Every person has unconscious biases. We carry them with us everywhere we go. We even bring them to work.
This bias doesn't automatically make you guilty of any of the ‘isms, but it does mean that bias influences and informs how you process the world and how you make decisions. It happens to everyone — because we're human.
Most individuals do not intend to discriminate against a group or an individual, but there will be mistakes along the way. These mistakes are more likely to occur if an individual doesn't believe they have a bias, or they haven't done any work to understand their own biases.
The good news is that we can do something about it. The more we expose ourselves to our own unconscious bias and challenge negative stereotypes when we see them in the workplace, the better our teams and organizations will be when it comes to performance and culture.
Here are five things you can do right now to address unconscious bias in the workplace.
1. Give yourself permission to see and acknowledge differences. Those differences may relate to race, gender, age, people with disabilities, sexual orientation, etc. Stop being “difference blind,” and ask yourself: “What assumptions do I make about these differences?”
2. Develop meaningful peer relationships across differences. Take the time to step outside your comfort zone, meet new people who are outside your circle, department, or function, and learn new things. This will organically increase your exposure to diversity, and help you move beyond awareness and tolerance to actively understanding and supporting differences.
3. Consider your feelings and reactions. These can be illuminating if you’re interested in learning a new perspective. For example, how did you react the first time you heard the phrase, “Black Lives Matter?” Was your automatic response that all lives matter, or did you appreciate the statement on its merit, and understand the deeper nuance behind it?
4. Solicit feedback. Find a buddy, and ask them to tell you which subtle behaviors or MicroTriggers that you send in a bid to identify and understand any patterns in your behavior. For example, are there patterns of who you do and do not interrupt, ignore, or acknowledge in meetings? Awareness of your patterns as a sender of MicroTriggers can reveal your unconscious biases.
5. Get educated. Ivy offers unconscious bias training specifically for the workplace. This offering can create a safe place in which to learn about unconscious bias, consciously adopt new behaviors, and learn how to use tools that can help eliminate systemic barriers to equity and inclusion at work.