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Overcoming unconscious bias

24th November 2016

Unconscious bias is the result of messages from a wide array of sources introduced into our subconscious from an early age. We all harbour prejudices whether we think we do or not, and everyone is subject to their own unconscious bias. Many of these prejudices that are deeply held in our unconscious can unintentionally influence how we act toward one another in our organisations.

Use these 5 Tips to understand and overcome unconscious bias:

  1. Take an Implicit Associations Test

A good place to start is with an Implicit Associations Test (IAT), developed by Tony Greenwald, a University of Washington professor who started researching unconscious bias in 1994. The test takes five minutes and cuts through the perceptions of our own biases on gender, religion, race, sexuality and more.

  1. Recognize Your Own Biases

You need to be honest with yourself about the stereotypes that affect you. For example, you may consciously think that men and women are equally effective leaders, but someone of the opposite sex may not have the same level of empathy and people skills as you.

  1. Increase Exposure to Biases

Declare your intentions about valuing a diverse workforce. Saying words out loud, or writing them down, sends a clear message to everyone you work with, as well as to your own subconscious.

  1. Surround yourself with positive words and images

Surround yourself with positive words and images about people you might have stereotypical thoughts about to help eliminate negative biases. For example, if you are interviewing someone who has just moved from another country and you’re worried about them being capable, look at positive images from that country and its culture, so you won’t subconsciously assume they are not capable of doing the job.

  1. Use language that is clear and non-biased

Use words such as “he or she” instead of always using “he,” in internal documents, job descriptions and other management practices. Also avoid using positive language for preferred team members or groups, and avoid referencing peoples age by saying “that young girl” or “that old bloke”