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Uncover Unconscious Bias

Learn what is unconcsious bias, how it affects your actions & how to mitigate it in your company.

Brief Summary

The concept of bias refers to a preference for, or opposition to one thing, person, or group compared to another, usually with unfair results. An individual, group, or institution may hold a bias, which can have a positive or negative impact. There are two types of biases: conscious (explicit) bias and unconscious (implicit) bias.

In contrast to conscious prejudice, unconscious bias is far more prevalent. Unconscious biases reflect social stereotypes about certain groups of people that are formed outside of our own conscious awareness. Most unconscious bias shows up as a preference for those similar to ourselves (affinity bias), rather than against other groups. In certain situations, such as when multitasking or under time pressure, unconscious attitudes and beliefs may be more easily activated.

HBR reports four distinct ways bias plays out in everyday work interactions. Prove it again: some groups have to prove themselves more than others do. Tightrope: a narrower range of behaviors is accepted from some groups than from others. Maternal wall: Women with children see their competence questioned or face disapproval for being too career focused. Tug-of-war: Disadvantaged groups find themselves pitted against one another because of differing strategies for assimilating.


Even if we think we're free of it and we believe we make objective decisions, implicit bias can impact our actions. Even if you work on your conscious mind-set, unconscious mental shortcuts and split second decisions prevail. People can be consciously committed to equality, and work deliberately to behave without prejudice, yet still possess negative prejudices or stereotypes.

Unconscious bias causes us to act in ways that reinforces  stereotypical notions unconsciously even though we consciously consider that behavior counter to our value system.


The first step in reducing bias for any person or organization is to acknowledge and create awareness that unconscious bias exists inside each of us.

Next, proceed by focusing on these four areas. A carefully crafted workplace culture can reinforce positive norms. Your governance & people processes should specifically address how to mitigate unconscious bias. To recognize the assumptions we make, help employees reflect on their preconceptions and how those affect decision-making; we’re bombarded with social stereotypes from our culture and norms and while you can’t control what employees bring to the workplace and you can’t eliminate bias, you can train for critical thinking to identify and mitigate bias.

dei progress

Proposed Actions

  • Determine which biases are most likely to affect you - take tests, like Harvard’s Implicit Association Test, to assess which of your own actions are most likely to be influenced by unconscious biases.
  • Interrupt bias - if your colleagues use words that reinforce negative stereotypes, speak up.
  • Use the same standards for everyone when formally evaluating employees - challenge your assumptions by thinking about the person you're analyzing from the other gender, race, age, etc., to see if your language and evaluation change.
  • Be a visible ally - promote the achievements of underrepresented groups and speak out in favor of their growth and advancement.

Valued Guidance

Implementation Plan

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