Inclusive Leadership and Unconscious Bias

Written by on 29/03/2021

Unconscious Biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organise social worlds by categorising.

Now irrespective of whether you think the training is useful, the science of it is that we all hold it.

Our brain makes what we believe to be logical leaps to answer questions and formulate the rest of the story. But these leaps are based on what we feed our minds therefore what is outside of our conscious awareness manifests itself in biases. 

The areas in which we spend the most amount of time with people outside our echo chamber are at school, united by the want for an education, and work, the want for a cheque. This is why bias in the workplace is so prevalent and also why we must actively work to make unconscious biases part of our conscious awareness.

In order to really combat unconscious bias we need to create environments of high challenge and high support, it needs to be normalised in the workplace culture to call things out without fear of being told “you are being to  sensitive” or accused of playing the race card.

Think about it this way, workplace culture is driven by people, policies and processes, whilst all of us have the ability to change it , those who drive it are those who created it, or they are senior managers in the organisation that define the policies and processes for the people. We need to shift the balance and put people first. 

Sometimes I think about workplace culture like a packed train. When that inevitable incident happens on a packed commuter train and an argument breaks out, if those closest to it do not actively work to solve it, the rest of the organisation can only look on and see senior leaders create space from the problem/ move away / ignore it. You may have some officers / coordinators in the back that really want to say something but the precedent has been set that “that is not what we do here” because no one else is speaking out or they are too far away from the space it is occurring in. 

If we want to actively change our workplace cultures and eliminate biases, we need to all address situations as and when they happen. High challenge – high support. When this becomes the norm, soon after more people will feel comfortable and able to do the same, irrespective of their role. Only then will we start to see people really speak up about their experiences. 

Lastly when this starts to happen, don’t silence it, it will get worse before it gets better, therefore expect lots of challenges before things settle down, after all you have finally given people the chance to speak out. 

So my question to you, is what kind of commuter are you now going to be? 


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