Unconscious bias in organisations: what role does it play and what is the impact?

Event details


20 November 2017

Unconscious bias is part of the common parlance of human decision making, both in social and political contexts, and organisational contexts. It can be found explicitly in debates (often heated) about, for example, race, religion, gender and sexuality. In the context of US and UK politics it is arguably more important than ever to understand the role it plays. Implicitly, it is woven into our everyday decision making and by definition is out of our awareness. One such example is illustrated through how people react to a hurricane given a female name, who underestimate its severity and fewer of them leave their homes.

And, of course, in organisations unconscious bias doesn’t result in the difference between life and death, but it does have many manifestations.  For example Roffey Park’s Management Agenda 2017 found that 63% of managers believe there is insufficient diversity on the senior leadership team in their organisation and over a half of them say more could be done to attract, recruit and retain staff from diverse backgrounds.  Despite managers also reporting their organisations are accepting of difference, the gap between perception and reality is still very real.How do leaders raise their awareness of their own, and other people’s unconscious bias? Are they even aware of it, and if they are, to what extent is it understood as an issue worthy of time and attention?

How does unconscious bias impact your work as OD, HR, L&D and change professionals?  How can we design processes and organisations to overcome the unconscious bias that exists in all of us?

In this unique masterclass Robert Livingston will explore the nature of unconscious bias and the impact that it has in organisations. He will outline effective strategies for overcoming it that will be valuable for leaders, HR and OD professionals.  Participants will also be given the opportunity to apply their learning to their own experiences by working in small groups.

About Robert Livingston

Dr. Robert W. Livingston is a Lecturer of Public Policy at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government. Prior to joining Harvard, he was an Assistant Professor  at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Associate Professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Professor and Head of Organizational Behavior at the University of Sussex in England, where he was also Director of the Centre for Leadership, Ethics, and Diversity (LEAD). In addition, he has held Visiting Professorships at Princeton University and Carnegie Mellon University.

Broadly speaking, Dr. Livingston’s research focuses on diversity, leadership, and social justice. His work has been published in top-tier academic journals such as the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Psychological Science, and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC, Newsweek, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Financial Times, ABC News, The Guardian, CNN, Yahoo, and MSNBC. He has also authored several book chapters and co-edited an award-winning book on social identity and intergroup relations.

More specifically, Dr. Livingston’s research ranges from micro-level experimental investigations of the psychological and physiological processes that underlie implicit bias (eg stereotyping, prejudice)—to more macro-level examinations of discrimination in society and the workplace, particularly in upper-level leadership positions. For example, his research on the “Teddy Bear Effect”, finding that Black CEO’s (but not White CEOs) uniquely benefit from “disarming mechanisms” (eg babyfaceness) that make them appear warmer and less threatening, has been widely cited. He is also known for his research on “intersectionality” which explores variability in perception and treatment of individuals within the same gender (e.g., Black women–White women) or racial (eg Black men–Black women) categories.

Dr. Livingston has served as a management and diversity consultant to a wide range of Fortune 500 companies. He was publicly announced by Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, as a member of the team (including Eric Holder and Laura Murphy) assembled to combat discrimination, and he designed the implicit bias training that was rolled out to millions of hosts on the online platform. Dr. Livingston has also consulted for multiple public-sector agencies, city and national governments, and public safety organizations.


Timings and fees

9.30 am to 4.30 pm

£299 +VAT per person

£250 +VAT per person – charity/education sector