Spotting Bias in the Workplace

Spotting Bias in the Workplace

24th October 2018 Off By Vithoria Escobar

We started our #Diversity Series last week by explaining the process of bias in our brain and how to acknowledge it. Today we will focus on how and where unconscious bias can take place in your work routine.

As introduced here, unconscious bias is a process developed by our brain to make social categories. It is a way we make unconscious judgements about situations or people in order to relate to them or identify differences and similarities.

Those judgments or biases may have made sense in terms of self or group identification or even protection at some point. However, our rooted biases manifest in our every day behaviours, even in the smallest of ones. For example, the person in work you invite for a coffee over the person you don’t.

As innocent as unconscious micro behaviours may sound, they can have to significant impact in the workplace. In fact, unconscious bias in the workplace can result in the same negative consequences as conscious bias and discrimination. The person you sympathise with, might actually be a good choice to invite for a coffee, but how about when it’s time for promotion? Is this still the person you’d consider? Thus we must be careful not to let personal  preferences interfere with our professional decision-making.

The 7 Biases 

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if unconscious bias is rampant in a workplace, it can result in discriminatory treatment or practices, negative business culture and a lack of workforce diversity.

We’ve put together the below list of 7 different types of unconscious biases that can be found in every day work routines. 

Attribution bias

This refers to how we perceive our own versus other people’s actions, especially those we associate with success and failure. For instance we might unconsciously focus on someone else’s failures rather than their accomplishments.

Anchoring Bias

Similar to attribution bias, anchoring bias is a tendency to rely on a specific information to make a decision. An example is if we were to qualify someone based only on their GPA. 

Affinity Bias

We are more likely to warm to people who we have some kind of affinity with us or share something in common. For example, if we were raised in the same neighbourhood, it can create a natural affinity. As we identify with the person, we are more likely to see their positive aspects and we are also more likely to trust them.

Confirmation Bias

If we naturally sympathise with someone our brain will unconsciously look for evidences to confirm our idea. If it does, we will make little effort to look for information to oppose our point of view. Confirmation bias can also be named as “halo/horns effect”. Based on traits that stand out for us, we develop positive or negatives impressions about a person. It also relates back to affinity bias, as we unconsciously try to confirm our affinities and preferences.

Conformity Bias

This type of bias takes place in groups. It arises when we believe or do something simply because everyone else agrees, regardless of logical reason or evidence. Even if you hold a different opinion, we may “go with the flow” to seek acceptance in the community. 

Intuition Bias

One of the simplest kind of unconscious bias. It happens when we judge someone by our first impressions and we often justify it by using our “instincts” or “intuition”.  We should always remember to never judge a book by its cover. 

Social Stereotypes Bias

Considering the fact that our unconscious bias acts on social categories, we are susceptible to judging people in work based on their values, behaviour, ability, age, beauty, gender, religion, social background, weight and even their name. This can cause us to unconsciously judge someone based on the qualities we associate with their social traits and not the person themselves. 

Where Bias takes place

As it all takes place in our unconsciousness, these unconscious biases can appear just about anywhere in the workplace. Recent reports highlight some of the key situations are affected by bias in the workplace. These include: hiring, performance management, promotion and work allocation. 

Hiring and Promotion

We all agree that job candidates should be evaluated based on their performance and professional skills. Yet, our unconscious leans on many other aspects and we are likely to make decisions on which could simply be personal preferences.

Unconscious bias in hiring and promotion might help us understand why are nearly 58% of male CEOs in U.S. are over 6ft tall, despite the fact that less than 15% of Americans reach this height. Or why female candidates receive a 30% increase in responses during recruitment processes when they apply with a male CV.

Work Allocation and Performance Management

When it comes to assigning key projects within the team, managers are more likely to pick people with whom they have some kind of unconscious preferences. 

Feedback is also delivered differently. If the bias is positive, the conversation tends to be friendly and straightforward. If it’s negative, the communication may tend to be awkward and even hostile. 

Evidence of bias can also be found in team meeting and informal interactions, where some people are given more attention than others.

Preserving Work Diversity

A work environment with similar people holding the same opinions might be convenient but it only leads to stagnant results. Unconscious bias in the workplace limits perspectives and growth opportunity in business.

The more aware of our biases the more we stimulate our mind to make conscious and informed decisions. It is proven that supporting a diverse work culture impacts on better results, collaboration and innovation, engaged workforce and diverse talents.

At Abodoo we strongly advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workforce. In fact, our platform was built to help remove some of these conscious biases from the hiring process. Our smart matching algorithms focus on professional skills and abilities, whilst candidate profiles remain anonymous throughout the screening process. Thus making it a more fair and impartial playing field from which to start.

If you’re looking for a new career and feel you’ve been held back by unconscious bias in the past, why not try registering with us today, a whole new career may be just a few clicks away!