I’m biased, you’re biased, etc. You’re biased, you’re prejudiced. Surprised? Shocked? Interested? I know, I know. You love everyone, of all colors, equally. But it’s a fact: even if you’re a professional who values diversity and inclusion, you’re biased and prejudiced. I assure you, being biased and having prejudices is perfectly human. So am I.


Cognitive bias is your interpretation of what you experience. You validate what you see against reality. Rooted in your values, beliefs, culture, education, learning, experiences, interactions, etc., you distort the meaning of a situation or action according to your perception. Your personal filter looks for similarities to secure and categorize based on what you know. This monovision then justifies and legitimizes your decisions. These decrees dictate your actions and words. This bias is emotional, not reasoned. It doesn’t take into account the totality of reality, with its many sides, which is impartial. Often unconscious, cognitive bias is reactive. It responds to a stimulus that is interpreted by you, for you, and proposes reactions, chosen from your inventory.

Prejudice often has a bad reputation, but it’s not always bad. These impressions, which capture what you’re experiencing, motivate your actions. Over the years, even thousands of years, these instinctive judgments have enabled the human race to survive. These beneficial prejudices are activated when you face danger. In this fight-or-flight state, like the fastest computer, you analyze at breakneck speed to figure out how to defend yourself or leave. Like your computer, your brain then analyzes and searches your repertoire for similarities to produce the behavior to adopt. Quickly, based on the information you’ve already compartmentalized and saved, you decide whether to stay if you know the situation, or leave if what you’re experiencing hasn’t been catalogued. Your judgment is based on what you know.

If what you’re experiencing hasn’t been experienced before and isn’t part of your inventory, denial may follow. This individual interpretation excludes the unfamiliar. You may be paralyzed, afraid, or refuse to participate. These basic, instinctive survival behaviors give rise to exclusion.

At work, during a recruitment process, certain elements can trigger your judgments. For example, you assign certain tasks to certain groups of people. Or, when you receive resumes and some information is missing, you fill in the gaps using different assumptions. Aware of these automatic filtering mechanisms, you have probably decided, as a human resources professional, to use a highly structured selection interview grid, with specific criteria that give equal opportunities to all candidates.

Interestingly, to avoid bias, your peers in symphony orchestras conduct blind auditions. They don’t see the candidates. They make their choice solely on the basis of what they hear from the musicians. How could you use this technique in your company…?


All stereotypes are the result of generalizations. Often negative, stereotypes of certain groups of people are based on your experiences with them, comments received by people you trust and messages conveyed by your favorite media. These prejudices “label” people without taking into account their true characteristics.

Conversely, generalizations are presented as helpful. They contextualize statements made about the characteristics and behaviors of individuals in the same community. Stereotypes judge rather than describe. Whereas generalizations of common behaviors within a group are typically positive and helpful observations.

“Human resources professionals are not very transparent” is a stereotype. Whereas “To maintain confidentiality, HR professionals are discreet and reserved”.

People often don’t hesitate to mention their favorable prejudices. But stereotypes and generalizations can both be true or false.

“All women have style” can be flattering to women without being true. The problem is that stereotypes and generalizations bias rather than validate the experience of the moment with the person or people with whom you’re interacting. Stereotypes encourage prejudice and can easily lead to discrimination.


Implicit or explicit, unconscious or conscious biases affect your words, actions and gestures. They can be perceived as segregationist or exclusive. An eye roll, “them others in marketing”, looking at your cell phone when someone else is talking, are all behaviors that have the potential to be interpreted as exclusive.

When a bias is implicit, it is implied. Its why is not expressed. It’s sneaky and hard to identify. Since an implicit bias is not stated, it is often unconscious and, above all, difficult to prove.

As for explicit bias, it explains the observation and details the reasoning behind the judgment. In situations of crisis and anxiety, in the heat of the moment, explicit biases come out much more quickly and are announced or even desperately shouted. Everyone present is aware of the bias. Once heard, prejudices can be more easily addressed, questioned, explored or denounced.


At this point, I’m convinced you’re looking in your rearview mirror. Like me, in the course of my research, you’re probably horrified by past words or actions that you regret. This recognition of your prejudices is a good way of raising awareness. Continue your development with Harvard University’s Implicit Association Test. You’ll have the choice of taking the test to discover your possible implicit associations with: gender, skin color, age, country, sexual orientation, race and weight. This awareness can serve as an ice-breaker for one of your meetings, especially those of the “Diversity and Inclusion for a Healthy and Balanced Workplace” committee.


Admit that you’re human, that you’re biased.

Recognize that your lens is tinted with your color. Investigate your impulses before you act. Approach these motivations with curiosity. Ask questions to understand before being understood. Be empathetic. Look around you when you speak and move subtly, even slyly. Squinting, recoiling, forced smile? Change your perspective. Review the exchange from the outside. Learn.

Develop your cultural curiosity and recognize diversity at work.

Socialize with people who are different from you to broaden your range of experiences, habits and knowledge. Meet other cultures and learn about their customs. Use your senses to develop empathy. Cook with their spices. Dance to their music. Learn phrases in their language and use them. As the holidays approach, take a look at the customs of the other members of your team. In addition to taking the above test, start or end a meeting by inviting participants to state how they are different or similar. “I’m __________, but I’m not __________”, or “I’m like you __________, but different __________”.

When you witness discrimination, focus on the facts and validate them.

When you hear negatively biased comments, confirm them. Like the good journalist, while remaining objective, without pointing the finger, don’t let it pass, because “Silence is agreement”. Interrupt for information. “Did I hear you correctly say…?” “Let’s rewind the tape and repeat please…” “You know this kind of comment could be interpreted as discriminatory.” Then, as you know as a professional, if necessary, document and discipline.

Work with a specialist.

Whether it’s a virtual interactive conference, an online workshop or a debriefing session after a psychometric test, the input of a specialized collaborator will add to the seriousness of your intentions. At your service. 🙂


Since the tragic, high-profile deaths of George Floyd, Joyce Echaquan and other visible minorities, various news sources have been shedding light on the dark prejudices that led some to cause death. If we are aware of these inequities, we can put a stop to discriminatory words and exclusive gestures. In your role you also have the power to educate the members of your team so that everyone has the same chance to flourish at work.

Providing an inclusive and diverse workplace doesn’t mean inviting all employees to the dance. Providing an inclusive and diverse workplace means ensuring that everyone is asked to dance.

Are you in a sticky situation? This blog is at your service. Write to me at Your situation may enlighten other readers.

Published Reference Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines du Québec November 17, 2020 (c) Julie Blais Comeau

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