A feeling of fairness and value in the workplace is a cornerstone of meaningful, productive professional work being achieved within the organization. Researchers say that 71% of personnel feel they have been demeaned, ignored, or treated insensitively by their co-workers or supervisors, many times unknowlingly. The new face of subtle bias in the workplace is called implicit bias, commonly referred to as unconscious bias.

A HUGE barrier to inclusion and high team performance, implicit bias is an inherent preference, attitude, thought, belief, or predisposition—favorable or unfavorable—toward a person or group. What makes it so insidious and damaging is that we’re generally unaware we even have a bias. It happens so naturally. Maybe we’ve been doing, seeing, or hearing it for years, and we can’t recognize or control it, which is why we need to be made aware of it.  Becoming aware of our biases can lead to changing behavior, which ultimately can make the workplace more inclusive and more collaborative.

In the workplace, recognizing and confronting implicit bias is critical because it impacts decisions, behaviors, and actions that affect the emotional, mental, financial, and physical well being of those who are targets of this behavior. Some of these biases may lead to workplace discrimination, unhealthy risk aversion, overinflated confidence, and poor business decisions. Mild forms of bias can lead to awkward, uncomfortable, rude, and uncivil interactions. We have seen more extreme forms of bias lead to tension, conflict, hostility, aggression, and physical violence.

There are examples of implicit bias all around us. We often make mistakes in our interactions with others as a result of our own biases without even realizing that we’re doing it. Our brains automatically and unconsciously place a set of opinions or ideas about a person in the front of our minds when we engage with people we do not know. As a result, we may then act or speak on what we kind of automatically think we know or could guess about them.

We have to be continuously vigilant in speaking up about any and all behaviors that demoralize or demean others. Our implicit biases plays out through stereotypes, loaded language, double standards and broad generalizations—based on another person’s religion, race, culture and ethnicity, political views, gender, appearance, financial worth, education, work ethic, manner and disposition, age/generation, disability, dialect/accent, marital status, sexual orientation/gender identity—and the list goes on.

The irony of implicit bias is that research shows we can have these biases and still believe in strong equality ideals. Be honest with yourself: What’s yourfirst reaction when your child or a close relative tells you that he or she is in love with a person of another race or of the same gender and is planning to marry that person? What’s your response to that? Think about it!

Where do we get our bias?

Bias develops without our knowledge through social conditioning and experiential learning—our religion and culture and our family and friends. It also matures through our use of media—movies and television shows and time spent on Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, and more.

The impact of bias in the workplace

Our unconscious biases can affect decisions or actions regarding recruitment and hiring, project assignment, discipline, performance evaluations, promotions, career development, communication patterns and style, culture and climate, employee morale and more. Regardless of intent, we need to understand and realize that biased behavior or communication could have drastic results and consequences on our co-workers—and on our corporate culture as a whole.

How do we manage unconscious bias quickly and conveniently?

The first step is understanding: we need to make the unconscious conscious, so that we’re aware and can stop the behavior. That’s best achieved and reinforced through continuous workplace education and training so we.

  • Realize our unconscious biases to understand that our behavior affects others so we can be sensitive of what we say and the decisions we make
  • Are more tolerant
  • Break down and avoid stereotypes and sweeping generalizations toward a person or group
  • Recognize who’s on our work team and celebrate what makes us different
  • Create community, affiliation and solidarity, standing up and with each other

What are the benefits of a diverse, inclusive and bias free workforce?

It’s simple. Everyone in your organization should enjoy these benefits:

  • Enjoy a welcoming environment where each person is treated fairly and with respect and trust
  • Is part of a happy workforce that is more productive and where talented employees want to stay
  • Embrace a climate that celebrates diversity and encourages constructive differences of opinion

The good news is that with effective training, biased associations can be gradually unlearned and replaced with nonbiased ones.  At the end of the day, we need to be prepared to confront our biases. We must put ourselves in a better position to take actions and exhibit behaviors that improve our work relationships and can be most beneficial and valuable our organization.

Learn More about how our Managing Unconscious Bias Training can help your organization.


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