6 Ways to Reduce Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

6 Ways to Reduce Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

What is Unconscious Bias?

Scenario: Imagine that you used to work at a coffee shop called “Expresso” and had an amazing experience with the company, even though it was a lot of hard work. Now imagine yourself interviewing two candidates for a position of warehouse worker. One of the candidates used to work at Expresso but has no prior warehouse experience and the other has at least 3 years in warehouse experience. Both candidates are very impressive but only one can fill the position. Who will you choose? You might be more inclined to choose the candidate that worked at Expresso just because you share the same experience even though they are less qualified. This is an example of a phenomenon called unconscious bias and we commit it without knowing. All of us have some form of implicit bias and it is perfectly natural. However, if left unregulated it can be destructive to workplace diversity and inclusion.

 TRY: Here is a test you can take from Harvard that is designed to measure strengths of associations you have developed towards social groups.


How Does Unconscious Bias Happen?

The brain is an amazing organ. According to an article by Spectra Diversity, it is constantly working to process billions of information from our environment. However, our attention can only grasp a few stimuli at a time. Therefore, our brain is taking in information in the “background” building connections and associations about our outside world and social groups subconsciously. This is how we are biologically wired to learn and survive and it greatly influences our behaviours, attitudes and decisions.


How Bias Affects Your Workplace

While having implicit bias is a normal human characteristic, it has implications for the workplace that can stunt many of your inclusion and diversity efforts. For example, you might misjudge employee abilities in the hiring and evaluation process keeping you from acquiring the best and most qualified applicants. Workplace bias could also be driving up your costs unnecessarily. Erfan Daliri states that the cost of turnover and rehiring due to workplace bias is up to $64 billion annually. In one report by The Center for Talent Innovation (now called Coqual) bias was associated with more burn out, higher turnover and employee resentment which manifest into conflicts. It was also associated with lower employee retention, engagement and innovation.



Types of Unconscious Bias

Before beginning to manage for implicit bias perhaps the most important and crucial step is to become aware of our own biases. Biases can take many different forms. We’ve listed five that can potentially be in your workplace. For a more comprehensive list check out this article by Lisa O’Donnell at Great Place to Work.

  1. Gender bias: this one is pretty straight forward. It is favouring one gender over another. For example, hiring on the basis of sex for certain positions or the notion that some genders are better for certain positions. This prevents companies from acquiring the best talent based on credentials.
  1. Affinity bias: Showing favouritism for people that are similar to us. We all have the tendency to gravitate to people that are like us. For example, sharing the same language, race, religion, experience or even shared interests. However, to stay innovative it is important to include diverse groups with different experiences and characteristics.
  1. Conformity bias: Our tendency to be influenced with the popular opinion or group majority. Nobody likes feeling rejected or different. Being the social creatures that we are we want to fit in. However, this lack of independent thinking can lower creativity and problem solving in the workplace.
  1. Halo and horn Effect: the tendency for us to generalize a person based on a single trait. In a halo effect, one amazing trait overshadows our overall perception of someone. For example, if someone is an outstanding negotiator then the rest of their skills must also be great. This also happens for negative traits called the horn effect. For example, if someone is not punctual then they must be not hardworking even though it’s not necessarily true.
  1. Confirmation bias: Liz Burton from “High Speed Training” explains that this is our tendency to magnify pieces of information that support our opinions or views and overlook or ignore facts that oppose it. It can mislead us from making the best decisions that are rooted in factual information.


Tips to Minimize Unconscious Workplace Bias

  1. Be more aware of your own bias. You can’t solve what you don’t know. By being more self-aware you can identify hidden biases that exists within your mind and find ways to mitigate it.
  1. Be more aware of the unconscious bias at your workplace. Try to determine areas in the workplace where implicit bias exist or can occur. Whether that be in the hiring process or in the evaluation process and fix it. Every workplace system is susceptible to bias and it is the duty of a good leader to solve it.
  1. Encourage an EDI environment. Nurture an environment where employees can feel open and safe to be different and voice their opinions.
  1. Measure your efforts: Have specific and measurable goals set out for your diversity and inclusion plan. Determine ways you can minimize identified implicit bias at work and measure appropriately. To help you get started read our article on metrics for EDI.
  1. Training for Diversity and Inclusivity. Having regular training for EDI not only educates staff but may also help with reinforcement. We offer a 4-Module program designed to help you gain the knowledge and leadership skills to apply at your workplace. Learn more about our EDI course
  1. Diverse leadership. Diversity happens at all levels. Don’t rely on lower-level management to implement diversity efforts, because it matters just as much at the upper level. Management are the ones responsible for making equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) based decisions. Learn how to be an inclusive leader today and contact us for a consultation.

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“Brain Stuff: The Neuroscience Behind Implicit Bias.” SpectraDiversity , December 27, 2017. https://www.spectradiversity.com/2017/12/27/unconscious-bias 

Burton, Liz. “What Is Unconscious Bias in Recruitment?” The Hub | High Speed Training. High Speed Training, December 18, 2017. https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/hub/types-of-unconscious-bias/#confirmation 

Chisolm-Noel, Anadri. “Recession Fears: Is Your Business Ready?” IMPACT Group. Accessed November 12, 2021. https://www.impactgrouphr.com/insights/recession-fears-is-your-business-ready 

Daliri, Erfan. “The Cost of Unconscious Bias.” Web log. Erfan Daliri Social Change Consultant (blog). Erfan Daliri, June 14, 2021. https://www.erfandaliri.com/blog/unconsciousbias 

O’Donnell, Lauren. “Understanding Unconscious Bias.” Great Place to Work, July 1, 2020. https://www.greatplacetowork.ca/fr/resources/understanding-unconscious-bias 

Responding to Microaggressions and Racism

Responding to Microaggressions and Racism

Responding to microaggressions and racism can be very difficult. Whether you are a person experiencing or witnessing microaggressions or racism,  the definitions and suggestions below can support you in determining the best course of action. It is important to note that racism is embedded in our systems and structures. The information below does not address systemic or structural racism, but rather focuses on interpersonal racism. Systemic and structural racism is addressed through addressing processes, procedures, policies and personal biases. 

Microaggression: According to Dr. Derald Wing Sue, “microaggressions are the everyday slights, indignities, putdowns, and invalidations” that members of equity-deserving groups experience on a daily basis. Oftentimes, they occur in “interactions with well-intentioned, well-meaning people who are unaware they have delivered a putdown or invalidation.”  Microaggressions can have long-term physical and psychological impacts.

Racism: Dr. Ibram X. Kendi defines racism as a “marriage of racism policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities.” Racist policies can be “written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people” and “produce and sustain racial inequity between racial groups.” Furthermore, “a racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group.”


Steps to consider when responding to microaggressions and racism: 

1. Clarify:
Sometimes, it may be difficult to determine if what you have experienced or witnessed is a form of microaggression and racism. If there are other people around, asking them if they also heard the same comment, for example, can be a form of validation. Reaching out to loved ones for support can also be helpful if there are no witnesses. 

2. Assess for risk and safety:
When you have experienced or witnessed microaggressions or a form of racism it is also important to assess the risk of your response or not responding.

3. Considerations before responding:
If you have decided to respond, there are many potential ways of addressing the behaviour.  Some important factors to consider include:

    • Timing: Do you want to respond as it is occurring or immediately after? Do you want to wait and respond after some time has passed?
    • Potential Impact: Do you want the perpetrator to be aware that their behaviour is a form of microaggression or racism? Do you want your response to be an educational opportunity for everyone who is witnessing the behaviour? Do you want the perpetrator to be held accountable for their behaviour? Do you want an opportunity to express how you are feeling? Do you want to feel validated? Do you want to feel support/be supported?

4. Respond:
In “ A guide to responding to microaggressions,” Dr. Kevin L. Nadal highlights that there are main ways of responding. 

    • Passive-Aggressive: This can include using jokes, humour and sarcasm as a way of indirectly highlighting the behaviour. However, it is important to note that this type of response may lead to further escalation. 
    • Proactive: Nadal explains that victims may sometimes feel frustrated and angry and respond actively, such as by yelling back, which “may be a therapeutic way of releasing years of accumulated anger and frustration.”. Similar to a passive-aggressive response, this type of response may lead to further escalation. 
    • Assertive:  This can include responding through sharing how the behaviour has impacted you and educating the perpetrator (and witnesses) how the behaviour is hurtful. Nadal highlights that by focusing on the action/ behaviour rather than the individual, you can create space for dialogue and learning

5. Document:
In many cases, particularly in situations where racism is taking place, it may be helpful to document and record microaggressions and racism. Having some form of record can help in holding the perpetrator accountable for their actions. If you are the witness, it is important to get the permission of the person who is experiencing the microaggression or racism before recording and/or sharing the recording.  

6. Support:
Microaggressions and racism can have long term impacts on our health. If you are experiencing microaggressions and racism, it is important to seek support. This can include speaking with family, friends and loved ones, speaking with mental health professionals, reporting the behaviour (e.g. speaking with HR), sharing common experiences with others, and practicing other forms of self-care. If you have witnessed microaggressions or racism, if possible, follow up with the victim to ensure they have access to support.  Organizations can also ensure that they have clear and accessible reporting and accountability measures in place so that people are aware that they can report microaggressions and racism when they occur in the workplace. Additionally, organizations can ensure that employees have access to different forms of support, such as access to mental health programs through their benefits.  


Veza Global is always here to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need further guidance. You can also take a look through our Resources page and go through the information listed on how to become an inclusive community member


1 – Derald Wing Sue, “Mini Moments with Big Thinkers,” Teachers College Columbia University, May 13, 2013.  https://www.tc.columbia.edu/bigthinkers/segments/derald-wing-sue/
2 – Ibid.
3 –  Ibram X. Kendi, “Extracts: Ibram X. Kendi defines what it means to be an antiracist,” Penguin Books Limited, June 09, 2020. https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2020/june/ibram-x-kendi-definition-of-antiracist.html
4 – Ibid.
5 – Ibid.
6 – Kevin L. Nadal, “A guide to responding to Microaggression,” CUNY FORUM 2:1 (2014) 71-76, https://ncwwi.org/index.php/resourcemenu/resource-library/inclusivity-racial-equity/cultural-responsiveness/1532-a-guide-to-responding-to-microaggressions/file 
7 – Ibid.

Creating Inclusive Hybrid Worplaces

Creating Inclusive Hybrid Worplaces

 Creating Inclusive Hybrid Workplaces

For many of us, we are planning or amidst our transition back to the office or a hybrid model. For some, there is a level of excitement and while for others, there is a level of anxiety. 

The excitement of being around others is wonderful for the extroverts, while the introverts are looking for new ways to manage their energy. 

Creating an inclusive hybrid workplace needs to be a practical, planned and purposeful exercise where extra attention needs to be given to accommodate in-person and remote employees. 

Below are 9 ways to be more inclusive in the hybrid workplace:

  1. Involving remote team members in meetings through inviting them (even last minute), providing video option for meetings
  2. Managing remote meetings (inclusion of those not in the room)
  3. “Transferring” water cooler chat to online chat
  4. Creating an environment where all feel valid for their choice. There is no shaming for working from home
  5. Effective performance management taking into account that rapport is harder to establish online
  6. Ensuring the right information is getting to the right individuals. It is easier to have conversations in person therefore an important piece is remembering who else needs to be a part of that conversation. 
  7. Continue regular weekly 1:2:1 check-ins and regular weekly team meetings are important to create a sense of belonging within the team. 
  8. Encourage team members to participate in cross-organisational committees and activities 
  9. Start weekly meetings with a personal check-in and breakouts where possible to engage team members in conversation. Breakouts can be to discuss key questions like:
    1. How did you feel you contributed in the last week?
    2. What is something you are proud of?
    3. What is a lesson you learned?

Always, feel free to take Veza Global Inclusion Self Assessment Quiz as way to measure where your organization is on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion maturity model.


Recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Canadian Indigenous Flag by Curtis Wilson of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation near Campbell River. 


Recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – By Michelle Casavant, Veza Global’s Indigenous Consultant


September is historically a painful month for Indigenous peoples because it was the month when children were torn away from their families to return to residential school.

Bill C-5 establishes the new federal statutory holiday: the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, September 30th.  This bill correlates to the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action number 80, which called on the federal government to establish a holiday commemorating the history and legacy of residential schools and to honour the survivors, families, and communities.

The Government of Canada fast tracked the Bill after the announcement by Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc of the found remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops residential school.

September 30th was Orange Shirt Day, a grassroots movement which was a day to wear orange to commemorate and remember the children that attended residential school, the survivors, their families and communities.

The last residential school closed in 1996 and the effects of the system and colonization are still deeply felt in communities today.

Learning the truth is critical to moving forward with reconciliation. On September 30th, and every day, we need to reflect on the terrible history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, whether it is through personal reflection or with others.

You are invited to watch this powerful interview of former senator and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Murray Sinclair.

Of note, Murray Sinclair states:

“reconciliation cannot come from a place where the non-Indigenous people think they are being benevolent.”   

He also notes that reconciliation will take 7 generations, and that Indigenous peoples are doing all the heavy lifting.

Do your part and help with the heavy work by learning the truth, reading the TRC Calls to Action, engaging in conversations, and more. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has a schedule of events for the week of September 27 – October 1, which you can access here.


The Equitable Database

The Equitable Database

Connecting Underrepresented Groups With Potential Job Opportunities

Veza Global is so excited to announce the launch of The Equitable Database, the first of its kind in Canada.

The Equitable Database is a database where Veza Global will connect people who are underrepresented and equity deserving who are seeking employment opportunities to business owners/employers who are looking to diversify their candidate pool. People who are underrepresented would entail the following:

  • People who have culturally diverse backgrounds
  • People with diverse abilities
  • People with neurodiversity
  • People who identify as LGBTQAI2S+
  • Immigrants

How to be part of The Equitable Database if you are a person who is seeking employment opportunities?

If you are someone who identifies as underrepresented in the workplace, here are the steps you can take to be part of the database.

  1. Review and update your resume.
  2. Fill out The Equitable Database form. 
  3. You will then be added to a monthly mailing list with job opportunities

My organization is looking to diversify its hiring pool for its current job postings. How do we get access to The Equitable Database?

As an organization you will get the opportunity to diversify your pool of candidates through The Equitable Database. Here is how it works:

  1. Someone from your organization will fill out the Corporate Equitable Database form. 
  2. In the form, you will need to provide a person who we can contact and a link or PDF of your current job postings. 
  3. Your job postings will then be part of our monthly Equitable Database emails to connect those who are seeking employment opportunities with your postings.

What is the purpose of The Equitable Database?

Many of Veza Global’s clients are looking for candidates from pools outside of where they currently recruit from. Veza wants to support and elevate those who are underrepresented in the workforce by connecting them with employment opportunities. Given the current economy and the number of people that are transitioning careers, starting a new business or aligning to their true calling, Veza Global would like to support you in finding your next opportunity. 

This service is completely complimentary with no costs to either individuals and organizations. We are here to support you in your next steps of your careers and EDI journeys by providing this opportunity. If you have any questions or feedback we invite you to share them with us at hello@vezaglobal.com.


*We use the term People of Culturally Diverse backgrounds as those that are marginalized are not always a person of colour. We focus on creating equal opportunities for those who are/ have been racialized and marginalized. 

*Veza Global is acting as an information provider and is in no way liable for anything beyond the information provided. We are not vetting opportunities nor individuals on this database. We are acting in what we see as being the greatest good of connecting opportunities to individuals.