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Unconscious bias in the workplace is a subconscious preference that may have an effect on your opinion based on facts or experiences from your past. These biases can negatively affect companies, such as during the hiring process when managers are considering different candidates or treating certain employees differently than others, just to name a few.

Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.

Unconscious bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and often incompatible with one’s conscious values. Certain scenarios can activate unconscious attitudes and beliefs. For example, biases may be more prevalent when multi-tasking or working under time pressure.

Unconscious biases are not permanent. In fact, they are malleable and steps can be taken to limit their impact on our thoughts and behaviors. When considering strategies to address unconscious bias one must consider individual and institutional strategies.

Individual strategies to address unconscious bias include:

  • Promoting self-awareness. Recognizing one’s biases using instruments to assess bias is the first step. Understanding the nature of bias is also essential. The strategy of categorization that gives rise to unconscious bias is a normal aspect of human cognition. Understanding this important concept can help individuals approach their own biases in a more informed and open way.
  • Opportunities to have discussions with others (especially those from socially dissimilar groups) can also be helpful. Sharing your biases can help others feel more secure about exploring their own biases. It’s important to have these conversations in a safe space – individuals must be open to alternative perspectives and viewpoints.
  • Facilitated discussions and training sessions promoting bias literacy utilizing the concepts and techniques listed above have been proven effective in minimizing bias. Evidence suggests that providing unconscious bias training for employees reduces the impact of bias in the workplace.

Organizational Strategies to address unconscious bias include:

  • Develop concrete, objective indicators and outcomes for hiring, evaluation, and promotion to reduce standard stereotypes.
  • Develop standardized criteria to assess the impact of individual contributions in performance evaluations.
  • Develop and utilize structured interviews and develop objective evaluation criteria for hiring.
  • Provide unconscious bias training workshops for all constituents.

Purple Ink provides a number of resources that can help you as an individual or your organization to address unconscious bias. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can assist you in this journey.

Misty Resendez
Misty Resendez
Misty is a consultant with Purple Ink. She is passionate about DEI and women’s leadership.

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