Although we all prefer to think that we’re unbiased, many studies have revealed that we all make unconscious choices based upon faulty assumptions. In a recent Fast Company article entitled, “You’re More Biased Than You Think,” a past study is referenced which showed that more female orchestra members were hired once the judges were only allowed to listen to those who were auditioning. Each person had to perform while sitting hidden behind a screen.
This article goes on to note that everyone raised in any type of “cultural context” is going to form [incorrect or biased] “implicit associations “ about others, regardless of whether they’re male or female. Given this human tendency, we all owe it to ourselves and our employees to do everything we can to minimize bias in the workplace. If we fail to do this, far too many people will be marginalized due to our unacknowledged racial, ethnic and gender biases. For example, there are many unjustifiable reasons why women are paid less for the same work as men, even when they have equal or stronger training and experience.
Here are some helpful ideas for effectively overriding some of our natural, cultural [and personal] biases in the workplace.
Important Steps for Reducing Bias in the Workplace
- Before interviewing any new job candidates, create a list of required qualifications. Once you start reviewing resumes, only consider applicants who fully meet the minimum requirements already established;
- Use the same interview questions for every applicant. Also, carefully make note of the answers since it can be tempting to avoid taking any notes when candidates are equally qualified;
- When you speak, start noting your word choices. According to researchers, we all have a tendency to communicate negative “microaggressions” to others. These are often revealed in our word choices, body language, and behavior. Columbia Psychology Professor Dr. Derald Wing Sue says that by doing this we convey certain “indignities” to others that are very counterproductive. It’s even wise to become “hyperconscious” of your word choices, perhaps always choosing more bland terms to avoid offending others;
- Look around the workplace and see if there are any unfair or biased environmental messages being sent to workers. This Fast Company article noted that if you’re going to name major conference rooms after accomplished people in certain fields, make sure that all genders and ethnic groups are equally represented.
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