Unconscious Bias at Workplace

Unconscious Biases in the Workplace | An Overview

Unconscious Biases

Unconscious Bias (or Implicit Bias) is the stereotypical opinion one forms based on their perception and judgment without even realizing it. Everyone has some unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and the need to categorize the world and people accordingly leads to unconscious biases. It also depends on their background, experiences and cultural values. Whether we realize it or not, our unconscious biases also influence our professional lives, from the way we think to the way we interact with colleagues.

It’s especially important to be aware of these biases, as these can lead to skewed judgments and reinforce stereotypes, doing more harm than good for companies when it comes to recruitment and decision-making.

Few Common Unconscious Biases that Occurs at Workplace

1. Gender Bias

Gender bias is a preference of one gender over another, this occurs when someone unconsciously associates certain beliefs about gender roles and stereotypes. This type of bias may have an impact on the company’s hiring process and relationship dynamics. The gender pay gap is one of the examples of this kind of bias.

2. Affinity Bias

Unconscious preference towards people who share qualities or viewpoints with us or with someone close to us.
Few Examples:
– Viewing someone as particularly intelligent because you attended the same university.
– Thinking that someone is qualified for a role because you share the same professional qualifications, or have worked at similar companies.
– Believing that someone is a ‘good fit’ for your team because you are of a similar age or have similar socio-economic background.

3. Confirmation Bias

When a person wants to confirm information or ideas that they made prior to a situation. Confirmation bias occurs when we make a decision and then actively seek out information that supports that decision, while ignoring any contradictory facts or viewpoints.

4. Conformity Bias

It is similar to peer pressure in the sense that a group’s opinion can affect the opinion or decision making of another person. This unconscious bias is the most common during meetings and other team gatherings. Members of a team, for example, can sway another person’s opinion, affecting the team’s behaviour or actions as a whole.

5. Halo/Horn Effect

When someone’s performance or character is generalized based on just one trait or event. If the trait is a positive one, it’s called the halo effect, and if it’s a negative one, it’s called the horn effect. This can adversely affect an organization by presenting skewed feedback (both positive and negative) for some employees

6. Beauty Bias

Favorable treatment and positive stereotyping of individuals who are considered more attractive, it is also discrimination based on physical appearance.

7. Age Bias

-Stereotyping or discriminating against others based on their age, often happens to older team members.
For Example – Assigning tasks to people based on their age. A common example would be a tech-heavy project. The unconscious bias may cause a manager to assume that a younger person would be more apt to handle this job as opposed to an older one.

8. Perception Bias

Perception bias occurs when we judge or treat others based on stereotypes and assumptions about the group they belong to that are often inaccurate and overly simplistic. It may involve other biases such as gender, age, and appearance.

How to tackle the unconscious biases at work

  • First and foremost, make an effort to identify and acknowledge these biases. Analyze and note down the patterns of these biases happening at work and point them out to the concerned person.
  • Educate your employees on the types of unconscious bias and negative consequences that can arise from allowing such behaviour to become normalized. Encourage employees to speak up if they observe a bias and hold the other person accountable for their behaviour.
  • Hiring and team meetings are the most common areas for these biases to generate. Work your way through systematically to structure these areas and make them as bias-proof as you can.
  • Diversify your staff. Diversity ensures a diverse range of perspectives and helps to avoid biases in hiring and promotion decisions.

Unconscious biases are often based on inaccurate, misinformed and incomplete information. And while they usually have no ill intent, it can negatively impact your workplace culture and often leads to office politics and animosity among team members.

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