The role unconscious bias plays in employment practices

Unconscious bias affects every decision we make in life, whether we like it or not. We need to be far more aware of our employment process and policies to negate unconscious bias in our employment practices in the workplace.

As much as we want to be as objective as possible when making important decisions, we cannot help it in some instances. Implicit bias is another term for this concept, meaning we migrate to people like ourselves in the employment process.

What is unconscious bias?

Aspects like our background, experiences growing up, environmental conditions, etc., all play a part in our choices. We can, however, not pay enough attention to these biases when we favour or discriminate against people without even realising it.

Keeping these in check is critical in the workplace and precisely when we look to hire people.

Promotions, performance management, and even selecting teams to work with all impact with a bias. The strongest teams are diverse teams that purposefully work to eliminate unnecessary discrimination in important decisions.

Different types of bias

There are eight different types of bias that can affect decisions:

Affinity Bias

When we show a preference to people similar to us, they are familiar and easier to relate to. You can share ethnicity, class, or geography.

Attribution Bias:

How we attribute our actions and those of others. Essentially, when we succeed, we say it is because of hard work. When we fail, it is due to an external force. When we see others succeed, it is seen as luck, and failure, as a lack of skill.

Beauty Bias:

It is well known that people who are more attractive fare better in job applications, regardless of skill.

Confirmation Bias:

When we have already made our deductions, we tend to look for opinions that back our claims.

Conformity Bias:

It refers to a tendency to look to others for a decision and then comply rather than decide for yourself.

Contrast effect:

If you compare and contrast people and things against each other all the time, you can remove individual traits and merits.

Gender Bias:

A common practice in the workplace, when tasks and jobs are allocated based on gender instead of skill.

Halo and horns effect:

A predisposed opinion of someone when we focus on good aspects, or the halo effect, we then only see good. Alternatively, the horns effect, an initial negative opinion on someone can showcase them always to be negative, regardless of achievements.

How can we overcome unconscious bias in the workplace?

Having diverse teams across all employment and review processes can help companies remove the bias that could come about in a single race, gender, or background.

If you have score sheets that remove any subjective scoring areas, you can also help reduce the bias. Having individual scores based on achievements and performance that do not have the individual’s name attached can also help.

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