Have you ever stopped to consider the unconscious opinions, judgments, or biases that may be lurking in your mind, ready to pounce at any moment and cause harm? Chances are, you haven’t.
Interestingly, we receive 11 million bits of information every moment, but we can only consciously process 44 bits of it. This means that a whopping 99.996% of what we take in is unconscious, leading us to rely on our schemas and make snap judgments.
While these judgments can be incredibly useful for our day-to-day activities and survival in nature, they can be extremely harmful when it comes to “people”. Our unconscious biases, based on our experiences, beliefs, and cultural background, can lead us to make decisions based on factors such as race, gender, age, and religion, rather than on objective criteria.
Unconscious biases can be compared to the blind spots on a car’s side mirrors. When we are driving, we rely on our mirrors to give us a complete view of the road around us. However, there are areas that the mirrors don’t cover, called blind spots. If we don’t check our blind spots before changing lanes, we risk colliding.
Similarly, in the workplace, our biases can create blind spots that prevent us from seeing the full picture. These blind spots can cause us to overlook talented candidates during the hiring process or to give preferential treatment to employees who are similar to us in terms of gender, race, or background. If we are not aware of our biases and actively work to mitigate them, we risk creating a less diverse and inclusive workplace that does not fully utilize the skills and perspectives of all employees.
Just as drivers can adjust their mirrors or use other tools, such as rear-view cameras, to expand their field of vision, we can also take steps to become more aware of our biases and address them.
Let’s explore some actionable steps that can help us increase our awareness of biases in the workplace.
1. Become more Aware of biases at work:
The first step to becoming more aware of your biases is to educate yourself on what biases are and how they manifest. This includes learning about different biases like cognitive, cultural, implicit etc. Once you have a solid understanding of what these biases are, you can begin to identify them in yourself and others.
Biases often stem from past experiences and learned behavior. One way to identify your triggers is to reflect on situations where you may have felt uncomfortable or made assumptions about someone based on their appearance or background.
For instance, If you attended a prestigious or “tier 1” college or university, you may have a bias towards people who also attended these institutions. This bias can cause you to overlook candidates who didn’t attend a prestigious school, even if they have comparable skills and qualifications.
Another way to become more aware of your biases is to seek feedback from others. This can include colleagues, supervisors, or even friends and family members. Ask for honest feedback on your behavior and attitudes towards others, and be open to constructive criticism.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Practicing empathy can help you become more aware of your biases by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Try to imagine how someone else may feel in a certain situation, and consider how your biases may be affecting your perception of that person.
Finally, it is important to challenge your assumptions and question your own biases. This means being open to new perspectives and experiences. By challenging your assumptions and exposing yourself to new ideas, you can expand your understanding of the world and become a more inclusive and accepting person.
In conclusion, becoming aware of our biases is an ongoing process that requires self-reflection, education, and practice. By following these steps, you can start to identify and overcome your biases, creating a more inclusive and welcoming workplace for all.