What is Unconscious Bias?
Every day, your people are faced with countless bits of information while making decisions that range from the pragmatic to the strategic. As they confront more and more information and have to act quickly while considering varying perspectives, your leaders and team members are primed to rely on biased thinking called unconscious bias.
Unconscious biases are a natural part of the human condition. They’re how our brains compensate for overload which affects how we make decisions, engage with others, and respond to various situations and circumstances- often limiting potential and inhibiting performance.
We think we see the world as it is, when in fact we see the world as we are.
Stephen R. Covey
There is nothing more fundamental to performance than how we see and treat each other as human beings. Start your organisation’s journey towards increased collaboration, innovation and talent retention:
Recognise the impact of bias on behaviours, decisions, and performance.
Increase empathy and curiosity in personal interactions to surface and explore bias.
FranklinCovey's Inclusion and Bias Thought Leader Pamela Fuller has identified 2 Common Myths About Unconscious Bias...
Bias can be a heavy word. People often conflate it with prejudice, racism, discrimination, or sexism.
But bias, on its face, is not inherently good or bad. In the simplest of terms, our biases are our preferences.
Understanding two common myths around unconscious bias will help us better understand the role it plays at work.
Myth #1: Bias is inherently negative.
At our core, we all identify as good. So if we think bias is inherently negative and only bad people have it, we close off to exploring these topics further. We put up walls and say, “I'm not even going to go there, because I'm a good person. I try to treat people fairly.” We get defensive.
If we can recognize that we all have bias, we can reconcile the two opposing ideas that we can have bias and still be a good person. They can coexist. That's what helps us make progress.
In the workplace, our goal is not necessarily to change people's preferences. It is to ensure that they are thinking about the impact of those preferences and behaving in a way that creates an inclusive work environment, where everyone feels engaged, valued, and respected.
Myth #2: If bias is a natural part of the human condition and how the brain works, I can’t do anything about it.
After realizing that bias is natural and that biases don’t necessarily make you a bad person, people tend to lean into them. That can become problematic.
But neuroscience teaches us that we can mitigate our unconscious bias through neuroplasticity. Once we identify a bias and understand it’s impact, we can “re-wire” our brains to create new pathways and teach ourselves to think and act differently.
For example, if I have a bias that a certain team member is lazy, I will treat them accordingly. Most people won’t bring their best contribution under those circumstances, so my perception is confirmed, and the cycle continues. My bias becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But through neuroplasticity, I can interrupt that bias. I can create a new neural pathway where I support and engage this person, likely producing a better result and contribution from this individual than I would if I treat them as if they are lazy.
With intentional practice, our inherent biases don’t have to limit us or others. We have the ability to grow and change.
The power of story to help us understand ourselves and others cannot be overstated.
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6 Ways to Help Your Organisation Be More Inclusive
It takes courage to stand up to bias and advocate for a welcoming and fair culture in your organisation. But courage alone won’t ensure that you actually make a difference. We each have a part to play in making progress, and the strategies in this guide can help you make an impact.DOWNLOAD NOW
At FranklinCovey we offer a principle-based and practical approach to identifying and addressing bias in our everyday life.
We do so by going beyond simply raising awareness to helping participants build practical skills that let them recognise bias in action and counter its potentially harmful effects.
Our solution will help organisations that need to:
- Develop leaders who create an inclusive workplace and address unconscious bias’ impact on decision making.
- Build a culture where everyone feels respected, included and valued.
- Improve collaboration between newly acquired groups or existing functional silos.
- Develop a culture that positively impacts the bottom line.
- Shift from a compliance-based approach to diversity training to a more action-oriented approach.
- Close the gap between expected and actual behaviours in how people see and treat each other.