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Unconscious Bias in Group Formation

Bias toward the representatives of certain social groups may play a significant role in building human relations. It becomes particularly important when it is unconscious and, therefore, not recognized by the person exercising it. My experience suggests a conscious bias in favor of veterans and moderate unconscious gender stereotypes, and if I wanted to get rid of either, I would have to consistently and consciously check my actions.

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The group discussed in this paper was formed through the educational course LED 602: Developing Groups and Teams. It is small and largely informal, consisting of me (a female) and another veteran (also a female). While, at first sight, it might suggest a gendered bias, the connection between us did not form due to both of us being female. Rather, it emerged when I found out that the second member served on the same military base as me. This commonality of shared experience was particularly important in forming the group. Research also suggests that being a veteran in a civilian environment prompts veterans to form closer ties with each other (Yahchus et al., 2018). However, I am well aware of this bias, especially considering that I still work as a military contractor, so it does not count as unconscious.

The fact that other kinds of bias may be implicit or unconscious is highly important for working in groups because people cannot access the consequences of what they do not recognize in themselves. For example, in my case, tests suggest a moderate association of male gender with career and female with family, which could potentially influence my decisions if I was in charge of personnel recruitment. These unrecognized biases may undermine fairness in the way the groups organize and function, which is why many organizations implement policies to address them (Williamson & Foley, 2018). However, it begs the question of what is the best way to do so.

There is no easy and simple answer to how people may change a particular bias they possess. Some organizations put a strong emphasis on implicit bias training, which should make the employees more aware of the stereotypes that may constitute an implicit bias (Williamson & Foley, 2018). It may go as far as perceiving it as a “silver bullet” – that is, the perfect solution (Williamson & Foley, 2018, p. 355). However, this training can only work as long as people continually and consciously examine their actions – and, at the end of the day, it is likely the only way to address an unconscious bias.

While the tests conducted analyzed nothing as specific as bias in favor of veterans, they still uncovered some similarities between me and the other group member. While I demonstrated a moderate association of male gender with career and female with family, the other group member demonstrated it to a greater degree. It shows that, while we are leaning in the same direction, our implicit biases are not identical. Thus, one may still conclude that the main factor in forming this group was the common feeling of being a veteran in a civilian environment (Yahchus et al., 2018). Thus, in this case, the groups formed due to conscious rather than implicit bias.

To summarize, unconscious bias may be a considerable challenge affecting group formation and functioning. The particular group discussed in this paper formed due to a conscious bias, which is simpler to reflect on and, if necessary, mitigate. However, an implicit bias is much harder to detect and address and, even with corresponding training, still requires consistent self-checking to counter its negative effects. Research suggests that my group’s members have an implicit bias toward associating males with careers and females with family, albeit to different degrees, which is something to remember.

References

Williamson, S., & Foley, M. (2018). Unconscious bias training: The ‘silver bullet’ for gender equity? Australian Journal of Public Administration, 77(3), 355-359. Web.

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Yahcus, N. J., Osatuke, K., Carameli, K. A., & Barnes, T. (2018). Assessing workplace perceptions of military veteran compared to nonveteran employees. Journal of Veterans Studies, 3(1). Web.

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