You may have heard a lot of talk about unconscious bias lately. Essentially this is a term that refers to all our unconscious associations between characteristics, people and things! Links we don’t consciously make and which may go unrecognised unless we consider them carefully. The debate about the danger of them is for another time.
It is unconscious bias that is partly responsible for the perception you come to of a new person in less than 10 seconds when you first meet them. It’s this that when you meet someone called Amy (or any other name for that matter) perceptions may come to mind, based on a perception you have about someone else of the same name.
If you tend to speak to people of the same sex as you at work events, it’s likely to be due to a bias that you’ve had more positive experiences in doing so. If you think about the brain chemistry, it’s a similar mechanism to the association between fire and heat, which helps to keep us safe.
This initial perception, or ‘judgement’ as you may prefer to call it, comes from basic human instinct and essentially it is about self protection. If you think back to cave man times, it was primarily about would another person attack you for your dinner. These days, there’s generally less at stake (at least at work, maybe less so in a dark alley late at night). It’s more about can we trust someone? Do we like them? Will we interact with them? How?
If we have a free choice about interaction and particularly if it is with regard to recruiting someone or becoming their client, it matters even more.
So whether you like it or not, how you show up, particularly at work, matters. A positive initial impact helps you build relationships and make things happen. It’s not to say you can control the totality of perceptions that people have of you (after all their brains are conditioned by their previous experiences) but considering what impact you are having in different scenarios is important for your own career success and that of your organisation. After all, it is really people that help an organisation differentiate itself. An initial positive perception facilitates relationship building and the scenario you find yourself in.
If you are questioning if it really matters, consider the last event you went to – work or otherwise. If you were choosing between people you didn’t know to speak to, how did you choose? I guarantee your brain helped you choose based on the perception it formed of the different people! And that happened fast…
Whilst is important to be aware of unconscious bias, it is virtually impossible to eradicate it completely.
So, what initial impact do you and your team/company have on others? How could this be impeding individual career progression and your organisation’s performance?
To find out more about the work I do with private individuals click here.
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Image courtesy of freeimages.com/marcelodemonte