A bias is an unfair inclination towards or against a particular person or group of people. Unconscious bias is when you have a social stereotype that you are not willfully aware of.
It is actually more common than conscious bias and more often than not, it goes against your personal beliefs and values.
Some of the scenarios at work where your unconscious bias can rear its head are during the hiring, deciding on promotions or even when making strategic deals with your business partners.
The most dangerous thing about unconscious bias is that you do not realise you are exercising it and, in the process, end up making decisions that actually slow down the achievement of your business.
As we all build our self-awareness over time, we can begin to identify the red flags of unconscious bias. How about reflecting on 2018 and checking to see if you had any unconscious biases that drove you to make certain decisions? Some indicators of the same include:
Hiring Decisions: There are roles in your team that are not particularly unique, but you have been completely unable to fill them despite advertising, head-hunting and seeking referrals from your friends and colleagues.
Skilled individuals have been interviewed but you simply are not satisfied enough to identify someone and hire them.
In addition, the demographic data from your current team provides some interesting insights. All are alumni of the school you went to, hold similar religious views as you do and dress just like you.
Are you afraid to hire someone who thinks very differently from you? This is likely to be the person whose thought process will drive your team to surpass its targets by trying something radically different and effective that you had never considered.
If you are a highly intuitive person and rely on gut to make decisions, be careful as there is a higher risk of unconscious bias.
Recognition: Year in and out it is the same old faces in the company that are recognised and promoted.
This is a possible indicator of unconscious bias in the sense that your mind is already fixated on your star employees and as such you are not noticing exceptional delivery from other individuals.
It is possible that you may have noticed some stellar delivery from different individuals, but you are biased and as such do not think they deserve it as much as your regular star employee.
Even worse, they could be an introvert who works quietly but effectively, and you do not have the energy to speak out and let the leadership team know they are a star in your team.
You know you will be challenged as the organisation has a culture of only recognising and rewarding employees who are more ‘visible’ and you will have to take time to explain why they deserve the award. This in itself is an unconscious bias.
If you have asked anyone in your team to work on being more visible, you should ask yourself why.
Should the discussion be their visibility within the organisation or their contribution towards achievement of business goals?
The need for visibility within an organisation already speaks to existing biases.
Are you biased in your approach towards allocating strategic projects to your teams, always giving the tried and tested employees the opportunities to deliver on the same while others within the team who are equally or more capable languish within the organisation and eventually decide to resign out of boredom and lack of exposure?
Unconscious bias is something we all have and which ironically in most instances slows down our progression while the very reason we exercise it unknowingly is for it to drive us forward.
Even when making data driven decisions, if you are looking and finding data that backs up your biases, try finding data that does the opposite and I am sure you will come across some useful insights.
Let’s be more aware of our unconscious biases in 2019, be more objective in our decisions and more inclusive in our leadership approach.