Unconscious Bias

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

Learned stereotypes that are automatic, unintentional, deeply ingrained within our beliefs, universal, and could affect our behaviour.

I responded to a post I saw the other week related to unconscious bias. I suggested that three questions should be posed to an organisation’s CEO but these questions could equally be posed to any leader of a team or function to test the reality and presence of unconscious bias within a business:

1. Do you believe you have the best people on your team?

2. Do you believe that unconscious bias is an issue in your organisation / team / function?

3. Now look at the composition of your leadership team and answer questions 1 and 2 again – same answer?

My point of course is that unconscious bias exists in society and organisations and, by definition, unless your attention is drawn to it, it will remain an unconscious and unnoticed issue.

Unconscious bias starts to form from a very young age, so mitigation of unconscious bias can start to be addressed through parenting, schools etc. Organisations and leaders are obligated to ensure that steps are taken to mitigate and or eliminate unconscious bias but first you need to recognise and understand what it is:

· Affinity bias - the tendency to 'warm up' to people who are like yourself

· Halo effect - the tendency to think that everything about a person is good simply because you like them

· Perception bias - the tendency to believe one thing about a group of people based on stereotypes and assumptions, making it impossible to be objective about individuals

· Confirmation bias - the tendency to seek to confirm your pre-existing ideas and assumptions about a group of people

· Group think - the tendency to try too hard to fit into an existing culture, mimicking others and holding back thoughts or opinions, resulting in the loss of identity and lost creativity and innovation

What do you think? Do you have unconscious bias?

Try the Implicit Association Test developed by Harvard University to find out: