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September 15, 2020

Eight ways to self-audit for unconscious bias as a manager

Eliminating unconscious bias in the hiring process is key to building a truly diverse workforce, however, it shouldn't end there. Managers need to identify and eliminate their own unconscious bias to ensure all employees are treated fairly and given equitable opportunities. 

Table of Contents

To avoid perpetuating ingrained biases that favor the career development of certain types of people, while impeding the advancement of others, it's necessary for everyone to evaluate where bias may creep into their thoughts and decisions inadvertently. The first step is accepting that as humans we all have blind spots, and may naturally harbor unconscious bias. The key is exercising self-awareness and honest self-appraisal in order to detect the sources and manifestations of bias. Here are some steps and questions to consider when performing an effective audit of your own unconscious bias: 

1. Consider: How and to whom you delegate work to


  • By giving certain types of tasks to one team member, am I depriving another team member of  a growth opportunity? 
  • Am I giving the same level of detail, and therefore equally setting each team member up for success, when I assign projects? 

End goal: Ensuring that everyone has an equal chance to take on challenging and important projects

2. Consider: How you give feedback to different direct reports


  • Am I delivering feedback casually to some team members and formally to others?
  • Do I soften critiques for some team members more than others?   

End goal: Making sure you're delivering feedback equitably. 

3. Consider: Any generalizations you make about team members


  • What kind of assumptions am I making about team members based on age, ethnic background, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, appearance, or anything else? 
  • Do my assumptions impact how I feel about their capability and competency? 

End goal: Minimizing the perpetuation of stereotypes while practicing and displaying empathy.

4. Consider: Who you praise publicly and who you don't


  • Is there a personal motivation behind team members I praise publicly and those for whom I withhold praise? 
  • Do I limit the exposure of my compliments for some team members and show my appreciation more widely for others? 

End goal: Ensuring that you're sharing accolades fairly. 

5. Consider: Historic equity gaps


  • Have there been high-profile incidents of workplace inequities at my company rising out of unconscious bias from which I can learn? 
  • Have I actually considered the unique vantage points of the individuals on my team? Is it possible that my default perspective has caused them pain or discomfort? 

End goal: Remembering the past in order to avoid repeating it.  

6. Consider: How you evaluate people for a job or a performance review


  • Do I have a fundamental desire to hire people who are like me because it's more comfortable to develop a rapport with them? 
  • Have I fully considered the benefits of hiring people with diverse backgrounds? And what can I do to short-circuit my knee-jerk tendency to hire people like myself?

End goal: Ensuring a well-balanced bench and an even playing field. 

7. Consider: How and with whom you exchange casual banter


  • Do I have conversations or relate with some teammates more than others? How might that affect workplace alliances?
  • Do some teammates feel alienated or marginalized by witnessing my clear affinity for other teammates?

End goal: Avoiding outsized allegiances with people based on your shared perspective to the detriment of developing relationships.

8. Consider: Who you go to for advice


  • Do I go to the same people time and time again for mentorship? Do they look like me? 
  • Are there people whom I could go to for advice to gain a more expansive perspective? 

End goal: Avoid making decisions based only on feedback shared in an echo chamber. 

Get in the habit of asking yourself these questions on a regular basis. Your team members will feel the change, and you will likely find that morale, engagement, and productivity improve across the board. 

Read more: Six ways to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace

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