Slow Down Your Decision Making To Avoid Unconscious Bias

Slow Down Your Decision Making To Avoid Unconscious Bias

The Grace Hill training tip this week asks if you are too quick to judge sometimes and could that lead to unconscious bias in your housing decisions?

By Ellen Clark

Shortcuts can be based on social norms and stereotypes, which can lead us to form quick opinions that may not be accurate.

Unconscious bias is a phenomenon that affects almost everyone’s decision-making processes and is something we all have to some degree, although we may not be aware of it.

How does unconscious bias work?

Our past experiences affect the decisions we make, and we tend to create “mental shortcuts” to help us process new information.

Unfortunately, these shortcuts can be based on social norms and stereotypes, which can lead us to form a quick opinion about a situation or a person without really having enough information to form that opinion.

Unconscious biases can lead us to make incorrect assumptions based on flawed logic, stereotypes, and poor interpretations of data. These biases can be damaging in day-to-day interactions with others.

Fighting these biases requires first acknowledging that they exist and then employing purposeful strategies to overcome them. Here are some tips.

3 steps to avoid unconscious bias

  1. Perspective-taking: Putting yourself in another person’s shoes and focusing on how his or her experience in a situation may be different from your own may help you recognize biases you didn’t even know you had. When you can, before you make a decision, try to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes”or imagine the world from their vantage point.
  2. Creating processes: Because unconscious biases happen at lightning speed, overcoming them can be helped by slowing down our decision-making. For example, next time you are about to tell a joke or rib someone, ask yourself, “How would I feel if someone told a joke like that about me, or about something important to me, like my race, religion, or physical appearance?”
  3. Creating an inclusive environment: Think about new ways to engage, collaborate, and step out from your usual group at work. Share ideas or challenges with members of other teams—you may tap into expertise you didn’t realize was there. If you can, leave your desk and try working in a different area for a few hours. This change of perspective may lead you to interact with people you otherwise wouldn’t.
  4. Recognizing assumptions: Think of those teen movies where the shy guy doesn’t ask the girl out because he thinks she’ll say no. When he finally does, she says yes—and asks what took so long? Next time you find yourself making an assumption about someone, stop yourself. Ask the person the question so they can answer for themselves. Even if you confirm your assumption, you now have information that can help in future interactions.


Stepping out from your usual group at work may provide a new perspective and lead you to interact with people you otherwise wouldn’t.

The topics of inclusion and diversity can seem overwhelming. But the more aware we are of our biases, and how important it is to look outside of our “group,” the more we can consciously challenge our decisions and help improve our work environment.
Remember, you are part of a larger team, and you can’t solve the inclusion problem all on your own. You do, however, play a part in minimizing the impact of biases and embracing the benefits of a diverse, and inclusive workforce.

Recent Grace Hill training tips you may have missed:

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Do You Know How To Respond To a Sexual Harassment Complaint?

Have You Reviewed Your Criminal Background Checks Policy Lately?

Multifamily Managers And Marijuana: Caught In A Pot Crossfire

Fair Housing Discrimination Against Someone You’ve Never Talked To?

4 Ways To Avoid Screening Pitfalls With Applicants

Red Flags In Evaluating Documentation For Assistance Animals

About the author:

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent more than 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

About Grace Hill

For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk. Contact Grace Hill at 866.472.2344 to hear more