10 Tips to Reduce Unconscious Bias at Work

Posted by

Lynne Callister

on 13 Mar 2024

Unconscious bias may lead to certain groups being treated less favourably. To help, we have 10 tips on how to reduce bias in the workplace.

10 Ways to Reduce Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

When we meet people, we often judge them based on what we see, like their age, weight and attractiveness. However, we may also judge them based on their accent, where they studied, and their socio-economic status.

Rapid processing occurs when our brains make quick judgements of people and situations around us, often without realising it. This can sometimes lead to unconscious bias. Our biases are likely influenced by our background, culture and personal experiences. However, these biases can lead to out-groups being treated less favourably and even discrimination.

Research has shown that unintentional bias can negatively impact recruitment, training, and other work-related decisions.

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Top tips to help tackle unconscious bias in your firm

1. Be aware of your unconscious biases

Bias is part of being human, but we can't tackle it if we don't acknowledge this. Take an Implicit Association Test (IAT) to become more aware of your own biases.

2. Make considered decisions

Unintentional bias is more likely when you make fast decisions or act on the spur of the moment, so be sure to take a step back.

3. Monitor your and your team's behaviour

Question your first impressions and extreme reactions to people; reflect on any rapid decisions you make (i.e. were they made objectively, or was unconscious bias at play?)

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4. Pay attention to bias linked to protected characteristics

Decisions biased by age, disability, sex, maternity, race, religion, etc can constitute discrimination under the Equality Act. Ensure that you don't violate the law.

5. Widen your social circle

Don't sit with the same colleague every day. Move around and spend time with people from different cultural and academic backgrounds. This will build your cultural competence and lead to better understanding.

6. Set ground rules for behaviour

Don't tolerate interruptions in your team; make sure everyone gets a fair hearing and has an equal chance to give their opinion.

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7. Avoid making assumptions or relying on gut instinct

For example, "My boss said she didn't offer me the project because I have a new baby and there's some travel." Don't assume you know best, as you may jump to the wrong conclusion.

8. Use rotas to avoid stereotyping

Have rotas for 'housekeeping' tasks, such as taking the minutes in a meeting, organising refreshments, etc., to ensure fairness and reduce the potential for gender stereotyping.

9. Speak out if you notice bias 

For example, if a male colleague talks over a female colleague, tactfully point out that you wanted to hear what she had to say. If your boss only assigns the stretching projects to the guys or your white colleagues, have a quiet word.

10. Apologise if you get it wrong

Remember that we can only deal with bias if we're honest and admit our mistakes. If you or another team member makes an error of judgment, a timely apology can go a long way toward getting a positive vibe back in your team culture.

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