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Check your bias: When implicit bias challenges your investigations

Devon E. Jackson (devon.jackson@inl.gov) is the Employee Concerns Program Manager and Ombudsman at Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA.

If you have been a workplace investigator for more than a few years, and you are a human being, you have developed implicit or unconscious biases toward groups of employees and managers in your organization based on your knowledge of and experience with them. Yes, I said it. Do not tune out; you need to hear this. While not the biggest challenge for compliance and ethics professionals, implicit biases are pesky little interrupters that can misdirect a fair and independent workplace investigation if we don’t acknowledge and deal with them.

The risk of ignoring an unconscious bias could be over- or under-investigating an issue, not investigating at all, diminishing or dismissing legitimate employee concerns, and perhaps even reaching erroneous conclusions to the detriment of another’s career.

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