One of the aspects of Diversity2.0 is the focus unconscious biases as a universal condition that all of us are prone. The article in the Scientific American, “Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain” is a well written piece that describes in detail how the natural condition of human beings is to unconsciously discriminate against others who are not like us. But, the really fascinating things in the piece suggest that our bias can be based on the most irrelevant characteristics that you can imagine. From the color of one’s jersey to the random appointment to a group who you have nothing in common with except to belong to that particular group. Even after just a brief time with being associated to a specific group researchers have demonstrated that we will discriminate in favor of our appointed group over members of other groups. And get this…in this instance the race, gender, ethnicity, and other characterisitcs that we think really matter in the end don’t.
Another fascinating fact about bias is that most unconscious bias is “triggered” by the situation or environment that a person can find themselves in. We are basically animals who are guided by patterns of behavior and thoughts. When one of these neural circuits is triggered by relevant conditions then a pattern of thought coded by emotion, and behavior result in the actions we take and the emotions we feel.
What this means for the workplace: 3 Things. First, think about your workplace. What triggers or conditions exist that spark negative emotions in you? What sparks apprehension? What fires you up? A minute of reflection about these questions will help you better understand the type of actions necessary for you to take to stay connected and motivated in your workplace.
Second, reflect on how you perceive a situation with your fellow employees and customers. What you perceive as a slight could just be the manifestation of your own mind interpeting a situation to better fit your preconceived mindset. In other words, what we believe often becomes our reality.
Third, understand that the most powerful thing you can do to reduce you unconscious biases is to give everyone the “benefit of the doubt”. In other words, tell yourself that everyone is doing the best that they can based on the circumstances. And your role is to reflect on what positive value you can add to improve the situation.
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