Today it is 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 may be conscious and explicit — or unconscious and implicit. Unconscious and implicit means that they are instinctive and automatic. The problem with unconscious bias is that it can influence behavior and reinforce stereotypes without intention.
Learning about your own unconscious biases is a leadership skill in the workplace. Unconscious bias can lead to poor decision making when promoting or recruiting by influencing attitudes and decisions based on skin color, age, gender, sexual orientation, or other factors. Project Implicit generates a set of tests that will help determine negative prejudice for certain groups of people. As a leader seeking career advancement, click and complete the test to explore whether unconscious tendencies exist.
October is an excellent time 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 different cultures if an inappropriate costume is worn.
Before committing to this year’s Halloween costume, ask 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 in any context.
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.
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