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How Unconscious is your bias?

10th Sep 2018
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Starbucks was at the centre of a huge race relations row recently when two black customers were ejected from the store by the Manager after he refused to let them use the toilet.

There was an unconscious bias against these customers based on the colour of their skin. The coffee chain – aware that they may suffer reputational damage as a result – issued a public apology and then announced that all staff would undertake Unconscious Bias training and that thousands of stores would close to ensure that this training was mandated.

Aware that public opinion in America could quickly turn against the coffee chain Starbucks acted quickly. Vox pops taken a few days after the announcement that Starbucks were introducing mandatory training on unconscious bias seemed to go down well especially in the Afro American population

"Being an African American, we think this is an America thing, not a Starbucks thing. But for them to publicly say they're going to do diversity training is good. They addressed it, not wiping it under the rug."

We are all guilty of making instant unconscious decisions about other people.

We treat people differently based on what they look and sound like. If they look and sound different to us we may – without realising – make an instant judgement on their ability to perform a task or fulfil a role.

Anybody running a business must ensure that staff are treated fairly. That recruitment decisions are based on ability not appearance. That people are not held back on promotion because they do not fit what the manager imagines to be the ideal candidate.

Could a greater awareness and a practical approach help to overcome this common hurdle at work?

Starbucks – by acting quickly and ensuring staff were trained- brought a greater awareness not only with their own organisational development but also to the public at large.

If you are responsible for making personnel decision – or if you want to ensure that your staff challenge their own unconscious biases – you should consider training.

The consequences of not doing so may not be as drastic for your organisation as there were for the famous coffee chain but by raising awareness you are protecting your business from claims of discrimination and perhaps more importantly – promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion

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