“Unconscious Bias: The News Isn’t All Bad”

Let’s face it, unconscious bias is the plague of the workplace. It interferes with our ability to see others accurately, to be successful with customers, and, most sadly, to treat people with respect.

Fortunately, as is the nature of many things in life, the news about unconscious bias isn’t all bad. There’s just a bit – but a significant “bit” – of good news to be had.

Bit of Good News #1: This first bit of good news comes in the form of a reminder.  Remember: Having a bias does not make a person bad. If having a bias made us bad people, we’d all be in big trouble. Sure some biases are more destructive than others, but the basic tendency to have what I define as “an inflexible belief about a particular category of people” is universal.

Why is this good news? And, more importantly, why is that good news to be shared?  Because once a person no longer believes that a bias makes us bad, we are far more comfortable taking the steps necessary for uncovering it and, ultimately, ridding the bias from our thinking. In short, biases don’t make us bad, it’s what we do about them that matters.

Bit of Good News #2: It is possible to become aware of all but the most deeply held biases. No longer do researchers believe that these inflexible beliefs are doomed to remain forever hidden. There are, for example, on-line devices such as the Implicit Association Test that provide clues to biases that are otherwise lurking beneath the surface. In addition, there are more portable tools like the “First Thoughts Strategy” that involves getting into the habit of noticing the first assumption that pops into our heads when encountering someone different from ourselves. Because of the existence of these approaches, all that is needed is some willingness and perseverance for most biases to be uncovered.

Bit of Good News #3: Once we are aware of our biases, we are primed to move on with the process of ridding ourselves of their blinding influence. From identifying what we have in common to using logic to reduce their impact to acting as if the bias does not exist, there are actionable steps that can make a real difference in your life and lives of those around you.

© Copyright Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.   All rights reserved.




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