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Unconscious Bias In The Workplace

The word “bias” has come up so much in the news today.  Add to that the word “unconscious” and one can see how we can have a problem with communication in our every day lives and in the workplace.

So what do we do about this, especially in the world environment we all live in today.  How do we identify and mitigate unconscious bias, especially in the workplace?

It has been studied and researched that 80% to 90% of the mind works unconsciously, meaning that the brains of even the most unbiased people still exhibit this tendency.  The effects of this most definitely are felt in the workplace despite all the efforts in training and legislation in the past years geared to educate employees on the value of respect in the workplace in areas of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status and physical disabilities.  This bias, unfortunately, continues to impact hiring and employment promotions.

While there is no one foolproof way to identify unconscious bias, employers can help mitigate its effects by:

  1. Helping managers to focus on inclusivity and diversity in the conscious mind, helping to sharpen their ability to identify instances of intended and unintended bias in the workplace.

  2. Encouraging peer-to-peer recognition by publicly acknowledging and thanking fellow employees for their contributions in a public forum, i.e., conference room meetings, formal thank you notes, company publications, etc. This helps to foster a sense of connection, shared purpose and belonging among employees.

  3. Holding company-wide trainings. PMP has just developed a wonderful new Webinar series that is being offered to our clients on Unconscious Bias in the Workplace.

  4. Consciously assign diverse groups within your organization to address stereotype situations to view a situation through a different lens.

  5. Assigning diverse groups to work together to help achieve a common goal.

  6. Not being afraid to solicit honest feedback about the company’s efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive environment.

Once unconscious bias is recognized or brought to the attention of management in the workplace, communication and feedback are key to quickly address behaviors and remedy the situation.

A workplace free from unconscious bias is one where every employee, regardless of gender, nationality, race or sexual orientation is empowered to have a voice and feel respected.  This encourages a strong sense of belonging and employees will begin to feel comfortable bringing their true self to work.  Strategies and tools combined with HR programs will help create a positive work culture across teams and unlock positivity in the workplace. It will encourage celebrating employees for who they are and what they do.

Immediate attention must be given to any negative bias situation that arises in a company.  Quick response to a complaint and a rapid solution is paramount. It sends out the message to the entire company that unprofessional and biased behaviors will not be tolerated.  Issues must be addressed quickly or they will be left to fester and grow.  Managers must be trained to handle these situations in a rapid and professional manner.

Ultimately, the onus is on the business leader and manager to create a top-down cultural shift that encourages a broader awareness of unconscious bias across an organization.

Focusing on all categories across the board and the ability of these employees to do their job by making an effort to include everyone whether it be a person with a disability, a woman who has not yet held a certain position within your company or a minority who might have been left behind, will help to develop a sense of camaraderie and recognition among employees and make the workplace a more inclusive environment where all employees can thrive and grow.

There is no better way to develop a positive culture.  A positive culture needs to grow.  It does not happen overnight.  A successful, positive workforce always translates to a successful positive business.


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