Being Biased vs. Recognizing Differences
A diverse workplace has a multitude of benefits and promotes a stronger work environment. Every workplace is faced with the challenge of acknowledging differences but stopping discrimination. However, it is key to ensure that while recognizing that someone is different is okay, assuming characteristics about him or her because they are different is not.
According to the ALA, there are three kinds of bias in the workplace- the bad, the ugly, and the unacknowledged.
- The Bad -- “Bad Bias” is what causes us to limit people with our assumptions. E.g. People with accents shouldn’t have jobs that allow them to engage with the public This type of bias lies within our thoughts, and sometimes is said out loud or unconsciously written.
- The Ugly -- Ugly bias is the easiest bias to identify and is generally blanketed statements and generalizations that can’t be proven. People on welfare are lazy. This is the most blatant form of bias.
- The Unacknowledged - Unacknowledged bias can sometimes seem positive, and even impersonate helpfulness. Asians are good at math. We should speak slowly and clearly to people with accents. However, unacknowledged bias is what leads to problems that both “bad” and “ugly” bias perpetuate - alienation, limited opportunities, and underestimation.
Almost everyone holds some form of bias but many people don’t realize it. This form of “bad” bias is usually what causes people to make hurtful and damaging statements without even recognizing they’re being discriminatory. Here are steps that the ALA recommends people follow to help end workplace bias:
- Reflect. Take some time to reflect on the biases that you might have. Think about these logically and rationally, and try to remember how these biases were formed.
- Confront. Why are you holding onto a bias? Is it out of fear? An insecurity? Are you unfamiliar or uneducated about another culture?
- Engage. Eliminate your bias through personal experience. Engage in a conversation with someone different than you, and understand him or her as an individual.
- Commit. Make your relationship about concentrating on getting to know the individual, not a group. Commit to understanding what makes each person unique.
- Maintain. Maintain relationships with individuals who are different than you and use meeting others as a way to get to know that person, not generalize about a group.
- Discuss. Use discussion to help point out lingering bias and to keep moving forward with building a discrimination-free workplace.
The FairWords Difference
As an advocate for diversity, FairWords believes that every workplace should be a safe zone where all employees are protected against bias and discriminatory remarks. Educating employees in the moment is key to preventing and stopping “bad” bias that people are unaware they’re committing. A workplace where differences are acknowledged but not stereotyped is proven to help companies and employees flourish. What efforts does your company make to fight discrimination? Have you ever experienced bias at work? What did your company do about it?