Minimising Bias to Maximise Diversity
“Deconstructing our unconscious bias takes consistent work. We can’t address it once and be done. We need to recognise these unwanted, deep-rooted beliefs and limit their influence on us. Then our actions will match our intentions.”
Sarah Fiarman, Unconscious Bias: When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough
Here are three ways to reduce the impact of unconscious bias at work and build a culture of diversity and inclusion.
- Make the Unconscious – Conscious
We can start by having a conversation with our teams and practising awareness. Unconscious bias is part of being human, so let’s bring it to the table.
Start by observing the unconscious biases in yourself and your language.
Challenge stereotypes and check assumptions in yourself and your team. Open the discussion up to people outside your group to find out where they observe biases you miss.
Get feedback from employees about hidden barriers they may experience within the organisation. Tailor training according to the findings.
- Examine Your Workplace
The brain likes to chunk information in convenient ways to make it easier to remember and communicate. This can make us prone to generalising about people.
An example is the way we categorise people of different age groups. We tend to talk about boomers, millennials, generation Y or X in generalities. Yet, these may not hold true when you consider the diverse experiences, backgrounds, talents and aspirations that make up the whole person.
Consider some of the ways you may be unconsciously perpetuating bias at work. Are you putting people into convenient boxes based on age, personality or type? Are biases in your policies and procedures undermining efforts to foster diversity and inclusion?
If your workplace culture habitually uses stereotypical images or messages, choose communication that counters them.
Consider how diversity aligns with your workplace values. Set some diversity and inclusion goals and be accountable.
- Make Conscious Connections
“Brains like people like us.” As social animals, we are geared to make connections with people we perceive as similar. With similarity comes the ability to infer better what someone may be thinking or feeling.
Look beyond your social circle or working group to make new or unexpected connections. Don’t be too quick to draw conclusions. Be quicker to ask questions and be curious!
Make a conscious effort to identify commonalities with the people you meet and work colleagues. Look for ways to bypass common stereotypes or your default assumptions. Building relationships leads to more cooperation, teamwork and wellbeing – positive outcomes for all.