Unconscious biases are a fact of life. We all harbor them – and take them into the workplace. Simply bringing them into the workplace can stifle diversity, recruiting, efficiency, and even retention efforts, and unknowingly shape an organization’s culture. Unconscious bias can skew talent and performance reviews. It ultimately affects who gets hired, developed and promoted.
I feel like writing this blog about unconscious bias is a product of my unconscious bias affecting the tone of my writing. Consciously I write towards my reaction and unconsciously impact it. See what I did there?
Unconscious bias is indeed universal and permeates since our earlier ancestors. Biases may come from a lot of variables and not just only from what we perceive or digest, but unconsciously it comes from association from past experiences, information provided and gathered, or simply sticking to a particular point of view.
A COMMON UNCONSCIOUS BIAS IS “COMMITMENT CONFIRMATION”.
It is rare to still see that in some parts of the world slavery or the thought of a different race than the predominant group is viewed inferior or is at a disadvantage. No matter how skewed this kind of perception is, the mind attaches to what it thinks is right. This creates a shockwave of biases in its preceding culture, thus the “Commitment Bias” live on.
Bias is rooted in the brain.
In other words, our brain evolved into mentally compartmentalizing things to help make sense of the world. Another bias mentioned in the book is “Stereotyping“. Stereotyping occurs when we digest information and the brain, or our biases, tag that information with the general description to which we can quickly sort it into.
For example, downloading is piracy and piracy is “bad”. This explains commercials tagging piracy as a CRIME. What they don’t mention and fail to bring up is when a content is uploaded in the internet, that content is not immune from piracy versus exchanging private information over the internet such as a simple website sign up is not categorically labelled by our brain as “bad”. Perfect example of bias right there.
UNCONSCIOUS BIAS CAN ALSO BE CAUSED BY CONDITIONAL LEARNING. FOR EXAMPLE, IF A PERSON HAS A BAD EXPERIENCE WITH SOMEONE THEY CATEGORIZE AS BELONGING TO A PARTICULAR GROUP, THEY OFTEN ASSOCIATE THAT ENTIRE GROUP WITH THAT BAD EXPERIENCE
Conditional learning is a double edged blade. From a survival point of view, this mental grouping into good or bad helped the brain make quick decisions about what was safe or not safe and what was appropriate or not appropriate.
If Tom got stuck in traffic on his way to work for a significant amount of times, Tom will eventually learn to take a different route and avoid traffic.
In the workplace, if a mistake is being committed habitually by an employee , that behavior helps the management tag that individual and the associated behavior to avoid hiring a person with the same attribute in the future.
OVERCOMING AND SHIFTING TO NEUTRAL
When we say shifting to neutral, that means one cannot totally remove from its personal biases. What I found out is biases are deeply embedded biologically and socially, making it difficult to overcome our biases.
There is hope, however. We humans have a great capability of using new awareness, experiences and the status quo to alter our thinking.
Combat unconsciousness through consciousness.
Organizations should practice consciousness. The book stated 6 major areas of focus that can help individuals alter their bias patterns.
To sum the 6 areas of altering bias patterns, a company or organization should incubate awareness or develop the capacity for rational and critical thinking or to “stop and think”. Organizations that wish to be more conscious need to overcome their biases and embracing change if they further want to evolve as a relevant entity.
So, to uncover the organization’s biases, they must promote a clear, honest and open communication with a transparent system in place. This doesn’t create an automatic shift of awareness but it is a great stepping stone towards acceptance.