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Support for the Black Lives Matter Movement: Implicit Bias Training (Part 4 of 12)

This is the fourth post in a 12-part series on how companies can show support for the black lives matter (BLM) movement by changing company policies and practices. This post focuses on implicit bias and the effect it has on the work environment and choices that leaders can make to help managers recognize their own implicit bias and help to minimize its effect.

Implicit bias is something that every person has; biases can be good and bad, even though often implicit bias is discussed as having negative effects. Learning what implicit bias is and then accepting and acknowledging the adverse effects they have needs to happen in order for change to occur. What is implicit bias? It is it a collection of subliminal thoughts or notions that individuals have that affect how they process or understand information, the decisions they make, and the actions that they take. There are a multitude of different biases that affect our daily life. As examples:

  • Anchoring Bias: The first piece of information that we hear about a subject often creates an over-reliance on that piece of information. As an example, an applicant goes in for an interview, hoping (non-verbally) that the job pays $60,000 a year. During the salary negotiation the starting offer is $90,000, this has now established a different range of possibilities in the applicant’s mind and an anchoring bias has been created.
  • Confirmation Bias: Drawing conclusions about a person or situation based on beliefs or prejudices. Most individuals have some preconceptions about a situation or a circumstance. Confirmation bias results in employees or applicants only actively listening to the information that confirms that preconception.
  • Outcome Bias: Once you jumped off of a bridge and nothing bad happened; does that mean it's safe to jump off of the bridge again? This would be an example of outcome bias. An individual is judging the rationality of a current choice or decision based on a previous outcome, not whether the decision at the time was sound or rational.
  • Conservatism Bias: Often people favor previous or prior evidence over new evidence (you know how hard it is to admit we were wrong), the struggles individuals face with accepting new evidence to change their opinion is a form of conservatism bias.

There are a host of other biases that affect our decision-making, but consider how just these four biases relate to race and attempts to create diversity, equity, and inclusion within your organization. Additionally, consider the following steps:

  • Read more about what implicit bias is. A great starting point is the Ohio State University Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity
  • Understand your own implicit bias. Take Harvard University’s Project Implicit Implicit Bias Test
  • Schedule Implicit Bias Training. Research local providers in your area who are trained in implicit bias and can provide managers with an understanding of their implicit bias and how it could be affecting their decisions, including:
    • Hiring decisions
    • Promotion decisions
    • Discipline
    • Job and project assignments

In the past concerns have been raised about acknowledging implicit bias (through tests or trainings) and the effect it could have in Title VII claims. While there is always a possibility (has a lawyer ever not been able to point to some risk in any practice) that these topics could adversely affect future litigation, the positive effects of understanding and attempting to overcome these biases likely outweigh the risk. The science shows that we all have implicit bias, failing or refusing to acknowledge that will not assist in minimizing risks of Title VII discrimination claims.

In addition to understanding your own implicit bias and how it affects decision-making, other ways you can create policies that lead to actual change include:

  • If you don’t already have one, make sure that you have an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy that is easily accessible to employees and applicants (this is the bare minimum of what all employers should be doing, but is also the foundation of the process). Read more about this here.
  • Train employees on anti-discrimination laws, duties, and policies. If you already perform training, great, but consider ways you can make the training more impactful. Read more about this here.
  • Provide third-party intervention training to employees and managers so that they have tools and resources to assist them should they witness racist behavior or microagressions in the workplace.
  • Update your grooming/personal appearance policy to include language that forbids discrimination based on hair style and hair texture.
  • Consider the creation of affinity groups with the purpose of providing a platform/forum for employees to discuss ways in which the company can create a more inclusive and equitable environment.
  • Educate your managers about the differences between diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Review past EEO-1 and Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) information to identify places in which the company could be doing better (even if not required by law).
  • Stop referral-based hiring programs as these continue to perpetuate the hiring of non-diverse candidates.
  • Listen to the experiences of black employees and employees of color.
  • Educate your managers and decision-makers about the BLM movement and the injustices experienced by black employees and employees of color.

Click here to read part three of this blog series.

Topics: Discrimination, HR Best Practices