Are You Being Biased Without Knowing? Addressing Implicit Biases in the Workplace

As much as we’d like to think that our decisions and behavior are fair and rational, implicit biases are stereotypes that affect our understanding of others in a subconscious manner – meaning we’re not even aware that they are happening at most times. In the real world, everyday discrimination occurs in much subtler ways that are often difficult to recognize. For example, have you ever befriended a coworker just because they look like you? Have you hired someone before based only on “gut feeling”?

Dissecting the Different Types of Workplace Biases

Implicit bias in the workplace can impact your diversity initiatives, hiring, and retention. At the same time, understanding the causes of these biases can bring you one step closer to a truly inclusive work environment. Here are the types of biases that have the most direct influence in the workplace:

  • Affinity bias: It is human nature to gravitate towards individuals who are similar to ourselves in appearance, hobbies, or beliefs. This type of bias is also what drives our “gut feeling” when finding new hires.
  • Halo effect: It refers to the tendency to think that everything about a person is good just because you are fond of that person inside or outside of work. In the long run, this may transition into “favoritism” as the people you favor are more likely to receive rewards, leniency, and help in comparison to others.
  • Perception bias: It refers to the stereotypes and assumptions formed about certain people, which can lead to unfair and subjective judgments against members of those groups. The danger about workplace stereotypes is that it creates an imbalance of expectations within teams. For instance, some employees may receive harsher treatments or less recognition due to their looks, race or gender.

The thing about biases is that they’re never easy to detect. This makes them more difficult to address with awareness alone. Biases that are left unaddressed can significantly affect work relationships and trust, as well as job satisfaction, productivity, creativity, and your employer brand.

So… How Can We Address It?

As human beings, we all have biases. However, it is our duty as a leader and member of an organization to ensure our actions do not affect our colleagues and culture. Recruitment and retention, especially, are some of the areas that will require extra attention in order to acquire a diverse workplace.

  • Diversify your candidate pool with hiring tools: The strength of a pre-employment assessment lies in its ability to measure real job competency based on a candidate’s learning skills, interests, and personality. This helps hiring managers make better decisions that root in actual science, rather than our perception of others.
  • Standardize your interviews: Favoritism can emerge easily during interviews for candidates who share similar experiences as the interviewer – perhaps they’ve gone to the same school or speak the same languages. This may advantage certain groups of people as it creates a better “first impression”. To avoid this, come up with a set of predetermined questions for fairer comparison between candidates. Unstructured interviews can often lead to poor hiring decisions.
  • Establish clear criteria for rewards and promotions: Equal opportunities should be given to every individual of an organization. Whether it’s a simple shoutout or a special bonus, every member and team deserve to be recognized for their equivalent efforts.

There are many areas in our day to day where implicit bias can creep in. While it is realistically impossible to get rid of it completely, any effort put into removing bias will carry weight in the long term. So let’s all at least do our part for a better workplace and future!