Unconscious bias — attitudes that underlie our daily interactions with others that may cause us to make assumptions or decisions without being aware of doing so — is present in every facet of the workplace. From hiring to promotions to everyday office dynamics, bias can shape every interaction if we don’t recognise it and take steps to mitigate it.
Everyone, even individuals with high EQs, have unconscious biases; however, EQ is the factor that allows leaders to take a step back and evaluate how their biases affect their actions and decision-making. This heightened awareness is the key to effectively managing our biases and cultivating a work environment that is conducive for all employees.
Leadership specialist Monica Thakrar argues that it is a combination of emotional intelligence and unconscious bias training that allows organisations to take the step from a diverse organisation to an inclusive one — that is, an organisation where all employees, no matter their background, feel as though they are welcome and valued for their contributions. While most training options focus on unconscious bias, they seem to miss this other crucial component that allows their leaders and teams to embrace difference and effectively manage any unconscious bias that might arise.
So what is it that makes EQ so essential to unpacking our unconscious biases?
Before we can address our biases, we must be aware that they exist. We must be willing to look at ourselves and our unconscious beliefs, no matter how uncomfortable it might make us.
One of the core components of emotional intelligence, self-awareness is the ability to objectively appraise your strengths, weaknesses, and emotions, as well as the effect that they may have on you. This allows us to take a second before saying something or making a decision, recognise our biases and control our impulse to act on them.
Without a strong self-awareness, we may be more reactive and respond in ways that reinforce our biases or impose them on others, creating a work environment that is unintentionally driven by these unconscious biases.
Start by identifying situations or individuals that cause you to react in a way that is different than usual. Perhaps you tend to over explain or simplify for younger team members, or maybe there are certain colleagues you respond differently to when they present ideas. By recognising when and where these biases may emerge, you can begin to develop techniques to manage these situations.
Empathy is the key to beating unconscious bias; putting ourselves in another’s shoes and recognising how our behaviour can have an impact on them is absolutely crucial. Being more in tune with others allows us to reappraise our biases, the first step in reshaping our view and minimising the effect they may have on interactions in the workplace.
Empathetic leaders are able to take the lead with diverse teams and strive for success. As Daniel Goleman, leader in the field of emotional intelligence argues, “The more we can empathise with our colleagues and team members—take their point of view—the better we can leverage their experience and talent as applied to a business challenge.”
Clearly, unconscious bias training is incomplete without incorporating emotional intelligence skills. It can be difficult to examine our biases and confront them, but it is a necessity to create a workplace where everyone can thrive.
Want to find out more about how you can bring more diversity and inclusion to your organisation with emotional intelligence training? Get in contact with our team today or get an instant quote for our ‘Beating Unconscious Bias’ course here.