After having the entire first week of our internship devoted to various training sessions in what was known as “AlphaCamp,” the subsequent weeks of the internship contain a sprinkling of other training sessions as interns are exposed to more and more material on the desk. This past week, we had a training on Unconscious Bias.
Given that the job entails a form of “people selection,” the presenter sought to address both opportunities for unconscious bias within the workplace, as well as unconscious bias we may come across in our daily workflow as associates. This tied quite closely to what we learned about implicit leadership theories in theories and models, along with the idea of a “prototype” of who should be considered a leader. The presenter discussed the the need for mental shortcuts in order to process information, thus the birth of biases and the potential for false assumptions.
We began to brainstorm ways in which unconscious biases play into our daily work routines. A large component of our job entails using professional platforms such as LinkedIn in order to find potential advisors with whom to connect our clients. We discussed how even in this vein, unconscious bias could be at play quite prominently. For example, when scrolling through possible profiles, we noted how we may be much less likely to select a person with an unprofessional-looking picture, or no picture at all. We may also be less likely to select someone from outside the US as a potential candidate for an advisor, even if our client has not specified that they want an American perspective exclusively.
These assumptions that someone with a non-conventional photo or someone located outside the US may not be as “fit” for a role as a potential advisor to our client comes from our implicit leadership theories about who we believe to be best for a leadership role. These certain prototypes for a leader are profiles we have envisioned in our heads before we even embark on a search. When a certain profile does not fit within a preconceived notion we may have about what the leader should be in a particular scenario, we may be discarding some key advisors. Our presenter explained that in reality, some of the best advisors may not be spending their energy uploading the right picture or taking the time to update their profile–emphasizing the importance of perspective.
Given that our mind is already making shortcuts and thus forming biases in normal environments, sifting through hundreds of possible advisors and having to make quick decisions as to whether or not a singular photo and title garners further investigation will inevitably lead to us forming biases faster than we can process them. The overwhelming amount of data only increases the need for mental shortcuts. It is definitely important to keep in mind how these implicit leadership theories are impacting selections, and at least take the time to second-guess these premature prototypes before immediately discarding a profile.