How to Overcome Unconscious Bias as a Manager: 7 Easy to Implement Tips

Let’s face it—at some point in your career, you’ve acted on bias. That doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad manager. It makes you… human. 

You probably didn’t know you were doing something wrong. You didn’t realize the bias was informing your action. That’s how unconscious bias works.

But how do you overcome a behavior you don’t know is taking place? 

We have a few tips specific to you as a manager which we’ll break down in detail below. But here’s a sneak peek on how to overcome unconscious bias:

  1. Make the unconscious, conscious
  2. Spend time with people who are different to you
  3. As always, lead by example
  4. Talk to your team about unconscious bias
  5. Call it out in others and yourself
  6. Start an employee group dedicated to overcoming unconscious bias
  7. Use tools like Waggle to spot and reduce bias in your meetings 

We’ve also outlined strategies you can pass on to your HR team to implement to reduce unconscious bias across the organization. 

Let’s get into it.

Strategies for overcoming unconscious bias as a manager

First, a quick definition so we’re on the same page.  

📖Unconscious Bias: 

Sometimes called implicit bias, unconscious bias refers to the automatic, mental shortcuts our brains take based on our past experiences and societal influences, which can unfairly influence our judgment of others.

It operates silently, guiding our decisions and interactions without us even realizing it. 

Unconscious bias impacts every aspect of the workplace, from hiring and promotion decisions to team dynamics and individual interactions, often hindering diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

As a manager, it's essential to actively recognize and mitigate unconscious biases to foster a fair, inclusive, and productive work environment for all team members.

To do so, you need to first make that which is unconscious, conscious:

1: Make the unconscious, conscious

You know how when you buy something—be it a car, a watch, or something else—you start to see it everywhere

Unconscious bias works the same way. Once you know what biases are out there, you can notice them when they happen.

We can then begin to question and adjust our default thoughts and reactions, leading to more deliberate and fair decision-making. 

There are quite a few biases plaguing the workplace. You’ve probably been both the victim and perpetuator of one if not several. 

To help you make the unconscious, conscious we’ve listed common types of biases and how they play out at work:

Types of Bias in the Workplace

There are several biases we need to be aware of at work. And many of them intersect. 

For example, racial bias can influence recruitment bias, gender bias can influence affinity bias, and so on. 

Here are some examples of unconscious biases in the workplace. We’ve split them into two groups. The first is rooted in real bias and the second is how those real biases can show up in work processes.

Real Biases:

  • Racial bias: Refers to the prejudicial attitudes or discriminatory behaviors based on race or ethnicity. In the workplace, racial bias can manifest in various ways, from hiring decisions and promotion opportunities to daily interactions and team dynamics.

  • Gender Bias: Making assumptions about roles and capabilities based on gender. For instance, assuming women are inherently better at caring roles or men at technical tasks can lead to unequal opportunities and pay disparities.

  • Sexual orientation bias: Sexual orientation bias can affect individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ+), as well as those who are perceived to be part of these communities, regardless of their actual sexual orientation.

  • Ageism: Younger and older employees facing stereotypes that they are either too inexperienced or too set in their ways, respectively. This can affect hiring decisions, promotions, and the assignment of responsibilities.

  • Disability Bias: Involves prejudiced attitudes or discriminatory behaviors towards individuals with disabilities, often leading to unfair treatment in hiring, promotions, and daily workplace interactions.

  • Affinity Bias: Preferring people who are like oneself in terms of personal background, experiences, or characteristics. This can lead to homogeneous teams and hinder diversity and inclusion efforts.

  • Name Bias: Judging people based on their names, including ethnic, gender, or class assumptions. Studies have shown that resumes with traditionally White or male-sounding names tend to receive more callbacks than those with ethnic or female-sounding names. These are often rooted in racial and gender bias.

  • Microaggressions: Subtle, often unintentional, actions or comments that convey prejudice against members of marginalized groups. For example, frequently mispronouncing a foreign name or expressing surprise at a person of color's eloquence.

Biases That Manifest in Processes:

  • Performance Evaluation Bias: Evaluating an employee's performance based on subjective perceptions rather than objective outcomes. For example, a manager might rate someone lower because they don't visibly see them working late, not considering their productivity during regular hours.

  • Halo Effect: Allowing one positive trait of a person to overshadow other aspects of their performance or behavior. For example, if an employee went to a prestigious university, a manager might overlook their current poor performance.

  • Horns Effect: The opposite of the halo effect, where one negative trait or mistake can negatively color perceptions of someone's overall character or performance.

  • Recency bias: Occurs when recent events or information are given more weight than older data, affecting decisions like performance evaluations and promotions. This can lead to overlooking an employee's consistent long-term contributions in favor of recent achievements or mistakes.

  • Recruitment Bias: Favoring candidates who share similar backgrounds, interests, or characteristics as the interviewer, often described as a "cultural fit," can overlook diverse talents and perspectives.

  • Confirmation Bias: Seeking out information that confirms pre-existing beliefs about a person or situation. For example, if a manager believes an employee is not competent, they might only notice mistakes that reinforce this belief, ignoring successes.

They’re long lists, which is why it’s so important to be on guard. It’s helpful to mark down which biases you think you’re more likely to fall into. For example, if you’re white you may have an unintentional name bias. 

Doing that will help you pay special attention to them. 

2:  Spend time with people who are different to you

Research proves people who live in more diverse environments are less prejudiced. So a little bit of exposure can go a long way in overcoming unconscious bias.


We’re not saying you need to move house and disrupt your whole life to experience other groups though. Diversity, in many forms, is all around us. And thanks to technology, we’re more connected than ever.

But it will take effort. Our brains are wired to stick with what's familiar. And social algorithms can send us down holes that reinforce preconceived ideas and bias.  

So we need to intentionally fight that. 

It might be as simple as joining a new social group, attending cultural events, or even having lunch with colleagues from other departments. It could also be intentionally hiring people from diverse backgrounds.

This isn't a one-off task either. It's an ongoing commitment to broadening your horizons and challenging unconscious beliefs. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes, paving the way for a more inclusive work environment where everyone feels valued and understood.

3: As always, lead by example

Being a leader makes you influential over the behaviors of your team. And it’s not just you that needs to overcome unconscious bias, it’s everyone. 

By publicly putting effort in to reduce bias in yourself, you’ll likely see others on your team and even in the wider org start to do the same. 

How you act, the language you use, and the decisions you make all send a powerful message about what's valued in your team.

If you're working on being more open to diverse perspectives, show that in both team and one on one meetings. Listen actively, ask questions, and be the first to value different viewpoints.

It also means acknowledging your mistakes. If you catch yourself acting on bias, own up to it. This openness not only shows your commitment to improvement but also makes it safe for others to recognize and work on their biases. It’s the hallmark of being a good manager

4. Talk to your team about unconscious bias

If you can work to overcome unconscious bias by being conscious of it, your team can too. 

Introduce the concept of unconscious bias in a team meeting. 

Acknowledge that everyone has biases, including yourself, and that the goal is to learn and grow together. 

You should use examples that are relevant and relatable to your workplace. But be sure not to make anyone feel uncomfortable.

This helps make the abstract concept more concrete. Encourage team members to share their thoughts and experiences related to bias, ensuring to listen actively and respectfully to what they have to say.

You should also invite any team member to speak to you privately about experiences they’ve had, feedback they’d like to give you specifically, or questions they want to ask. 

5: Call it out in others as well as yourself

It’s important to call out our own biases when we notice them happening. But we also need to take the next step which is to call them out in others. 

This can be…challenging. They might get defensive. That’s why you have to approach these difficult conversations with empathy and understanding. Remember, they don’t know the bias is influencing them. 

You don’t want to sound accusatory. It’s important to use "I" statements to express your observations and feelings. 

For example, "I noticed that in the meeting, this idea was dismissed quickly. I wonder if we might be overlooking its potential because of unconscious bias."

Be prepared to listen to their perspective and engage in a constructive conversation. No one wants to be biased and if you’ve implemented strategy 4 before this, your team will be willing to have a conversation about bias when it occurs. 

If it’s happening outside of your team, hopefully the organization has prioritized this type of radical candor.

Why not take it a step further and create a mechanism for feedback within your team that allows for anonymous reporting of bias incidents? This can help identify patterns and areas for improvement while ensuring that everyone feels safe to express their concerns.

6. Start an employee group dedicated to overcoming unconscious bias

Creating a dedicated group within your organization can have a profound impact on addressing unconscious bias. 

This group can serve as a forum for sharing experiences, discussing strategies for change, and supporting each other in the journey toward greater inclusivity.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Initiate the conversation: Begin by discussing the idea with your team and gauging interest. An employee group should be voluntary and driven by genuine interest and commitment to the cause.

  • Set clear objectives: Define what you want the group to achieve. Objectives can range from raising awareness about unconscious bias, providing education and resources, to implementing specific changes within the workplace.

  • Ensure diverse representation: Encourage participation from a wide range of employees across different departments, levels, and backgrounds. Diversity within the group itself is key to ensuring a variety of perspectives and experiences.

  • Provide resources and support: Offer the necessary resources, such as meeting spaces and access to educational materials. Consider inviting experts to speak or facilitate workshops for the group.

  • Foster a safe and open environment: The group should be a space where employees feel safe to share their experiences and ideas without fear of judgment or repercussions.

  • Take action: Beyond discussions, the group should aim to propose and implement actionable steps to reduce unconscious bias in the organization. This could involve reviewing hiring practices, suggesting training programs, or creating mentorship opportunities.

7. Use Waggle’s data and AI to reduce bias in your meetings

Sometimes, bias only becomes apparent when there are patterns. And sometimes, you need someone…or something removed from bias to spot them.

That’s where you can use a tool like Waggle. Waggle’s AI coaches managers and provides a real-time feedback loop on their skills and behavior.

One of the things the AI does is sit in on meetings with your team. 

It observes what happens, takes notes, assigns action items, and crucially, it provides feedback to you on your skills and the relationship you have with specific people. So it can highlight bias in your behavior towards one person on your team vs another. 

Let’s break down how that works:

Providing objective feedback: 

Waggle’s AI analyzes your skills and interactions with each person you speak to, picking up on how empathetic you are to specific people and how well you delegate during meetings, among other things. 

This objective analysis helps identify any unconscious preferences or biases in how you interact with your team.

Highlighting bias: 

By sitting in on meetings, Waggle can highlight instances where your behavior might differ from one person to another. 

For example, if you’re more open with some team members vs others, Waggle will flag these behaviors. This immediate feedback is invaluable for recognizing biases in action.

Improving relationships: 

Beyond identifying bias, Waggle provides specific suggestions on where you can improve your relationships with team members. 

Whether it’s encouraging more inclusive discussions, distributing tasks more equitably, or simply engaging in more balanced dialogue, Waggle offers actionable insights.

Enabling data-driven decisions: 

With Waggle’s analytics, you can track your progress over time, seeing how changes in your meeting conduct affect team dynamics and individual relationships.

This data-driven approach allows you to make informed decisions about how to continue fostering an inclusive environment.

→ Want to experience Waggle for yourself? Grab your free 15-day trial and personalized onboarding here. ←

Strategies your HR team can implement

If you truly want to reduce implicit biases in the workplace, you’re gonna need help. Your HR team can have a wider influence on the behaviors of everyone from c-suite to intern level employees. 

So we’ve provided some rapid-fire strategy ideas you can pass on to HR. 

1. Embed blind hiring practices

Use blind recruitment processes where possible to minimize racial and gender bias. This involves removing names and other identifying information from resumes and applications.

2. Establish mentorship programs

Create programs that connect employees from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups with mentors and sponsors who can support their career development and advocate for their advancement.

3. Promote awareness and unconscious bias training

Implement comprehensive training sessions focused on bias, its impact, and ways to combat it. Education should cover historical contexts and the importance of equity and inclusion.

4. Monitor and address microaggressions

Educate employees about what microaggressions are and their impact. Encourage reporting and address unconscious bias incidents promptly to create a more respectful and inclusive environment.

5. Promote diverse leadership

Ensure that leadership and decision-making roles are accessible to people from diverse backgrounds. This can serve as a powerful statement against bias and for inclusivity.

6. Establish clear policies and procedures

Develop clear, transparent criteria for hiring, promotions, and performance evaluations to reduce subjectivity and bias.

7. Encourage and support Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

ERGs for underrepresented groups can offer support, mentorship, and advocacy, contributing to a more inclusive workplace culture.

8. Regularly review and adapt practices

Continuously monitor workplace practices, policies, and culture for bias and discrimination. Use feedback and data to make informed adjustments.

9. Create safe channels for feedback 

Ensure employees have safe, confidential ways to report experiences of bias or discrimination without fear of retaliation.

10. Celebrate diversity

Recognize and celebrate cultural events and diversity milestones to promote an inclusive workplace environment. Just make sure these don’t come across as hollow check-box exercises. 

Common questions on unconscious bias:

Where does unconscious bias come from?

Unconscious bias comes from mental shortcuts our brains take to quickly make sense of the world around us. 

These shortcuts are based on our experiences, cultural norms, and societal influences, helping us process information rapidly but sometimes leading to unfair judgments or decisions about others.

Unconscious bias vs implicit bias: Is there a difference?

No, there is no significant difference between unconscious bias and implicit bias. 

Both terms describe biases that operate outside of our conscious awareness, influencing our attitudes, behaviors, and decisions without us realizing it. 

They are often used interchangeably in discussions about how these automatic preferences affect our interactions and decision-making processes.

Further resources for managers:

For help learning how to be a manager when you’ve just got the job: First-Time Manager? Here's How to Excel in Your New Role

For when you want to work on the skills that make managers great at what they do: 12 People Management Skills Great Managers Have (& How to Get Them)

For a checklist to get through your first 30 days as a manager: New Manager Checklist: Everything You Need to Do in Your First 30 Days

For a list of the tech tools every manager needs to have: 21 Top Tools for Managers Who Lead Remote Teams [2024] 

For managers who manage other managers and need a bit of help: Your Guide to Managing Managers: 7 Tips to Help Them Lead

For help writing performance reviews that avoid bias: A Manager’s Guide: How to Write a Performance Review for an Employee

For help motivating your team: How to Motivate Your Team (in Good Times and Bad)

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