Unconscious bias is a part of almost every interaction we as human beings experience. Though you may not be aware of it or even want to admit it, the truth is that you must take appropriate steps to overcome that unconscious bias, especially as a business owner.
Not taking steps to correct and acknowledge your unconscious bias could have the potential to damage your professional relationships and even cause a decrease in your overall job performance. Here are a few steps you can take as a business owner to help you acknowledge, confront, and overcome your unconscious bias in all aspects of your professional life.
What Is Unconscious Bias?
Unconscious bias, sometimes also called implicit bias, is a type of social stereotype that causes us to make judgements about people without consciously realizing it is happening. Based on your environment, your brain takes various mental shortcuts to make judgements about others around you more quickly. Unfortunately, these mental shortcuts have a tendency to do much more harm than good. There are several different ways that unconscious bias can manifest in the professional world.
An affinity bias is one that can cause you to be biased in favor of people that are similar to you, whether that be through race, gender, education level, socioeconomic background, or otherwise. Labeling bias occurs when you form opinions about people based on external factors, such as the way they dress or the way they look. Confirmation bias occurs when we subconsciously seek out data, information, or opinions that support things we already believe to be true.
Overcoming these types of unconscious bias will take some effort. First you must acknowledge the bias is there. Then you must work to overcome that bias in your daily interactions and professional life.
How Does Unconscious Bias Impact the Workplace?
The presence of unconscious bias in a professional environment can have a number of negative effects, most notably a very homogenous and non-inclusive environment. Unconscious bias is the enemy of diversity, and a lack of diversity has far-reaching consequences.
Not only does a biased work environment have a negative impact on morale, innovation, creativity, and turnover, but lack of diversity can impact a company’s financial returns in a negative way. So, what steps can business leaders take to minimize unconscious bias in the workplace? Here are three tips:
1. Awareness Is Key
An important step for overcoming unconscious bias in any type of professional environment is to acknowledge that bias exists. Increasing awareness around the types of unconscious biases and trying to become more conscious of them is crucial towards overcoming them in the workplace.
Business leaders can be proactive about this step by soliciting feedback from others around them about their decisions and interactions in the workplace. There are also certain feedback instruments available that could be used to give some perspective on where your current perceptions might be. Taking these steps will raise your own awareness of unconscious bias and help prevent you from blindly acting on your own flawed perceptions.
2. Surround Yourself with Different Opinions
One of the greatest difficulties in overcoming unconscious bias can come from a lack of knowledge about other perspectives. This is due to a lack of awareness and exposure. Many of us exist in an echo chamber of our own unconscious design, where we only interact with people that share our opinions or backgrounds.
To help you overcome this type of unconscious bias, you must remove yourself from the echo chamber and seek out alternative opinions. Read a news source you don’t normally consult or find someone with a different educational, cultural, or socioeconomic background to learn from.
Many types of unconscious bias rely on generalizations about people from different groups but creating more personal connections can overcome many of these. Seeking out new people can broaden your network, create new connections, and at the same, help you overcome your unconscious bias.
3. Improve Your Hiring Approach
Unconscious bias is particularly harmful when it manifests in those making hiring decisions. One way to start overcoming unconscious bias at your company is to eliminate in your hiring practices.
You can start with standardizing your interview process and re-working the wording in your job postings in order to encourage a broader pool of applicants. It may also be helpful to judge candidates blind, at least in early rounds, to eliminate any implicit gender bias in candidate selection.
One potential solution is to employ an artificial intelligence tool that selects for candidates who meet job qualifications without implicit human bias. However, artificial intelligence can learn and replicate human bias, so it is important to make sure that if you decide to go this route, you are actually choosing a program that will be help you accomplish your diversity goals.
And once your hires have been made, it is important to that your new, diverse employees find a welcoming environment that is supportive of their talents and contribution. In other words, though these AI can help with the hiring process, it is still important to address your own individual unconscious bias as well.