by Nicole Dhanraj, PhD, CRA, RT, R, CT, MR
As an imaging leader, it is crucial to recognize the impact of unconscious bias on decision-making. Unconscious bias refers to automatic, unsupported judgments in favor of or against individuals or groups based on past experiences and background. These biases can significantly impact your decision-making process, potentially leading to less informed decisions, less diversity and inclusion within the organization, and, ultimately, a less successful imaging department. Unconscious bias affects everyone, even if they believe they are immune to it. There are a variety of reasons why this is the case:
Past experiences: Our experiences shape how we view the world and can influence our opinions and beliefs. These experiences can be positive or negative, but they all contribute to our unconscious biases.
Cultural and societal influences: Our culture and society can also impact our unconscious biases.Stereotypes and biases prevalent in our culture can seep into our thinking without us realizing it.
Mental shortcuts: Our brains are wired to take mental shortcuts to save time and energy. This can lead to quick judgments and assumptions influenced by our unconscious biases.
Lack of awareness: Many people are unaware of their unconscious biases. They may believe they make decisions based solely on objective criteria when their biases play a role.
Groupthink: When we surround ourselves with people who are similar to us, we can become more susceptible to unconscious biases. We may be less likely to hear different perspectives or challenge our biases.
Unconscious Bias Manifestations
Below are a few instances where unconscious bias can manifest itself. Unconscious bias can impact hiring decisions. An imaging manager might overlook qualified candidates from different backgrounds or have unique skill sets because they are more inclined to hire someone who looks and thinks like them. This can limit the team’s diversity and ultimately hinder the organization’s success. Another example is the impact of unconscious bias on promotions and assignments. A leader may promote or assign projects to individuals with similar backgrounds or experiences, leading to a lack of diversity in leadership or specific teams. This can also result in less diversity of thought and limited perspectives when it comes to decision-making.
Unconscious bias can also be evident in performance evaluations. A leader may be biased towards rating employees who are more outgoing or assertive higher, while overlooking the contributions of quieter employees who may have made equally valuable contributions. This can result in lower morale and productivity among team members and a lack of recognition for the contributions of individuals who don’t fit the mold of the “ideal employee.”
Even something as seemingly innocuous as meetings and discussions can be impacted by unconscious bias. An imaging leader may unconsciously steer conversations or discussions towards topics they are more familiar with, potentially leaving out critical perspectives from team members with different backgrounds or expertise. This can result in uninformed decision-making and limit the creativity andinnovation of the team. These examples highlight how unconscious bias can manifest in your decision-making process. We as leaders need to be aware of these biases and take steps to address them to ensure equitable and inclusive practices within our organizations.
Strategies to increase unconscious bias awareness
Some strategies to increase awareness of unconscious bias include self-reflection, seeking feedback from others, and implementing blind hiring practices.
Self-reflection is a powerful tool for leaders to increase awareness of their unconscious biases. One way to do this is to reflect on past decisions and consider how biases may have affected those decisions. Leaders can ask themselves questions such as:
- What assumptions did I make about the situation or the people involved?
- Did I make any judgments based on gender, race, or age?
- Did I overlook any perspectives or ideas because they didn’t align with my experiences or beliefs?
- Did I make decisions based on my personal preferences rather than objective criteria?
- Did I give everyone involved an equal opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas?
By answering these questions honestly, leaders can start identifying patterns in their decision-making that unconscious biases may influence. They can also seek feedback from others to gain a different perspective on their decision-making and identify blind spots they may not be aware of.
Another strategy for self-reflection is to engage in mindfulness practices such as meditation or journaling. This can help leaders become more aware of their thought patterns and emotional reactions, which unconscious biases can influence. Self-reflection is an ongoing process that requires a willingness to be open and honest with oneself. By reflecting on past decisions and seeking feedback from others, you can increase their awareness of unconscious biases and work towards making more informed and equitable decisions in the future.
Feedback from others can be a valuable tool to identify unconscious bias in decision-making. This is because biases are often automatic and subconscious, making them difficult to recognize. Feedback from colleagues, employees, or other stakeholders can provide a different perspective on a leader’s decision-making and help identify any biases that may have been at play. For example, suppose a manager consistently promotes or assigns projects to individuals with a similar background or experience. In that case, colleagues may be able to provide feedback that highlights this pattern. Alternatively, if they consistently overlook the contributions of quieter employees in performance evaluations, feedback from colleagues or employees may help to bring attention to this bias is important to note that feedback should be given and received in a constructive and non-judgmental manner, focusing on improving decision-making processes rather than blaming or shaming individuals. By creating a culture of openness and transparency around biases, leaders can encourage feedback and create an environment where everyone is encouraged to reflect on their own biases and work towards making more equitable and inclusive decisions.
Blind Hiring Practices
Blind hiring practices can help to reduce bias in the recruitment and selection process by removing identifying information, such as names, ages, and gender, from resumes and application materials. This allows hiring managers to focus solely on the qualifications and experience of applicants rather than making assumptions or judgments based on irrelevant factors.
Blind hiring practices can also include skills-based assessments and structured interviews to evaluate candidates based on objective criteria rather than subjective impressions. This can help to reduce the impact of unconscious bias and increase the diversity of candidates who are considered for a position.
Recognizing unconscious bias’s impact on decision-making is essential for leaders who want to create a prosperous and inclusive organization. Biases can affect various aspects of the decision-making process, including hiring, promotions, performance evaluations, and meetings. Leaders can increase awareness of their unconscious biases by self-reflection, seeking feedback from others, and implementing blind hiring practices.
By creating a culture of openness and transparency around biases, imaging leaders can encourage feedback and create an environment where everyone is encouraged to reflect on their own biases and work towards making more equitable and inclusive decisions. Ultimately, by recognizing and addressing unconscious biases, you can make more informed decisions, foster diversity and inclusion, and drive the success of your organization.
Niole is member of the AHRA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.