Unconscious bias is the inclination that people hold towards an idea, individual, group, or belief. It can cause people to act positively or negatively based on a preconceived idea of certain traits. Often unconscious biases are negative and are based on discrimination and stereotyping based on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, age, and disabilities.
Where do these biases originate from? It’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly where all the biases come from, due to the number of factors. However, we are exposed to things though out our upbringing, the people we associate with and our social surroundings often have an impact on the biases we develop. Subconsciously we see patterns which but don’t notice them till we get old for example most primary school teacher are female.
There are a few reason sociologists suggest this happens, the first is the labelling theory. This is the theory where people who are labelled as something such as lazy, they will behave as they are perceived with others. This theory is associated often to crime, for example if you are an ex-convict people will still label you as a criminal even if you have served you time. Being treated differently by people will enforce your label and cause you to change the way you behave. This theory also links to the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, this is essentially referring to when someone excepts their label and it becomes a reality because the individual believes it to be true. An example of this is if a teach labels a child as low potential the child may try less because they assume they’ll always be low potential.
The second contributor to biases is Social Learning Theory. This theory proposes that individuals learn biases and behaviour though observing others. These behaviours could be positive or negative and it’s based out the consequences that follow these behaviours. This is normally learned through role models when you’re a child, you pick up norms, values, attitudes, and beliefs. This essentially mean that through your parents/role models you can unintentionally learn biases without even being aware they are biases.
Now we know where these biases come from how does this affect us in the work place? Biases can affect all types of work and every aspect of the business. A few examples of how biases are currently affecting the workplace are.
– This is due to gender bias and is one of the main reasons for the wage gap. However, lower wages could also be due to a race bias too.
Mental Health Problems
– Unconscious bias has an impact on the way we treat people, this effects the way we interact with people. This could lead to people feeling alienated, have low esteem or worsen already existing mental health problems. Such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
– A lack of diversity can cause multiple problems, employees that are underrepresented have limited role models, limited perspectives and it could cause a toxic work environment.
– Biases restrict peoples potential and can cause them to miss out on promotions and training. This will affect the moral of the employee but also could be detrimental to the organisation as well.
The best way to combatting unconscious biases is to first understand that you and everyone else has unconscious biases. Once you start to learn more about unconscious bias the easier it’ll be to start combating it. Blind CV’s is an initiative when you remove the name, gender, and age to prevent the employer being swayed. Making promotion initiatives clear and consistent in advance so all you employees will know you making the choice based on a predetermined criterion. Cultural Awareness training allows people to understand and appreciate each other’s cultures. Understanding the differences is key to defeating Unconscious Bias.
Since our partnership with Me Learning
, we have had access to their portfolio of informative online courses which underpins our Value People and Sustainable Prosperity values. Following the team completing our Unconscious Bias training
, we had a greater understanding of the subject and considered how we could support our customers and candidates to overcome bias by improving our day-to-day operations and think more consciously when making a hiring decision. One example is we now provide blind CV’s as standard to ensure candidates are evaluated based on merit and not any preconceived bias.