Unconscious beliefs refer to the way we categorize people of certain social groups, drawing our conclusions from unique visible features, personal experiences or, more commonly, from the media or other people. The media plays a big role in the formation of unconscious beliefs when there is little to no time to engage in meaningful conversations with people from other social groups.
The unconscious belief system has, unfortunately, played a big role also in corporate settings. This has caused some of the biggest organizations in the world to take notice. For instance, Google has put about 60,000 of its employees through a 90-minute training that discusses this topic. The U.S. Department of Justice has also provided helpful tips for 28,000 employees to combat the problem of unconscious beliefs. The most notable of all has seen Starbucks, they have enrolled 175,000 employees into a program designed to avoid discrimination and encourage conscious inclusion.
Combating Bias from Unconscious Beliefs with Empathy
Empathy is an outstanding quality that can help you break free from bias that emerges from unconscious beliefs. Truth is, none of us believes we are biased. As humans, we tend to think that we approach every situation from a discerning and clear-sighted perspective. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Time and again, science and even common sense have proven that bias from unconscious beliefs always plays a role.
As a result, it is essential that you and I combat bias, especially in today’s world where division has become commonplace. Like some of the most successful organizations have done, it would make sense to organize programs designed to train employees on the importance of eliminating bias. But the real change will only happen when a company’s core culture is transformed. “Value” must be placed on empathy.
Transforming Company Culture to Combat Bias
Researchers have conducted studies on how we believe that individuals from the same social group share more similar attributes than they really do. This belief system makes it difficult for us to identify with those we view as different. It feels natural, then, to avoid relationships with such people as much as we can.
While these biases are firmly ingrained in human psychology, our need for community is a major reason steps should be taken to eliminate them. In fact, the same ancestors who steered clear of ‘outsiders’ still recognized the need to come together to build a united society. They had to make certain adjustments to make that work, but, most importantly, they adjusted their constitutions, revolutionized their thinking, and took steps that rocked their core belief systems.
This is why in order to eliminate bias in the workplace, companies must focus on ‘rocking the core’ – transforming the culture. Introducing principles of empathy into the company’s core values will bring attributes such as patience and understanding to the forefront. Yes, for real change to come, there must be an overall culture of empathy.
Do you also think you are not biased?
If so, take the test here: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit
Banaji, M. R., Bazerman, M. H. & Chugh, D. 2003. How (Un)ethical Are You? [Online]. Available: https://hbr.org/2003/12/how-unethical-are-you [Accessed 24 December 2019].
Kohler, T. F. 2019. Why Empathy Is Important In Modern Leadership [Online]. Available: https://tfkohler.com/why-empathy-is-very-important-in-modern-leadership [Accessed 24 December 2019].