Unconscious bias is the human tendency of forming opinions about others without having enough information. In the workplace this bias can stem from stereotypes, preconceived notions, past experiences, or gut instinct. Unconscious bias occurs when an individual is unaware of a prejudice they hold against a person or group of persons. This can be evident if a manager tends to favor people with a similar educational background—without realizing it. 

In order to combat bias, you have to acknowledge that it exists. Speak to the feelings, perceptions and opinions. Why do these biases exist? How can they be corrected? 

Ultimately leadership and management should model the behavior we need to see in the workplace. Treating others fairly and judging people and coworkers based on their character and abilities, not on their external appearance or physical traits. 

Here are 4 ways management can combat unconscious bias.

1. Review HR Hiring Policies

  • Job posts should use clear brand facing communication optimized to appeal to the broadest pool of candidates.
  • Hiring questions should be the same for all candidates applying for the same position.
  • Use a psychometric test prior to the interview to gauge competencies and predict performance.
  • Hiring practices should be made solely on intellectual abilities.

2. Update the Company Code of Conduct

All members of the organization should be respectful of themselves and others. Trainings can be created and conducted for role specific needs or general audiences that uphold the company’s goal of fairness, transparency and integrity.  Examining unconscious bias is necessary when it helps leaders and employees become kinder and more empathetic to their employees.

3. Reexamine Company Policies

Not all policies may be to the benefit and ease of the employee. As an example, certain dress code or appearance requirements could cause stress to employees if they are restrained by finances, religious beliefs or even gender identities. Workplace policies need to include rather exclude. Other policies could include healthcare and cost of premiums, sick-leave for illnesses or family planning. Organizations need to prioritize that people want to be valued and feel secure in their situation. An organization that works against basic human rights can cause hardship. 

4. Workplace Environment, Food and Events

With laws around gender identity in some states in the US, even the use of a bathroom can cause bias in the workplace that can leave individuals within your organization alienated. Private and accessible stalls, gender-neutral bathrooms, noise-canceling accommodations, clean and functioning equipment can go a long way to providing comfort and trust with how the organization can treat their employees. Snacks and food prepared at events can cater to the nutritional needs of each individual whether personal, religious or dietary to help all feel included and seen. Putting a bit of extra thought into the comfort of your teams needs, shows that you appreciate the qualities that make them unique and the value they provide. 

Looking acutely at hiring practices, company policies and other environment conditions will open the door to what your organization can do to modernize its practices to address and eliminate unconscious bias.