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Blog - (Body) Guarding against ‘Unconscious Bias’

(Body) Guarding against ‘Unconscious Bias’

Posted by Andrew Rundle - Associate Learning and Development Consultant 02/10/18

BBC - BodyguardI overheard a conversation on a train last week.  It went something like this...

Person 1 - Did you see Bodyguard last week? It was amazing, I was gripped. But what about the big reveal at the end. I wasn’t expecting that. 

Person 2 - You mean that the Asian woman who we thought was the victim was actually the evil manipulative mastermind behind the terrorist bombs?

Person 1 - No, the fact that a woman was portrayed as an engineer!!

It got me thinking no matter how much we hold up the mirror to inequality and try to promote diversity, unconscious bias is always lurking to trip us up or catch us unaware.

As HR professionals, we are often seen as the PPO’s (Personal Protection Officers) of best practice in the workplace. We write policies. We guide and advise. We train and develop. But we are also human and prone to the same tendencies as every other employee.

How can we ensure that our own preferences or values don’t unduly influence our decisions? How can we counter what is already programmed into our brain and thoughts?

In the workplace where decisions and bias can affect recruitment, employee development or team effectiveness, we need to strive to promote our own ‘counter intelligence’.  So, what can we do? Here some ideas to bear in mind...

  • Try to be always aware of unconscious bias. Develop and nurture your own self -awareness. (David Budd could certainly have done with this).
  • Take time with important decisions. Don’t default to gut reactions, but rather look at all the options and reflect on issues properly. (This would have made Bodyguard a less enjoyable watch).
  • Be able to show how decisions are made with evidence and research. If you need to justify your decision to others, record the reasons for outcomes. (Never use a kompromat).
  • Explore ways to work with different types of individuals and teams and make a conscious decision to challenge what you would normally do. (The Police and Security Services could have learnt from this).
  • Focus on the positive behaviour of people and not negative stereotypes. (Enough said!)
  • Adopt best practice and procedures to contain the influence of individual characteristics and preferences. (Please see note 1).

TV can be a wonderful medium for highlighting issues, but a woman as an engineer?! Whatever next? A female doctor?!

BBC - Dr Who

You may be interested in Andrew’s previous blog about what another TV drama tells us about conflict. 

Or another of our blogs on Unconscious Bias and how to mitigate its effects.

For more information on how we can help your organisation become more aware of how bias can play out at work and how to overcome its effects please call us on 01903 732 782 or email us

Andrew Rundle - Associate Learning and Development Consultant
Andrew Rundle - Associate Learning and Development Consultant

As part of the Focal Point Training team, I draw on my extensive HR experience of providing specialist input on all aspects of employee relations, change management and organisational development. When I am not training or coaching, you will find me taking my cocker spaniel for country walks, in the kitchen cooking (making a mess as my wife describes it) or attending a local pub quiz.

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