The vast majority of individuals are good, well-meaning people. But we know meaning well doesn’t prevent us from hurting others. Imagine you’re in a fender bender. You didn’t mean to run into that car, but that driver still has whiplash.

What if we don’t mean to have a negative impact on someone at work, but it happens despite our best intentions?

The problem is, our best intentions don’t negate unconscious bias. We ALL have unconscious bias, no matter our race or gender or religion or disability. While some identities are more likely to experience “whiplash” (the negative impacts of unconscious bias), we ALL must take responsibility for unlearning biases and creating inclusive, equitable workplaces.

There are countless misconceptions about unconscious bias, but the biggest misconception is that we all treat everyone equally and if we aren’t overtly discriminating then we aren’t perpetuating bias. I believe that’s the most harmful misconception because it gives “well-intentioned” people an out.

If you desire to be an ally, there IS no “out.” Allies can always find ways to interrupt bias. Allies understand there is a problem to be addressed and that they can take responsibility to do something.

That’s why my firm Rework Work developed the Unbias Blueprint, a framework that helps you create a truly inclusive workplace culture and the basis for my book UNBIAS: Addressing Unconscious Bias at Work. It’s an action manual for each stage of this journey, providing you with concrete steps to take, examples to follow, and resources to support you.

The Unbias Blueprint is a circle, because this work doesn’t end: we must make an ongoing commitment to ensure that diversity thrives and a sense of belonging exists for all. The four stages of this framework exist on a spectrum, and you and your organization will move through each multiple times over the years.

AWARENESS
Awareness demands attention to metrics. As stated in my LinkedIn Learning course on Unconscious Bias, measuring attitudes and beliefs — especially ones that you may be reluctant or unable to detect — is the first step toward acknowledging bias and changing it.

ALIGNMENT
Diversity, inclusion and belonging are not achieved merely by increasing the number of represented identities across gender, race, ethnicity, ability, age, and more. An organization must commit to building a diverse and inclusive culture. To do so means coming to an agreement of WHY reducing bias matters — not just for optics or even personal reasons, but as an authentic organizational imperative.
Alignment informs your strategy and provides clarity to your workforce. It also sets an expectation that action will occur.

ACTION 
This is the stage that we’re often tempted to leap into when we become conscious of our bias. But unless you go through Awareness and Alignment first, your actions will be haphazard, incongruent, and may cause unintentional harm. To truly embed diversity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace, leadership is expected to lead the way. Funny how that works . . . people in positions of leadership are actually expected to lead!

ADVOCACY
Unconscious bias causes many of our problems at work and in our world. “Unconscious Inclusion” is the state I’m working to move everyone towards. This is when inclusion is as necessary and instinctual as breathing.

What can that look like? Imagine a department where everyone respects each other and listens and values each other’s ideas without judgment. Imagine that your company has standards of advancement and promotion that are transparent and are actually followed — no excuses. Picture responsibility being taken when harm is caused, and amends made. Picture each team member supporting each other.

You can’t get to a state of advocacy if you don’t create a process for continuous and sustainable improvement. Inclusion is not a passing trend but a way of life. It’s one we ALL must embrace to address the pervasive problem of systemic and structural unconscious bias.

Stacey Gordon is Executive Advisor + Chief Diversity Strategist at Rework Work (reworkwork.com). For more research, examples, and detailed action steps to take, her book UNBIAS: Addressing Unconscious Bias at Work is for you. It’s a tool to create healthy, equitable, and inclusive workplaces, and it will power your journey and you can find it at unbiasbook.com.

Return to Awards Recap Main Page 

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.