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Unconscious Bias: Identifying and Addressing Hidden Barriers to Inclusion

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Unconscious Bias is an automatic shortcut your brain uses to make snap judgments about a person or idea. We are constantly being thrown a million pieces of information, but our brains can only process a small fraction. So we rely on mental shortcuts and cognitive filters to prioritize important information and filter out irrelevant information. This is a lazy way of processing information. While these mental shortcuts can be extremely helpful, they sometimes mislead us.

Whether we realize it or not, unconscious biases heavily influence our professional lives, from how we interact with peers to how we think. Recognizing and addressing unconscious biases is essential for creating an inclusive culture.

Understanding Unconscious Bias

There are countless ways that unconscious bias shows up. From preconceived notions to judging someone's appearance to snap opinions about another person's life. Below, we’ve shared some of the more common biases.

Ageism: refers to stereotyping or discriminating against others based on their age.

Authority Bias: refers to when an idea or opinion is viewed as being more accurate or given more importance because someone of authority gives it.

Halo Effect: means putting someone on a pedestal once we hear something impressive about them. (Whether it’s true or not).

Horns Effect: the opposite of the halo effect. Treating or viewing someone negatively based on an unfavorable opinion or assumption.

Affinity Bias: the tendency to connect with those with similar beliefs, characteristics, experiences, etc.

Confirmation Bias: the tendency to seek information that strengthens our beliefs or behavior.

Conformity Bias: the tendency to behave like those around us rather than make judgments and decisions based on our own thoughts or opinions.

Addressing Unconscious Bias

We bet you didn’t know many of these biases existed. Now that you know better, you can do better. Below are a few examples of how to address biases in your workplace.

Education and Awareness: The first step to addressing unconscious biases is acknowledging that we all have them and becoming aware of which ones may be affecting you.

Inclusive Policies and Procedures: From preselected interview questions to diverse hiring panels, you can create policies and procedures that reduce biases in hiring and recruiting.

Create an Inclusive Culture: You build trust with your employees by creating an inclusive culture. If employees feel they’re in a safe environment, they are more likely to share the issues that threaten the culture, such as biases or microaggressions. Giving leadership a chance to listen and respond appropriately.

To sum up, understanding and addressing unconscious biases is an extremely important component of DEI. If you need help or don’t know where to start, contact one of our DEI consultants today.


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