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What’s The Difference Between Conscious and Unconscious Bias

Inside the brain - A screenshot from our Unconscious Bias Training course

Biases are a natural part of human nature, and it can be as simple as expressing that we prefer some things over others. Sometimes we can be acutely aware of our biases, which are often valid. However, it's also easy to let them influence our opinions and behaviour without questioning if we're being fair or not.

How unconscious bias strikes

But we also have biases that we're not aware of, commonly known as "unconscious biases." These come from the part of our brain that makes snap, automatic judgments without realising or considering them.

So, even though most of us think we're making reasonable, fair, and conscious decisions, they're only the tip of the iceberg. Our unconscious biases constantly influence us, and without digging deeper - we don't really know what they are...or how often they occur!

When we fail to consider or take accountability for our unconscious biases, it can cause us to behave in a way that makes us more naturally biassed towards people, places, and situations. 

It's important to grasp that bias can be positive or negative. But it's more often; they tend to be unreasonable, inaccurate, and unfair. Naturally, this type of bias can cause numerous issues in and outside the workplace.

How do you identify and address unconscious bias?

Spotting bouts of unconscious bias can be a challenge, and it's something that we have to pay attention to prevent it from happening so mindlessly.  

To minimise tendencies of unconscious bias, it's essential to be more in-tune with your thoughts, aware of your behaviours, and connected to your automatic responses to people and situations; this will make unconscious bias easier to identify and prevent uncomfortable situations from occurring.

Taking ownership is key

Being more sensitive to the impact of unconscious bias is the all-important first step in the process, and it takes constant practice until it becomes second nature. 

Being mindful of what our brains and bodies are doing when they think we're not paying attention will highlight significant traits and patterns in our behaviour. 

When we fail to practice self-awareness, it's impossible to recognise any natural or automatic responses; it's easier to respond impulsively or blindly without really thinking about our decisions' impact on others. This often results in people being mistreated based on a bias you're consciously aware of.

But don't worry; there is a simple way to tackle conscious and unconscious bias, which will significantly help reduce it surfacing, both in your personal and professional life. The ACT concept, which stands for Acknowledge, Challenge, and Train, is a valuable resource that can help you challenge and eliminate bouts of bias.

Acknowledge: We must acknowledge that our biases influence our behaviours, even when we appear unaware of them.

Challenge: Once we've identified a bias, we must challenge it, whether it's ours or one we've identified in others, personally or within the workplace.

Train: Finally, it's crucial to train your mind because it's all too easy to fall back into old habits by letting the unconscious part of your mind take shortcuts and make snap judgments.

How can unconscious bias be eradicated in the workplace?

Below are a few strategies you can implement to challenge unconscious bias in the workplace:

Micro-actions

Most of us don't even realise we're doing it, but we have mannerisms that show our hidden feelings or unconscious biases. These are called micro-actions or micro-behaviours.

Micro-actions include our facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and whether we keep eye contact when we're talking to someone.

Our micro-actions will change with different people and as our surroundings/circumstances alter, so take a look at how you behave around your colleagues and see if you can spot your 'tells' - it can help you identify unconscious biases. 

Obvious tells include relaxed or crossed arms; a straight back or slumped shoulders; a genuine smile or a forced once, and looking someone in the eye or at the floor... or anywhere except their eyes! 

When you successfully identify some of your positive micro-actions, try to use them with everyone. This subtle approach will help you put new and healthier practices into the process. In turn, you will learn different ways to communicate with each person you meet, being more self-aware, which will help you reduce any tendencies of bias.

Create an inclusive workplace culture

One of the most impactful and supportive things you can do is to help create a workplace culture that embraces diversity and promotes inclusion for all. Accessibility and inclusivity are the best ways to get comfortable with different backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles, and more.

If you go to work with a genuine interest in what you can learn from your colleagues, it opens your mind to the many rich and unique ways tasks, projects, and people can be approached.

You're also likely to find inspiring solutions when various ideas are thrown into the mix. It sparks imaginative and forward-thinking solutions to obstacles and challenges.

Your workplace should be a safe and secure space where everyone feels comfortable. People must think others are receptive when discussing any concerns, problems, or experiences... including bias. 

We suggest creating a code of conduct for all employees to follow. Should they have any questions, problems, or ideas to discuss, they should be encouraged to share. This practice dramatically reduces the occurrence of bias in the workplace and promotes inclusion.

Training

All employees must understand the significance of creating an inclusive workplace culture, which can be best achieved and supported through high-quality workplace training.

Here at iHASCO, we offer an Unconscious Bias Training course that has been designed to teach the user about unconscious bias in the workplace, strategies for reducing bias at work, and their responsibilities.

Additionally, we offer an Unconscious Bias Training for Managers course covering the above sections and a manager's responsibilities when dealing with bias.  

Both courses are CPD Accredited and provide the user with a printable certificate upon completion of the end-of-training test.

You can claim a free, no-obligation trial to either of the courses today! Alternatively, you can request a bespoke quote for your organisation, and a member of our team will be in touch with you shortly to discuss your training requirements.

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