual abilities and skills,
- Recruiting and selecting candidates – when evaluating candidates, it can lead to favoring people with traits similar to the recruiter’s and excluding representatives of social groups that don’t fit the picture,
- Assigning tasks – in a programming team, a person unconsciously biased against women may automatically assign technical and more advanced tasks to men, overlooking the women’s competence in this area.
- Making promotion decisions – in the process of employee promotion, a manager may prefer people with similar backgrounds or work styles, leading to the exclusion of other equally competent candidates,
- Having women in leadership roles – unconscious bias against women in leadership roles can lead to doubt among team members about a woman’s competence in a leadership position.
Ways to deal with unconscious bias
The above examples clearly show that unconscious bias may negatively affect various aspects of your business, especially when it comes to building relationships with coworkers. However, there are steps that you can take to recognize it, and then reduce its impact or even eliminate it. The most important of them we outline below.
- Increase awareness
- Provide training
- Create a diverse workplace
An important step to take at the very beginning is to understand that we can all become unconsciously biased. Education about the nature and impact of this phenomenon can help raise awareness and willingness to take corrective action.
More and more companies are providing cultural diversity training, often covering issues like unconscious bias. Such sessions help employees understand the challenges they may face and provide tips on how to effectively deal with implicit stereotypes.
Regularly reflecting on your behaviors and attitudes can help you identify unconscious bias. When making decisions, especially those that affect other people, it is worth taking the time to analyze the situation and consider whether you are being objective. It’s also helpful to discuss the issue with others, which can give you a broader picture and more confidence.
Creating a diverse work environment within a team or organization is another way to reduce unconscious bias in the workplace. Ongoing contact with people from various social groups provides an opportunity to learn about their history, culture, and behavior. In this way, you develop a heightened awareness of unconscious bias, which is certainly helpful in the elimination of implicit stereotypes.
How can Firmbee help your company avoid unconscious bias?
Let’s start with the hiring process. When reviewing resumes submitted by candidates, you may unconsciously form opinions about them based on data such as first name, last name, and attended schools. You may overlook information about their accomplishments, experience, or skills. How do you overcome this bias? With Firmbee’s ATS, you can set key requirements that a candidate for a position must comply with. Based on these criteria, the system will select resumes for you and then suggest candidates who meet them. This will give you the confidence that the analysis is objective.
To avoid unconscious bias, you should regularly audit and review your decisions. As a manager, you delegate certain tasks to your team. Think about whether you have assigned them based on your employees’ skills or on stereotypes, such as a person’s age, gender, or background. Kanban boards are an ideal tool for breaking down tasks, delegating them to team members, and then analyzing your decisions.
Recognizing and overcoming unconscious bias is a process that undoubtedly requires a great deal of time, effort, and commitment. However, it is essential to creating a fair, diverse, and harmonious environment where everyone feels equal and respected. With the advent of remote work, companies across industries need to be aware of such a phenomenon. In this way, they can minimize the risk of its emergence by building the right organizational culture from the start.