Our perceptions about other people are very much influenced by availability of information or ease of access to it relative to that person. Whether it’s what we were exposed to growing up or the constant flow from the media, our brain becomes wired to deal with certain people based on these experiences and consequently we very often make some key decisions literally “without thinking”.
According to Dr. Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard University, it turns out that however fair-minded we like to think we are, we make snap judgments about other people based on our own unconscious biases. However, though you may behave differently because of this, Dr Banaji states that “there should be no shame or guilt, just a higher responsibility” for you to take action and do something about it.
To move beyond this requires developing a very strong sense of self awareness, arguably the most fundamental element of emotionally intelligent behavior. Actively working on this allows for much more mindfulness of what your “blind spots” are. This very often happens either via people letting you know (compliment/complaint) or you asking for feedback (conversation/assessments). Understanding this better and acting appropriately can have a monumentally positive affect on how you are perceived and subsequently your overall role as a leader.
All of this is extremely beneficial in the context of workforce diversity. With so many multi cultural businesses, in addition to challenges around religion, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc, this has become a real priority for organizations as they strive to hire the best talent, ensure high levels of employee engagement and ultimately bolster the bottom line.
If interested in learning more about Dr Banaji’s study, visit the following website. It has a variety of tests which help, by virtue of word/picture association and how quickly you answer, to determine what your real bias is. Try it out and you maybe surprised!