Unconscious bias is a part of the workplace that
unfortunately we cannot control to the extent that we would like to. It often manifests in the hiring and
promotion process, but can be seen in many other aspects throughout your time
in the workforce. Liani Reeves, an
attorney at Bullard Law in Portland, Oregon says “in hiring decisions, people
tend to gravitate towards those who are inside our own group. We automatically feel comfortable with people
who think like us, act like us and look like us.” There is a subjective comfort when talked
about in terms of ‘fit’ in a particular workplace culture.
When considered in promotions people also tend to think
about those that are ‘leadership material.’
Unfortunately, unconscious bias is often based on assumptions about
previous stereotypes of a traditional “leader” which is often thought to be
typically older, Caucasian men. These
biases are more than just a denial of employment opportunity. It leads people to believe, they could have
been treated that way just because of the color of their skin, their gender, or
their personal beliefs. What this can do
is break down relationships, and possibly erode self-confidence.
What Can Be Done?
From the start, to minimize these impacts of biases you
should be conscious of them. Know that
people have them, maybe not you, but there are people in the workplace that
will make decisions partly based of these prior unconscious stereotypes or
biases. “It’s not a matter of
eliminating all bias; it’s a matter of interrupting bias when it sneaks into
our hiring and promotion practices and other actions” says Reeves. Camille Olson, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw in
Chicago, has recommended a three-pronged approach:
yourself in the shoes of someone who does not share your same demographics,
associations, or group loyalties.
your supervisors’ and managers’ understanding of both equal employment
opportunity policies, as well as the legitimate business reasons that should be
structural, company wide practices and policies that can be developed,
implemented, trained and audited against in order to ensure that the workplace
is free of biased decision-making.
Possible examples of part three include implementing hiring
checklists, compensation audits, policy development and accessibility
audits. Many executives are in favor of
surfacing difficult topics and discussing them in safe environments, but just
because you intend to create a safe space does not automatically mean you
do. You should consider investing in
diversity, equity and inclusion training.
Unconscious biases might not be possible to completely eliminate from an
individual’s thinking, but they should not affect employment-related decisions.
Here at Converge HR Solutions we can help implement policies
to eliminate these biases as much as possible.
Although the biases live inside your mind without you knowing we can try
to bring them to the light and have you understand that they are there. If you have any questions please feel free to
reach out to us at (610) 296-8550 or email@example.com.
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