When Unconscious Bias Training Does More Harm Than Good

Sep 17, 2021

When Unconscious Bias Training Does More Harm Than Good
When Unconscious Bias Training Does More Harm Than Good

When Unconscious Bias Training Does More Harm Than Good

When I talk about our unconscious bias Workshops via Zoom or Defeating Unconscious Bias, our online e-Learning course, I always emphasize that our approach starts with raising awareness and then adds skills that everyone can practice to interrupt bias.

So it was rewarding to read the recent article at the Association for Talent Development. In it, Maureen Berkner Boyt writes, “Beware training that talks a lot about the neuroscience of unconscious bias and stops there. Knowing isn’t enough; the training must focus on doing. Effective workplace unconscious bias training for employees should be loaded with actionable, commonly shared bias interrupters that can be applied to daily work. For example, a set of behaviors for running an inclusive meeting.”

If you review our course, you’ll see that reflected in the title, 5 Skills, and illustrated with powerful and realistic video scenarios that show how and what to do to interrupt bias through concrete actions.

In one scenario, we show Beth, a team leader who is impatiently cutting off Jorge, who speaks English with an accent. When a colleague privately reflects to her that she was rude to Jorge and asks why, Beth takes time to reflect on what might be underlying her impatience. She acknowledges to herself that she has a linguistic bias and chooses to take action. She takes notes when Jorge speaks as a concrete way to slow down. She makes sure to call each person by name and ask a question about each person’s ideas to make sure she’s understanding. By being intentional about interacting with Jorge and the rest of her team, with an eye to make sure her “auto-pilot” impatience doesn’t kick in, Beth is demonstrating how to counteract and disrupt a hidden bias.

This is just one of the scenarios in the Defeating Unconscious Bias online course. You can preview it by clicking here and requesting a Test Drive. We’ll send you a link and you can review the full course.

The article also mentions the importance of who designed the course. “Deep expertise is needed to understand the research as well as the nuance of delivering a topic that can trigger hostility and an “us versus them” way of thinking.”

Fortunately, our course has been designed by Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D., who’s written books and spent years studying and training about unconscious bias. You can read more about Sondra and sample her blog articles here.

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