[0] => WP_Post Object
            [ID] => 22969
            [post_author] => 120
            [post_date] => 2018-05-08 11:50:36
            [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-08 11:50:36
            [post_content] => unconscious-bias

Unconscious Bias workshops are currently very popular as part of equality, diversity and inclusion programmes. Organisations are working towards raising awareness of how we as human beings make decisions especially about other groups of people, and how we can build more inclusive workplaces.

Unconscious biases are implicit preferences we have about other people. Throughout our life each one of us gather millions of pieces of information and categorise this information to help us make sense of the world and to enable us to make quick decisions.

We use social identities to categorise the information we gather, such as gender, race, culture or even profession, appearance, age, role, grade, education, hobbies. We then apply positive or negative associations to each category we create.

Some categories can be understood to some level as we can access media, news, social influences that we are all subject to, such as gender bias on TV programmes. However, most biases are not even aware to the individual as we each gather categories and perceived negative or positive associations from personal experiences and influences.


All Biases are Created Equal

We all have bias, and it is a normal part of how we as humans operate. However, we know there are common biases that human beings are subject to;

Affinity Bias – we are more likely to apply positive attributions to someone we have an affinity with, so if we went to the same school as someone it can create a natural affinity. As we have an affinity we are more likely to see the positive traits in them as they are ‘like us’ and we are more likely to trust them

Confirmation bias – our brain will look for evidence to support what we already think is correct. So, if you think everyone from a certain group has a set of characteristics you will look for evidence of this. Your brain is satisfied when it has confirmed the existing thought process and will not be motivated to look for further information.

Primacy effect - First impression of a person tends to influence their future assessment

Halo effect – Seeing one area of success in a person and thinking that they are successful on a wider scale. You will see their halo and that will affect your overall impression. Important to realise not everyone else will see the halo and therefore more likely to notice other behaviours that you can be blind too. The opposite of this is ‘horns effect’ where we see one negative trait and it influences our overall perception of the person.

Beauty Bias – judging someone on their appearance.

Age bias – judging someone on their age and making assumptions about their values, behaviours or ability.

Gender bias – Judging someone on their gender or showing preference to one gender or asking gender biased questions.

Generational Bias – Each generation will have been influenced by media, tv, world events and social experiences of their era. This creates a shared view of the world for each generation. By not realising other generations will have a different view causes a bias towards other generations.

Biases become obvious through showing preferences to one person such as recommending them for a promotion or hiring them. Biases can also play out in a subtler way through micro affirmations or small evidences of body language such as head tilts, smiles, listening etc.

We can see evidence of affinity bias in a team meeting, where some people are listened to more attentively. The person not being actively listened will feel this and it can lead to demotivation or perceived unfair treatment. Consciously listening to each team member, can be a big step in overcoming bias and working towards an inclusive culture.


Recognising the Blind Spots

565362-636271626317077735-16x9It is important to recognise that most biases don’t come from a place of bad intent, and as we learn to reflect on our biases there is a need to be kind to ourselves to allow us to recognise our biases and then improve and biased behaviour moving forward. We have a ‘bias blind spot’ in that we are more likely to recognise biased behaviour in others. This is because we will notice behaviours or actions that are not in line with the way we think.

So, when working with your teams and colleagues it is also important to show tolerance when highlighting any biased behaviour you perceive. Holding each other accountable and calling out biased behaviour is essential in modern workplaces and is effective if we use it as an opportunity to learn and develop.




Clare Mulligan is associate facility on the IMI Diploma in Organisational Behaviour, a Business Psychologist and researcher in the area of organisational behaviour and regularly provides consultancy & research projects to both public and private sector companies in the areas of diversity, workforce planning and leadership. [post_title] => Being conscious of the unconscious [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => conscious-unconscious [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-03-27 11:45:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-03-27 11:45:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25404 [post_author] => 139 [post_date] => 2019-04-12 15:09:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-12 15:09:34 [post_content] => [post_title] => Agility: elusive, but essential and the key to thinking differently [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => agility-elusive-essential-key-thinking-differently [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-17 14:51:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-17 14:51:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20891 [post_author] => 104 [post_date] => 2017-09-11 07:48:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-09-11 07:48:10 [post_content] => [post_title] => Developing Emotional Intelligence with Business Simulations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => developing-emotional-intelligence-business-simulations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-28 00:01:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-28 00:01:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Kevin Empey

Kevin Empey

13th Feb 2020

Kevin Empey is Programme Director of IMI's Senior Executive Programme.

Related Articles

Being conscious of the unconscious
Agility: elusive, but essential and the key to thinking differently
Developing Emotional Intelligence with Business Simulations

Leadership Essentials for the Changing World of Work

On top of working flat out to run and grow the current business, we are told we need to transform and prepare our organizations for emerging technologies, rapid change and the so-called Future of Work. And all this doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon. So, how do we deal with this is as leaders?


Slowing down to move fast

The temptation is to speed up ourselves, trying to keep up with all the moving parts and control them. For most that will be a sure-bet way for more stress and burnout; features of modern working life that are becoming far too common as it is.

Surely it would be preferable to be able to thrive and adapt to this changing world of work rather than just cope and lurch from one ‘always-on’ weekend to another? And in doing so, wouldn’t this also make life better not just for ourselves and our teams but also for others who live with us outside work?

One place to start is to acknowledge that this is an issue and that your own leadership model that has served you well so far may need an upgrade for what lies ahead. As Marshall Goldsmith wrote in his book of the same title, “What got you here, won’t get you there”.


1. Be Yourself, With Skill

There is a temptation to think that there is some perfect leadership style or persona out there and that you need to somehow change your DNA that has formed the person and leader that you are today. Trying to copy others wholesale is not sustainable and people will see through it, adding to your complications.

Being self-aware of your own leadership strengths and skills as well as being open and mindful of your blind-spots and emotional triggers is a necessary place to start. It is much easier to manage stressful situations when you are acting in a deliberate way as your self-aware self.


2. You don’t need to have all the answers

You won’t have all the answers with the pace things are moving so let’s get that monkey off our back and dispel the illusion that we do or that we need to pretend we do. We are in the age of the authentic leader and this should help somewhat in ending the pretence of perfection and in having all the answers for everyone demanding them of us.

Showing vulnerability and openness is an essential building block of trust and will invite others in to share the load. Followers will respect rather than doubt you and, most importantly, they will follow your example.

This will create a safe environment where problems as well as innovations and opportunities will be aired freely without the fear of ridicule or blame. Change will be something that is embraced rather than avoided.


3. Show the way and let them get on with it

Generally, it’s up to leaders to provide direction for their people to follow on their own.

Being vulnerable does not mean being weak or un-clear. The adaptive leader sets clear ground rules and parameters, clarifies and explains the purpose and direction but then lets their teams get on with it.

In a supportive environment of trust and clear goals, employee will respond and thrive. You need other leaders and employees around you that will seek and accept autonomy and accountability because you simply don’t have the time to be everywhere and on everyone’s case.

With some space and process provided for regular review and open, safe feedback, the team can course correct and hold each other to account, often without you in the room. This agile and accountable team working culture will reduce the time you spend on supervision considerably allowing you to focus on other things.


4. Identify your own ‘best boss’ habits

What are the simple human behaviours and habits that made your best boss memorable and motivating to you ? What would your team say to the same question ?

Identify these trade mark habits that come naturally to you and use them often. Encourage other leaders working for you to do the same and you will be creating leaders to help you deliver your goals as well as creating the working culture you want to see.


5. Show appreciation and provide feedback

To re-enforce an agile, accountable and trusting working culture, feedback is essential. There is no time for problems to fester and develop. Celebrate success and shift the balance to re-enforce the behaviours you want to see rather than over-dwelling on what you don’t want to see. People will soon figure out what is the right way of doing things under your watch.

Generate a climate of enablement and empowerment rather than control and compliance – this shift alone will unleash talent, performance and engagement in your teams.

These ‘Future of Work’ nuances required for leadership today, combined with what we all know from our own experience about the age-old and enduring qualities that simply make up what it is to be a “good boss”, will help leaders thrive in the new landscape and will also allow others in their care to do the same.