Unconscious biases are constantly affecting our thinking, reasoning, and perception of people and things around us. This quick process of judgments and decision-making can negatively impact our businesses and social interactions. To overcome these unconscious biases, we must make an intentional effort to question our automatic thoughts and begin to reconsider the world around us. Here are a some critical steps to managing unconscious bias.
Become More Self-Aware
The first step to overcoming unconscious bias is noticing the problem within ourselves. These quick perceptions are ingrained in our minds as a survival tactic. We must first begin to recognize our patterns of bias and slowly work to disrupt them. The perfect way to do this is through self-reflection activities focused on unconscious bias. We can begin by asking ourselves a few simple questions:
- Who do I feel most comfortable working with?
- Who do I feel least comfortable working with?
- What could I do to better understand or work more effectively with my coworkers?
- How does my behavior in the workplace affect the office culture as a whole?
These four introduction questions help us think about our own unconscious biases and how they play into workplace relations. To take this to the next level, try bias indicators like Harvard’s Project Implicit. This resource contains a myriad of short modules that test our biases for different religions, sexual orientations, and even our political views! These activities and questions challenge our current assumptions and unveil our unconscious biases.
Be a Courageous Ally
Being a curious, courageous, and committed ally helps manage unconscious biases and creates a more comfortable work environment for all. As an ally, our job is to stand up for minority team members who may be experiencing discrimination or harassment. Whether directing team members to your Human Resources team or establishing a safe space in the office, do not be afraid to take action. Through dedicated action, we can generate a positive change for our team. By speaking up for those who may not have a voice, we improve organizational culture, increase employee engagement, and create an inclusive workplace for all.
Expand Our Circles of Friends
This may seem a little out of the ordinary, but our friend groups have an incredible influence on our view of the world. Similar to the Circle of Trust exercise, think about your closest friends and coworkers. Is this group diverse? A homogenous friend group can lead to harmful echo chambers, which reinforce unconscious biases. By expanding our circles of trust, we can become closer with unique individuals and confront our unconscious biases with healthy relationships. The more we interact with diverse groups of people, the more our minds will be opened to others’ experiences. Through this process, we begin to break down harmful stereotypes and establish new ways of thinking.
Managing unconscious bias does not happen overnight. It is a lifetime commitment to the three steps listed above. We must continuously work to become more aware of ourselves, our actions, and our chosen network. However, our diligent self-reflection and work will lead to a ripple effect of positivity within our workplaces and even surrounding communities.
Dima Ghawi is the founder of a global talent development company with a primary mission for advancing individuals in leadership. Through keynote speeches, training programs and executive coaching, Dima has empowered thousands of professionals across the globe to expand their leadership potential. In addition, she provides guidance to business executives to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies and to implement a multi-year plan for advancing quality leaders from within the organization.