Understanding and educating about unconscious bias and racism in the workplace

1st August 2019

In a recent interview with the renowned ethologist, primatologist and conservationist, Jane Goodall, HRH The Duke of Sussex mentioned the connection between unconscious bias and racism.

Both racial and unconscious bias continue to have negative impacts on businesses, as well as in society in general. We offer training that supports guidance and learning about unconscious bias and racism in the workplace which supports the following:

  1. Being aware of your prejudices. We all develop prejudices throughout our lives – simply trying to rid ourselves of these is practically impossible. Being aware of, and challenging them is a significant step towards improving relations at work and promoting a working culture of fairness and inclusion. Extend your analysis to your behaviours outside of work, and those of your friends, peers and family. Every aspect of your life can impact our decisions and actions without us realising and the beliefs can be hardwired from a very young age.
  2. Helping others to challenge their unconscious bias. It is vital that every person in your business understands the importance of recognising that their bias can adversely impact on their decisions. Taking steps to mitigate against prejudice in decisions is important. It’s possible your colleagues won’t be aware that they have prejudices so its important to approach this issue with tact and sensitivity. Educating about racism, diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias should be part of the training for all staff with the message and ethos of building an inclusive organisation reinforced constantly by senior management.

Discussions about what unconscious bias is and how you recognise it are important. E-learning provides a positive way of exploring the different types of discrimination people might be subjected to and the effects they have. It can help to look at hypothetical situations and discuss what the right and wrong approaches might be. This can be a really effective method for opening up conversations and helping people understand what their biases are and their impact on others. Using video to highlight where these traits are displayed and identifying incidents of bias, prejudice and racism is also helpful.

  1. Learn how to control your bias. Once you have acknowledged the existence of these biases, you and your colleagues must learn how to manage them. As the term ‘unconscious’ suggests, these behaviours and attitudes surface when we are not monitoring or noticing our conduct. Providing opportunities for staff to reflect on the impact of unconscious bias in their behaviour and decisions will support inclusion.
  2. Make sure your message is clear. From marketing materials to recruitment processes, you must send a clear message that your business promotes diversity and that racism, bigotry and non-inclusive behaviour will never be tolerated. But this must be supported in the reality of the workplace – just one negative impact can have a significant effect on your work culture.
  3. Keep up the good work. As mentioned above, it is an ongoing effort to remove racial prejudices and the impacts of unconscious bias. Simply knowing about bigotry and bias does not automatically result in changes in attitudes or behaviour. Training is hugely valuable, as are open and honest discussions – but it must not stop there. Maintaining awareness of your behaviour, and others in the workplace, and being receptive to the possibility that we continue to have biases (and therefore need to challenge and work on these) goes a long, long way to mitigate unfair impacts.

In his discussion with Ms Goodall, the Duke stated, “(when) you start to peel away all the layers, all the taught behaviour, the learned behaviour, the experienced behaviour…at the end of the day, we’re all human.” By committing to working our hardest to challenge and tackle racism and prejudices we can help ensure we don’t let others, or ourselves, down.

Learn more

We hope these ideas have helped you understand the importance of understanding and educating about unconscious bias and racism in the workplace. Contact us today to find out how our unconscious bias training can help your staff and business.

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