The Small Business HR Podcast

Ep. 24

24. Identifying and Addressing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace w/ Angela Livingston

In episode 24, we talk with Angela Livingston to hear about what unconscious bias in the workplace is—and why it’s important to understand it.
Angela Livingston

Angela Livingston

Sr. HR Business Partner
Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions (CAES)

What is unconscious bias? Do you have one? Is there something ‘wrong’ with you if you do?

Let’s answer the second and third questions first: Yes, everyone does. And no, but it’s good to take the time to understand your own biases and work on them.

Now, to better understand the answer to the first question, we sat down with Angela Livingston, Sr. HR Business Partner at Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions (CAES). She told us all about what unconscious bias in the workplace is—and why it’s important to understand our own biases in order to overcome them and not take action on them.

In this episode, we also talked about:

  • How to know if you have an unconscious bias
  • The difference between unconscious bias and racism
  • How unconscious bias can impact HR, people management, and hiring processes
  • Strategies to overcome or mitigate unconscious bias in the workplace

PS. Here’s the link to take the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) Angela referenced.

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Like most HR people, I got into the field because I’m addicted to helping people. I found that, in HR, I’m able to help people through difficult times—both in and outside the workplace. Everything from ‘I don’t know why I’m not getting promoted’ to ‘My parents are getting older and I don’t know how to deal with it.’ Just all the stuff that employees bring to work with them.”

Angela Livingston

The best definition of unconscious bias is also the simplest—judgements and behaviors towards others that we’re not aware of. The things that we’re not aware of still hurt people. And that’s why it’s so important to understand it.”

Angela Livingston

Unconscious bias means we’re making decisions about people based on things other than their qualifications. I want to help people realize that—and talk about how we can keep that from happening in the future.”

Angela Livingston

Do lookbacks on promotions and disciplinary actions. In both scenarios, biases can creep in and no one notices. This is where those unconscious biases can start to turn into real problems for an organization. Those biases can turn into recurring themes—of racism, sexism, ageism. Look back and see if there are themes you need to address.”

Angela Livingston

The beautiful part of being in HR is getting to ask questions. It’s an inherent part of being in HR—getting to dig, poke, and prod—and ask questions like, ‘Is that a performance issue, or is there a cultural element to it?’ And it’s amazing when you see the light bulb go off.”

Angela Livingston

Everything in business boils down to respect. If you’re respectful to others, in turn, they will respect you. And that’s the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.”

Angela Livingston

If we want to really drive diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, we have to move away from the golden rule and towards the platinum rule. Haven’t heard of it? The platinum rule says ‘treat others the way they wish to be treated.’ That’s what will create an environment that allows everyone to feel welcome and like they belong.”

Angela Livingston

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