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Unconscious Bias: As more firms focus on diversity and inclusion, “unconscious bias” is becoming more common in the workplace. Company executives and decision-makers across industries are stepping up efforts to recognize prejudice in their firms’ hiring, recruiting, and management practices in order to foster a more inclusive workplace atmosphere.
As individuals, being able to recognize unconscious biases in yourself and others can help you make better decisions in both your professional and personal lives. But, it is not always straightforward to understand unconscious bias and its many types. In this article, you will get to know the basics of unconscious bias, including its types, effects, and solutions.
What is Unconscious Bias?
Also known as implicit biases, unconscious biases constantly affect your actions. Informed by your values, backgrounds, and experiences, these biases are crucial in helping your mind efficiently and quickly navigate the world around you. Unfortunately, however, these biases can often be informed by inaccurate and harmful stereotypes. As a result, people can be discriminated against, harming workplace equality, productivity, culture, and opportunity.
When you acquire a rapid opinion on a person or circumstance without being consciously aware of it, this is known as unconscious or implicit bias. Biases are formed in your brain due to our understanding of social situations, cultures, emotional reactions, attitudes, stereotypes, and other factors. You learn these things throughout your lives due to your media exposure and experiences.
When it comes to hiring, unconscious bias can dramatically sway your decision. While it’s crucial to use your experience to evaluate applications, it’s an issue when your assumptions, preferences, and expectations become too powerful.
Even if you interpret a bias positively in your mind, it can nevertheless lead to unfair favoritism. For example, it’s still an unconscious bias if you prefer an applicant who went to the same university as you equate it with intelligence. A more excellent education does not automatically imply that they are brighter than other contenders.
It isn’t easy to overcome your preconceptions when it comes to recruitment. During interviews, gut feelings and first impressions are extremely important. But on the other hand, unconscious bias must be avoided since it can lead to inaccurate, unfair judgments, overlooked talent, or, in the worst-case scenario, discrimination.
The beliefs are buried deep within your minds, and you are often unaware of their existence. Unlike conscious or explicit biases, unconscious biases are not prejudiced on purpose. Scientists have concluded that your minds are programmed to make assumptions and associations to help you digest information more quickly. Still, it doesn’t make them any less destructive to the people affected by them.
How Does Unconscious Bias Affect Your Actions?
Most of you might believe that you are unbiased and ethical. You think you are a good decision-maker, able to size up a venture deal or a job candidate objectively and reach a rational and fair conclusion in your organization’s best interest. However, over twenty years of research shows that most people fall regretfully short of their inflated self-perception.
Biases affect you and your decision-making processes in various ways. It affects your:
- Perception: how you perceive reality and see people
- Attitude: the way you react towards some people
- Behavior: how friendly or receptive you are towards some people
- Attention: which aspect of a person do you pay most attention to
- Listening Skills: how much you actively listen to what some people say
- Micro-affirmations: how little or how much you give comfort to some people in certain situations
Types of Unconscious Bias
When you mistakenly assess the reasons for other people’s experiences and accomplishments, you call it attribution bias. This usually means that you assume that people’s triumphs are attributable to luck rather than work or competence, which is thought to be the cause of their negative experiences or failures.
Attribution bias can cause managers to overlook candidates’ successes, affecting recruitment and performance evaluations, allowing exceptional people to pass them by who could have otherwise been a valuable contribution to their teams and the company.
Rather than jumping to assumptions, you should carefully investigate the causes behind people’s histories and successes to ensure you don’t fall victim to attribution bias. This can include analyzing performance indicators, thoroughly analyzing an employee’s role in successful or unsuccessful initiatives, and analyzing a variety of work examples in the workplace.
When you treat someone more favorably just because they are similar to you or those you know, this is known as affinity bias or similarity bias. Similarities might encompass anything from likes, dislikes, or looks to schooling or work background.
Affinity bias must be avoided when forming diverse teams. However, when it comes to hiring, it might lead to managers hiring people they like but who aren’t really the best fit in terms of experience or skill set. As a result, it can stifle a company’s growth and function, as well as deny opportunities to otherwise qualified candidates.
Ensure that an applicant’s skills and experience take precedence over factors like history or personality, and use blind recruitment practices to avoid affinity bias.
You have succumbed to confirmation bias when you make decisions or draw conclusions about situations or people based on your own experiences, opinions, or prejudices. Yet, early interactions and experiences with individuals, regardless of their present performance or actions, might impact your enduring, long-term attitudes about them if you submit to it.
In the workplace, minimizing confirmation bias entails giving people a second chance as well as recognizing and disregarding your own prejudices to evaluate people properly. In the context of interviews, this also entails using standardized questions to prevent your biases from showing through as you interrogate potential candidates.
Confirmation bias can be destructive not only to others but can also impair your own decision-making at work. Take this illustration, for example.
A business wants to launch a new service, and the marketing department feels it will be a huge success. Therefore, market research is allocated to a member of the team. During their investigation, they discovered various clues indicating the business may not be as profitable as it was initially believed, but they chose to dismiss the data as an aberration. Instead, they exclusively consider studies that support the team’s existing beliefs.
Confirmation bias clouds your judgment and traps you in a circle of different biases. In this case, all data is not taken into account. Instead, the team looks for evidence indicating the new service will be a significant success.
Conformity bias refers to the pressure you feel to act based on the actions of others rather than your own independent reasoning. The bias is linked to your need to please and conform to others around you.
This prejudice is a significant issue in the workplace since it can lead to groupthink when debates become echo chambers for the same or similar points of view or cultures where decisions aren’t thoroughly questioned. Conformity bias can result in senior employees wielding undue influence over recruiting, promotion, and other company procedures, as well as poor decision-making that negatively impacts business performance.
Create and support a workplace culture that allows employees to express their ideas and opinions constructively and sees bosses actively listening to their teams’ concerns to combat conformity bias.
Also known as beauty bias, attractiveness bias occurs when you perceive attractive people as more competent at their employment while viewing ugly and exceptionally handsome people as less competent.
This bias has its roots in evolutionary psychology, where more attractive people are thought to be more charismatic and persuasive. In contrast, unattractive people are supposed to lack these qualities, and beautiful people are thought to have succeeded in life because of their looks rather than their accomplishments.
To overcome attractiveness bias, make sure that abilities and accomplishments, not beauty standards, are used to determine decisions when hiring, promoting, or managing your workforce.
Gender bias occurs when you have a preference for one gender over the other. Gender bias impacts women significantly more than it does men. It can lead to both women and men employing more male job prospects and having an impact on the positions men and women are perceived to be best at fulfilling.
You can also read our related article on this topic.
The impacts of gender bias in the workplace are apparent:
- More males in senior positions.
- Employing more men than women, and for specific tasks.
- Resulting in a team that is defined by its lack of diversity rather than its members’ skills and accomplishments.
To overcome gender bias, resumes must be anonymized, in addition to the setting of diversity hiring targets to ensure that your company’s gender mix is nearly equal.
When you treat others based on preconceptions and broad assumptions that are often wrong, you engage in perception bias. It can include a variety of other biases, such as age, gender, and height, and has similar consequences on organizations, such as rejecting talent and diminishing diversity.
To be ignored, individuals must be conscious of their biases, which can be accomplished by flipping bias when you are about to act on it. This includes shifting the form of bias between the two things you are comparing. For example, the gender of two hires and analyzing how your brains react to the roles being exchanged. If their skills do not match their gender, the probability is relatively high that you are biased.
It is a bias that makes you compare one thing to another even though there are many other things in the set to compare.
Consider recruitment, for example. When faced with 30 resumes or interviews to review, you may find yourself comparing one to the next and ignoring the rest. Even if the following applicant was significantly better than others, one great interview could make the next interviewee appear terrible. On the other hand, a truly bad interviewee can make a mediocre hire appear outstanding.
The result in the workplace could be that exceptional candidates are turned down solely because of their position in the interview process, while good, dependable employees may be denied promotions owing to their meeting timing. Therefore, create well-structured review mechanisms that simultaneously assess all hires or workers, not just some, to counteract the contrast effect.
When you build a whole image of someone based on a single negative feature, it’s called the horns effect. The horns effect, which is the polar opposite of the halo effect, has comparable commercial implications, disqualifying employees who are generally good but have done something potentially small wrong, thereby removing the benefit of the doubt.
A person arriving at an organization for a job interview is one example of this bias. They don’t notice an employee walking behind them when they enter the building, so they don’t hold the door open. But unfortunately, this is the individual who will be conducting the interview. Besides, though the applicant didn’t even see them, their chances to get the job have been skewed because of the tainted judgment of the interviewer of the applicant.
When interviewing potential workers, you must avoid jumping to judgments and use procedures such as standardized interview questions and blind interviewing to prevent the horns effect.
Unconscious bias manifests itself in a variety of ways, making it difficult to determine which to address first and how to do so. However, being conscious of these biases might help you counteract their power over you and make more informed hiring and promotion decisions. Consider an unconscious bias training program for your employees if you want them to learn more about these biases and how and where they can occur in your company. Your team will learn how to recognize and manage different types of prejudice and what rules and procedures to implement to prevent systemic bias in your company.