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Unconscious Bias and the Public Servant, 3 of 3: What can we do to overcome unconscious bias?

A young white woman protesting with her hands up.

Last Week – Part 2 of 3: Why is unconscious bias important?

Unconscious bias can be combatted on the personal and organizational level.

Here are some tips for addressing personal biases:

  • Acknowledge your bias. The first step in defeating unconscious bias is to be honest with ourselves. It can be difficult to recognize personal biases, especially unconscious biases, but, there are resources available which are designed to assist us in identifying our biases. Project Implicit has a number of tests ranging from race to obesity which can help bring unconscious biases to light.
  • Learn more about you. Ask a trusted friend or colleague for candid feedback. Willingness to examine our own possible biases is an important step in understanding the roots of stereotypes and prejudice.
  • Extend your comfort zone. Personal biases can be combatted by getting to know people on an individual level. Biases can derive from stereotypes and generalizations; getting to know individuals can lead to proving them wrong.
  • Take responsibility for mitigating bias. Once you become aware of potential biases, practice self-monitoring. Through self- monitoring and self-regulation, you can interrupt biased thinking and generate non-discriminatory behavior.
  • Admit mistakes. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge, and apologize for, mistakes. Everyone makes a misstep on occasion, use mistakes as an opportunity to better yourself and strengthen your relationship with others.

Here are some strategies that are being used to address bias in public and private industries at the organization level:

  • Create structure. Develop clear rating metrics, try to identify sources of ambiguity, and employ structured control management of decision-making measures when possible.
  • Evaluate decisions. Conduct external review of decisions in order to detect and correct potentially biased results.
  • Normalize the conversation around bias. Senior management should model ideal behaviors and discuss the importance of unconscious bias with their employees.
  • Take the Pledge. Encourage your office or organization to join NIH EDI in promoting a culture of honestly, respect, and inclusion by Taking the Pledge.

Unconscious Bias and the Public Servant Series