Unconscious Biases: Recognising Yours and Working on Them

How do you percieve people?Doing something unconsciously means doing something automatically or without thinking.

And whilst it can be helpful sometimes, ie we don’t have to think about breathing – we just breathe – it is something that we need to be aware of.

We’re bombarded with vast amounts of information every day so our adept brains use filters to process this data.  But sometimes they have blind spots and give us wrong information.

This wrong information (aka unconscious biases) causes us to judge people and form instant opinions about them.

But, did you know that we actually perceive others based on our own experiences, values and beliefs?  How we think, what our morals are, how we were brought up and what we’ve previously experienced, all contribute to how we see people.

And that’s why unconscious biases can be our downfall.

Working in fast-paced, competitive and ever-expanding organisations that are now more likely to be spanning global markets, means it’s important for us to recognise our own unconscious biases.  Once we identify them, it’s only then that we can take action and make those all-important changes. Do any of these strike a chord with you?

Gender biases

It’s common knowledge that there are far more male business leaders than women.  And that’s a debate for another day but in order to discover your own unconscious gender biases, think about these questions:

  1. Does your company organise team-building days which require women with young children to stay away overnight/weekends?
  2. Is socialising outside of work a big part of your organisation’s culture?
  3. If a role within your organisation requires lots of travelling, would your unconscious bias lead you to appointing a man instead of a woman?

These questions may be hard-hitting but they’ll help you to get to the crux of any implicit prejudices.

Cultural biases

We have an understanding of social norms and expect things to be done in a particular way.  And these cultures of expectations can create challenges.  Whether it presents obstacles when new employees come on board or it emerges when organisations expand to different countries or continents, cultural biases need to be kept under control.

Accept that we all have different backgrounds and different ways of working because until you do so, you and your organisation will struggle to thrive in a world-wide marketplace.

Personality clashes

Think of someone who really knows how to rub you up the wrong way.  Now, try and think of how you react to them when you’re in the same meeting.

  • Are you less responsive?
  • Do you stay quiet?
  • Do you avoid their gaze?
  • Are you cold or indifferent towards them?

If you do, then congratulations, you’ve found an unconscious bias.  Now it’s time to tackle it head-on.  Left untreated, it can corrode team dynamics, affect performance and, if you’re acting out of character when this person is around, people will notice.

We all have unconscious biases – that’s how we survive.  Isn’t it about time you found out about yours?  Isn’t it time you delved into your team’s unconscious biases?  Putting steps in place to minimise the detrimental impact of unconscious biases can prove significantly beneficial to your long-term future.

Try to remain objective and be conscious of your own behaviour.  If your unconscious biases are too deeply rooted then consider training, reading up on the subject and taking positive steps to overcoming it.

Get in touch with us to see how we can help.  We’ll share our wealth of resources and experience to help tap into where your biases may be hiding.  And once you’ve found them, we’ll help you do the rest.


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