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Implicit Bias- What is It & How Do We Combat It?

Most organizations continue to be committed to creating fully inclusive cultures that celebrate diversity. These organizations have employees who reflect the communities where they live and work and all possess a diverse range of viewpoints and experiences that help achieve their mission.

With that mission in mind, let’s explore a concept called “implicit bias” …or it can also be referred to as “unconscious bias.” As we are fast approaching the end of the calendar year, this concept is particularly important to highlight, as it’s somewhat common to see this surface in performance evaluations.

So what is implicit bias? It is defined “a bias or prejudice that is present, but not consciously held or

recognized.” In other words, these are learned attitudes or stereotypes that may exist in our

subconscious and can involuntarily affect the way we think and act. In terms of its application, it provides advantages to one group while disadvantaging others. This can affect all aspects of the workplace including hiring, promotions, as well as performance evaluations. There’s also the external side of it that you must consider: How are you attracting your customers and

clients? How are you presenting yourself, as an organization, to the communities in which you operate?

There’s a lot of unconscious negative messaging that can be incorporated without you noticing. So

examine all aspects of your business, and when making decisions, stop and think, “Have I looked at this with all appropriate lenses? Do I have enough diversity on my team to have a dialogue that incorporates multiple perspectives?”

Some key takeaways:

  • Reducing our implicit bias is important in fostering a more diverse, equitable and inclusive culture, and is aligned with most organizations’ values.

  • Regardless of how emotionally intelligent or self-aware we may be, implicit bias is something that is deep-rooted in our subconscious, so we may be completely unaware we have them -- but everyone does.

  • Some common examples are gender, race, age, religion, name, and physical appearance.

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, some ways to combat implicit bias:

  • Recognize and be as aware as possible when making decisions

  • Hold others accountable – especially if you feel this may be impacting a particular business decision.

Try to remember to pause and see the situation from a diverse perspective when we’re making

decisions or interacting with your colleagues and customers.

Learning to recognize decisions based upon unconscious bias is essential. We can help introduce the topic of implicit bias and its origins, how it might manifest itself in our behavior, and provide practical tips and reflections to help you reduce the risk of bias in your own work.

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