Laurence Harvey

Unconscious Bias - some thoughts

Young woman wearing face mask working with laptop

 ‘I can’t wait for things to get back to normal’. How many times have your heard this said in the last few weeks? How many times have you said it? What is ‘normal’ anyway? Normal ‘the usual, typical, or expected state or condition’. Who’s ‘normal’ are we talking about? Lately things have definitely not been ‘normal’. Our routines have changed, influenced by Government guidelines on how to stay safe and stop the spread of the threat of Coronavirus. Things seem and feel bizarre, strange and abnormal. Human beings are creatures of habit, routine and like things to be familiar. Anything that is unfamiliar can be unnerving and perceived as a potential threat. These emotions trigger our unconscious assumptions that affect the way we perceive others. Our assumptions affect our attitudes which in turn affect how we behave. This can all happen unconsciously. Keep reading and I will explain further...

Ask yourself and be honest! 6 weeks ago, what were you thinking of people that wore face masks in public?
Now ask yourself and (again) be honest. What do you now think of people that do not wear face masks in public?

We have, all of us, over the last few weeks experienced a change in our habits. We now have new routines. They are changing to adapt to the situation enforced upon us by the Coronavirus. We are potentially, more conscious of what we are thinking and doing, than we ever have been before.

So, what now as we start to go back to work? How were people being treated at work 6 weeks ago? Is there a Bully at work, or are we allowing someone to be a Bully at work? Are we allowing some to misuse power to undermine humiliate and injure others? Are we allowing offensive, intimidating, malicious and insulting behaviours? What can we all do to treat people more fairly at work from now on?

Can we recognise that we all have a different normal? Can we then begin to accept that we are all different? Can we be more tolerant of each other and our differences? Let’s make these emotional times make work more inclusive and friendly. Let’s be more tolerant of people that we perceive as different to our ‘normal’.

Let’s make sure that we do not (even unconsciously) treat people unfairly. Let us not tolerate bullying and harassment. Let’s make sure that we do not ‘go along with’ things that we actually, don’t want to ‘go along with’. Subtle changes in our behaviour can make a huge difference to workplace cultures and environments. Just being patient with everybody all of the time can make a difference. You might never change what you think but you can change what you say or do.

Behaviour breeds behaviour. If we change how we behave others will often naturally follow.

Let’s make fairness and equality for all, ‘usual’.