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How Training Videos Like “Drop By Drop” Help Organizations Address Unconscious Bias

In recent years, awareness has grown about the unconscious – or hidden – biases we all bring to the workplace. While not necessarily illegal, unconscious biases are prejudices or assumptions we make about other people that aren’t based on our thoughtful judgment, but instead are based on cultural stereotypes, and things we’ve seen and heard from our family and friends as we’ve grown up.

unconscious bias imageThe fact that we have these unconscious biases doesn’t make us bad people. They are a consequence of our brain’s natural desire to conserve energy. Here is how diversity and inclusion expert Joe Gerstandt puts it: “A bias is a shortcut, an automatic association, a tool your brain uses to make decisions without using lots of time and energy… it is not a choice, and it is not a product of logic or morality or character. It has nothing to do with you as a person, but rather your life experience and the stimuli your brain has been exposed to.”

The problem is unconscious biases can cause us to inadvertently hurt others. They can make us fearful of certain types of people or uncomfortable around them. They can limit the way we see people and the potential they truly have. And, they can cause us to treat some people much differently than others.

With unconscious bias we find that– despite our true desire to be fully open-minded toward others — generalizations we’ve heard about certain groups occasionally surface in our assessment of, and actions towards, others. These generalizations can be made about different genders, races, age groups,  religions, and much more.  For example:

  • Some people (including many women!) experience anxiety when seeing a female airline pilot because they have traditionally seen a male in this role.
  • When interviewing candidates for a position,  a manager might catch himself thinking a negative thought like this….“I’m not sure about the work ethic of this person – they have SO many tattoos.”

In the workplace, unconscious biases can be expressed through “micro-inequities” – small messages we send to others that devalue, discourage or impair their workplace performance. While much more subtle than illegal harassment, micro-inequities can be felt every bit as much by the person on the receiving end.

Here are a few examples of actions that can be considered micro-inequities:

  • Checking your phone or taking a call when someone is trying to talk to you
  • Praising a suggestion presented by one person after ignoring the same suggestion made by another
  • Replying to someone with sarcasm
  • Consistently excluding someone from meetings or gatherings
  • Being distrustful of someone who has never done anything to warrant that distrust

If unconscious bias is so common in today’s workplace, and if everyone contributes, in some way, to the problem…what can be done? 

Help people learn about the science of bias and how we can overcome our brain’s natural tendency to conserve energy and its predisposition to avoid people or information that takes us out of our “comfort zone”.

Emphasize the importance of slowing down and becoming more mindful. Inaccurate assumptions based on bias usually pop into our heads as we are rushing through our day attempting to do several things at once. If we stop and ask, why am I making this assumption? or, do I really believe this?, we often realize that we are wrong. Joe Gerstandt reminds us of this reality in the following statement, “We are not responsible for our first thought, but we are responsible for our second thought and our first action. A lot of our personal power can be found in that space between our first and second thought.”

Inspire people to change. Encourage people to challenge themselves to become aware of their biases and how they might be demonstrating them to others. Teach them to be open to feedback, and even to ask for input on how they are perceived.

Teach people to embrace individuality. From the top of the organization down, support behaviors and business practices that draw upon the unique experiences, talents and abilities of all people. Provide training on how to work through (rather than stifle) differences.

Strengthen teams. Provide instruction on the kind of goal setting, group communication and accountability that unites diverse team members and keeps them focused on shared objectives.

Battle micro-inequities with micro-affirmations. Micro-affirmations are the opposite of micro-inequities. They include things like going out of your way to speak with someone you haven’t yet gotten to know, routinely telling co-workers you appreciate what they do, or seeking new and different opinions when you’re trying to solve a problem.   Even if we make a mistake and find that we’ve acted on an unconscious bias, micro-affirmations can go a long way toward countering our negative action and conveying respect.

Training videos are a highly effective way for organizations to teach on this topic. Viewers see examples of unconscious bias in different workplace settings, hear from experts who explain the science behind why we humans do what we do, and are provided with proven tools for being more inclusive and creating a more respectful workplace. With discrimination and harassment prevention training videos, the organization can provide facilitated classroom training or enable learners to watch the videos on their own, online. Videos generally come with detailed materials for conducting a group training session and/or assessments and quizzes that can be used to measure learning.

Here are three excellent videos available in this area:

Drop By Drop
Drop by Drop demonstrates how subtle discriminations and tiny injustices can add up to big problems in the workplace. While not overt, these small communications of disrespect, prejudice and inequality can be incredibly destructive. In fact, they are a poison in the workplace that isn’t delivered in a bucket, but takes its toll drop by drop.

The Uh-Oh Syndrome: From Intolerance to Inclusion
The “Uh-Oh Syndrome” is the negative reaction we can experience when we encounter something or someone different. The reaction is, in some ways, a natural human response, but in a world with increasing diversity and non-stop change, we need to strive for open-mindedness and inclusion. This highly entertaining program features great stories and thought-provoking instruction from subject matter expert Dr. Steve Robbins.

Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts
In a unique and powerful way, viewers experience the impact of stereotypical comments, explore why people don’t speak up against stereotypes and other biased behaviors, and learn six techniques for speaking up without blame or guilt.


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