Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How 'Unconscious Bias' Affects Workplace Decisions

Nowadays, there is a new diversity topic: hidden or unconscious biases that may color one's judgement while making important workplace decisions. Being human beings, everyone is prone to having such, and in the workplace, if these are left unchecked, the results would be drastic and costly.

Research on hidden bias reveals that unconscious preferences are common – creating barriers, limiting creativity and the quality of relationships we have with those around us. These biases can range from obvious physical characteristics like gender, race, ethnicity and age, to more subtle ones like personality and experiences. Read more about the research here

Although hidden bias is common, it can affect hiring, promotions, evaluations, and dismissals, which is extremely harmful for companies trying to grow and diversify. Read more

What then are diversity companies doing to mitigate the negative effect of hidden or unconscious biases?

As they struggle to diversify their workforces, big businesses are teaching staffers to recognize that "unconscious bias"—or an implicit preference for certain groups—often influences important workplace decisions. BAE, a major defense contractor, is among the growing number of U.S. corporations offering training programs aimed at overcoming these hidden biases. At Microsoft, the training helps hold leaders "accountable for building a diverse culture," a spokeswoman says. Diversity specialists say, companies that pair training with such tactics as joint interviews of applicants and requirements that candidate slates include diverse prospects tend to see faster improvement. Read this article in full here

In a related study on 'unconscious bias,' a concept called 'skin tone memory bias' is explored. Professors at San Francisco State University released a study titled "When an 'Educated' Black Man Becomes Lighter in the Mind’s Eye." The study claims to provide evidence for the subconscious bias where educated black men are remembered as having lighter skin. The claim adds fervor to the implication that successful black people are thought of as exceptions to their race rather than examples of what people within that race are capable of. Read more here

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