Our unconscious bias includes the beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes we hold about a group of people without even realizing it. They affect even the best people, taking root early and sticking as they age. Recognizing workplace bias is important because it helps individuals uncover and hopefully remedy their own biases. Research has shown that unintentional bias can negatively impact recruitment, training, and other work-related decisions.
One survey found that workers who reported experiencing workplace bias were 33% more likely to feel alienated, 34% more likely to withhold ideas and solutions, and 80% would not refer people to their employer.
Feelings of isolation, alienation and withholding take a toll on the person. Therefore, stress hormones build in our systems resulting in:
- Low or no emotional engagement.
- Increased stress related illness.
- Increased accidents and absenteeism in the workplace.
- Above average employee turnover.
- Lower client satisfaction and higher customer “turn.”
According to Diversity Resources some common types of bias:
Confirmation bias: Seeking validation from like-minded people to reinforce our preconceived notions or ideas. For example, a product developer creates a product intended for the tech market, and it doesn’t do well. So, they reach out to their developer friends to validate their idea.
Conformity bias: Yielding to group consensus instead of independently evaluating options or opinions. For example, there are two proposals and one person likes the first one best, but everyone else votes for the second. The first person eventually ends up changing their vote only because everyone else felt strongly about it.
Affinity bias: Preferring people who share similar backgrounds, interests, or experiences, rather than focusing on qualifications or merit. For example, a hiring manager chooses a candidate because they share a similar background, not because they are qualified for the job.
Status quo bias: Resisting change and maintaining the current demographics. For example, a company hires individuals from the same demographic group and does not make an effort to move forward with diversity goals.
To mitigate the effects of unconscious bias, consider implementing the following strategies:
Start by examining your own biases and reflecting on how they might influence your workplace interactions and decision-making. Think about whose opinions you value most and whose perspectives you find more challenging to consider.
By broadening your knowledge and viewpoint, you can help make a conscious effort to learn more about the different cultures, identities, and experiences of others. For instance, you can engage in unconscious bias training or workshops to deepen your understanding of unconscious bias and its impact.
Empathy is a great tool for helping to deconstruct unconscious biases and to better understand people from different backgrounds. Cognitive empathy allows us to create processes that allow us to better connect with someone. It comes from first self-awareness and then education. All three of these tools together allow us to work better in a diverse and inclusive workspace.
Tackling unconscious bias in the workplace requires a concerted effort from both individuals and organizations. The most important change created by Engage & Grow programs in companies is related to biases. People get to know each other, get in touch, and this communication opens many locks.
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