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How To Tackle Unconscious Bias in the Workplace: The Complete Guide

We all have our prejudices and biases, whether we want to admit it or not. We may be prejudiced against a certain religion, race, gender identity - the list goes on. 

The problem is that these biases can manifest themselves in ways that are harmful to the workplace environment. They can affect hiring decisions, how much money people earn, and even the types of tasks they are assigned to tackle.

This post will discuss what unconscious bias is, why it happens, and how you can tackle it in your workplace.

Note: if you want the best way to eliminate unconscious bias in the workplace, try EasyLlama's diversity and inclusion training course. Our course was designed to educate your employees and develop a more efficient as well as inclusive work environment. See for yourself why companies are reading are raving about our program.
Diverse workforce
Diverse workforce

What Is Unconscious Bias?

Unconscious bias in the workplace is defined as having an unfair preference towards certain types or groups of people. We may think we are unbiased, but our minds trick us into thinking otherwise.

Unconscious bias comes about when you cannot figure out why you like or dislike someone for a job interview they've attended; it's because of your hidden prejudices that affect how you perceive them without realizing it.

Common Types of Unconscious Bias

There are many types of unconscious bias that exist in our society. Some of these biases are more prevalent than others, but they all have the potential to negatively impact your company's culture and how employees interact with one another. 

Here are some of the most common biases found in today's workplace: 

Affective Bias

This is where people have a positive or negative feeling about something without realizing it. This could be based on someone's background, age, gender identity and so much more. 

For example, if you prefer to hire women over men for your business because they tend to work harder at their jobs than male counterparts, who seem lazy by comparison, that would come under affective bias as an unfair preference towards one group over another due to stereotypical thinking.    

Stereotyping

This occurs when we categorize people into groups without knowing them or considering their differences first. This can lead us to make unfair assumptions about others which affect how we perceive them as individuals.

Confirmation Bias 

These types of biases occur because our brains don't like disorder or confusion; they want everything to fit neatly within its own box so that nothing challenges their view of the world. 

So, if you believe that all men are lazy at work because of your experience with one male colleague who doesn't pull his own weight around the office, this would come under confirmation bias, which is also similar to gender bias. 

Just World Hypothesis 

This is where people think everyone gets what they deserve in life. This leads us to blame victims rather than holding offenders accountable for their actions which can lead to victim-blaming behavior; essentially making excuses for why someone was targeted instead of accepting responsibility from those who harass or intimidate others into doing something against their will, for example. 

How Can Unconscious Biases Affect Your Workplace?

There are many ways unconscious bias affects the workplace. Here are just a few:

Decision Making Process 

Your unconscious biases could influence how you tackle tasks and projects within the office, who you choose to give certain jobs or responsibilities to, performance reviews, as well as decisions about hiring and firing employees.

If someone's background reminds you of another colleague who was not dependable in their role at work, then it may lead you towards making unfair assumptions about them before even giving them an opportunity for an interview.

Professional Development 

Managers may make unfair assumptions about an employee based on their cultural background or gender. In such a situation, they may feel that it’s not beneficial to invest in them as an individual. The result? Lack of progression within the company.

Customer Relationships 

Your unconscious biases could also negatively affect how you deal with customer queries and complaints.

For instance, people with hidden prejudices will often avoid dealing with certain customers who remind them of someone else from their past who was unpleasant towards others. They’re then likely to respond slower than usual to their queries -- or not respond at all -- which leaves customers feeling dissatisfied.

Team Dynamics

If your unconscious biases are left unchecked, it could lead to tension within the office. As a result, productivity is likely to take a hit, as your employees won’t feel motivated for work.

Try our unconscious bias test to see if these prejudices are impacting your workplace.

Tips On How To Tackle Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Although dealing with unconscious bias can be challenging at first, there are many ways in which you can tackle this problem. Here are just a few:

Listen to your employees

Many times, people of different backgrounds will be hesitant about voicing their opinions at work because they are worried that others won't take them seriously or see things from their point of view. 

If you make the effort to get to know what makes each person tick and show genuine interest in learning more about their unique workplace needs, then it can go a long way toward creating better relationships among colleagues which leads to increased overall productivity. 

Also, remember that some people might not feel comfortable speaking up right away, but if given enough time and encouragement, most team members will come around eventually. 

Keep Your Language Positive

If you want to reduce the number of microaggressions at work, then you need to focus on what people are doing right rather than fixating on their problems or mistakes. 

Be encouraging and supportive toward team members so they feel valued for who they are, instead of trying to change them into someone else simply because you don't understand why they act differently than yourself.

Be Mindful Of Your Own Thoughts & Emotions 

When we think about others based on our personal experiences and knowledge rather than taking an objective view of them as individuals with different needs and perspectives, then we risk falling into unhelpful patterns of thinking. 

Avoid Stereotyping 

Instead of making assumptions about others based on stereotypes that are not true, try asking questions or finding out more information before you make any judgments

Although this may be easier said than done at times, it is essential for boosting morale within the workplace.

Appreciate Differences & Commonalities

To promote diversity in the workplace, employees need to recognize their differences as well as commonalities. This will help if they hope to work through problems together rather than placing blame over misunderstandings caused by hidden prejudices. 

Promote Diversity Through Hiring Practices

It may seem like a no-brainer but if employers only hire employees that look or think just like themselves, then it can lead to resentment among other staff members as well as an atmosphere where everyone feels unwelcome. 

Make sure that your hiring practices include assessing everyone on their work experience and skills instead of only looking at the candidate's race, religion, or gender. 

Stop Focusing on Labels

Labels can be very dangerous because not only do they reinforce stereotypes, but the act of labeling someone makes it much easier to judge them based solely on their gender or race - which is obviously what you're trying to avoid.

 Saying things like "You always help me out when I ask" instead of mentioning that person's sex reassures everyone involved that your interpersonal relationships are defined by working together toward a mutual goal, rather than divided into categories such as male and female.

The Benefits of Conscious Inclusion in the Workplace

By combating implicit bias, you’ll be able to work towards a more positive, productive workplace where everyone feels comfortable about who they are no matter what their background is.

This way, problems associated with hidden biases can easily become a thing of the past. 

Here are some of the benefits of conscious inclusion in the workplace:  

Better Company Reputation 

By committing to diversity and inclusion, you’ll be able to build your company’s reputation. And this applies to both potential employees and customers. 

In the eyes of potential employees, you’ll be the ‘’employer of choice’’, which will help you attract the best talent. Job candidates often favor companies where they’ll feel not just comfortable, but 100% welcome. 

In the same vein, customers often shy away from promoting businesses that aren’t viewed as being inclusive. Such businesses often miss out on opportunities to boost sales, build stronger customer relationships, and increase their profitability. 

Increase in Employee Retention  

Making sure employees feel comfortable in the workplace despite their background can help boost satisfaction levels, therefore increasing retention rates.

If people enjoy working at your company then chances are high that you'll be able to hold onto them for longer. As a bonus, you won't have to spend so much time and money finding new members of staff when existing ones leave unexpectedly. 

Increased Collaboration Levels  

Making sure everyone has equal opportunities when joining new teams also helps increase collaboration levels. The reason why? There's less chance of competition between groups with different backgrounds which often leads to issues such as bullying or forcing people out of their roles. 

This, again, can help save companies money in the long run because they won't need to invest as much time or resources into solving discrimination issues.     

Final Thoughts 

You can't change people's unconscious bias, but you can make sure they don't have to work in an environment where their biases are tolerated and even encouraged.

Consciously inclusive workplaces provide a safe space for all employees regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. When we include all voices and backgrounds at the table, we create more innovative ideas that better serve our customers.

If your company is interested in making this shift towards conscious inclusion, let us help. You can sign up for our diversity training today to start cultivating a more inclusive work environment.