These days, it is more and more common to hear the term “unconscious bias.” What exactly does that mean? Biases are positive or negative prejudices we have towards someone or something. These biases can be conscious and explicit or unconscious and implicit, meaning that they are instinctive and automatic. The problem with unconscious bias is that it can influence behavior regarding stereotypes without intention.
Learning about your own unconscious biases is good knowledge to acquire, especially for situations in the workplace. Unconscious bias can lead to bad decisions when promoting or recruiting individuals by influencing attitudes and decisions based on skin color, age, gender, or other external factors. Project Implicit generates a set of tests that will help you know if you have negative prejudice for certain groups of people. It is a good idea to complete these test to understand your unconscious tendencies of dividing groups of people.
October is especially a good time in the U.S. to examine unconscious bias as it can have an impact on Halloween costume choices. Whether in the workplace or among your social crowd, it is possible to offend people from various cultures by the costume you choose to wear.
Before you commit to this year’s Halloween costume, ask yourself these questions to uncover any unconscious bias:
- Does my costume represent another culture? If so, what positive or negative associations might be involved?
- How might someone else perceive my costume? Could it possibly offend someone?
- Why am I wearing the costume I chose? Why is it important to me?
- Is my costume inappropriate for the workplace? If so, it may be inappropriate in your social circles as well.
Share your thoughts with us about your experiences with unconscious bias.
Sharon Schweitzer and Sophie Echeverry co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
Sophie Echeverry is the corporate marketing manager and event coordinator at Access to Culture. Born and raised in Colombia, she’s a 2018 graduate with a B.B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Hult International Business School in San Francisco, CA. Connect with her on LinkedIn.