How often do you find yourself jolted out of a daydream when you’re doing something routine, like commuting or washing dishes? Then someone honks at you, or a plate slips out of your hand and you’re suddenly back in the moment. Where was your brain?
Our brains act out of habit whenever they can to spare us from information overload. For managers, this can be especially helpful, for example when you only have tiny slivers of time to give feedback or make decisions. But it also allows unconscious bias to seep in and wield its influence, potentially causing you to hire the wrong candidate (or reject the right one), hurt a direct report’s morale or performance, or be unfair in any number of other ways that reflect poorly on you as a manager.
The key is to know when unconscious bias might do significant damage — and to take precautionary steps to keep it in check, setting yourself up to be the fair-minded leader your team and colleagues expect. Ask yourself, 'Am I aware, am I conscious, or am I on autopilot?'