What is Unconscious Bias?
How will bias impact us in the workplace?
Bias is a form of prejudice that favors or is against a something, a person, or a group. This prejudice against these factors is usually unfair when they’re compared to one another. Bias can exist in an individual, in a group, or in an institution.
There are two types of bias i.e., conscious bias or unconscious bias. These biases can happen towards anything, not just race or ethnicity, though these two are the most well-documented. Bias may exist towards gender, physical disabilities, weight, sexual orientation, religion, and various other characteristics.
Unconscious bias happens outside our conscious awareness. This bias is typically a learned stereotype that’s automatic and mostly unintentional. Unconscious bias can be so systemically ingrained that it can alter our behavior and how we interact with the people around us.
Many studies believe that unconscious bias happens automatically as our brain makes quick decisions based on its past experiences.
Often, unconscious bias results in negative consequences. People have been penalized and their benefits are taken away due to unconscious bias.
Even though we have biases wired into us, unconscious bias is usually more directed towards minority groups. The factors influencing this unconscious bias are typically focused on social class, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender, and nationality.
Types of Unconscious Bias..
There are several types of unconscious bias. Since these biases are unconscious and happen automatically outside our consciousness, we may not be aware that we’re committing it. However, we can eliminate these biases when we’re aware of the types.
Affinity bias, also known as similarity bias, is the tendency people have to connect with others who share similar interests, experiences and backgrounds.
This happens when we attribute certain notions to a person because of our prior interactions with and observations of another person of the same gender, race, or sexual orientation, etc.
We make assumptions and commit bias based on a person’s age. While age is not a measure of someone’s intelligence or maturity, we unconsciously judge them based on this.
Confirmation bias is the inclination to draw conclusions about a situation or person based on your personal desires, beliefs and prejudices rather than on unbiased merit.
The Halo Effect
This happens when we unconsciously put someone on a pedestal just because there’s something about them, we find impressive.
The Horns Effect
The opposite of the Halo Effect. We unconsciously dislike everything about someone because they have some negative characteristics we don’t like.
You compare one or several things you come in contact with to another similar thing, which can happen simultaneously or consecutively.
This common Gender bias happens when one gender is favored over another because of stereotypes or based on your previous experience.
You make an unconscious judgment based on a person’s name, especially the ones that are of foreign origins.
Another common bias where we unconsciously assume attractive people are more competent, qualified, and successful.
Height bias or heightism is the tendency to judge a person who is significantly shorter or taller than the socially-accepted human height.
Unconscious bias in the workplace..
One of the most common situations where unconscious bias usually happens is in the workplace. Many people have lost opportunities to excel simply because they were the victims of unconscious bias.
After becoming aware that unconscious bias does exist, the next step would be learning how to recognize it in order to reduce it. I’ve outlined three crucial points to keep in mind below while further exploring the unconscious prejudice discussed above.
How to Reduce Unconscious Bias..
We believe there are three important tactics if you want to work on reducing your unconscious bias.
1. Unconscious Bias is a Systemic Issue
When we understand that unconscious bias is ultimately a systemic issue, we understand that internal cultures need to be checked and addressed first.
Instead of saying it’s a few bad apples in a barrel of overall good ones, the key is recognizing that unconscious bias is a systemic issue, and the structure and joints of the barrel needs to be fixed.
2. There Is No Shame in Unconscious Bias
Another crucial thing that needs to be highlighted is that there is no shame or blame in unconscious bias as it’s not stemming from any fault in the individual. This no-shame approach decreases the fight, freeze, or flight defensive response among reluctant audiences, helping them hear and accept the issue.
Unconscious bias is prevalent and often doesn’t match our conscious values. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs and prejudices stemming from our tendency to categorize people into social groups. This developed naturally as a way for our ancestors to quickly size up a possible threat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate well in modern life.
3. It Takes a Sustained Effort to Prevent and Protect Against Unconscious Bias
After being presented with additional statistics and discussion of unconscious bias, the issue is generally settled. Still, from their subsequent behavior it’s clear that some of these audience members don’t immediately internalize this evidence.
The issue of unconscious bias doesn’t match their intuitions, so they reject this concept, despite extensive and strong evidence for its pervasive role in policing. It takes a series of subsequent follow-up conversations and interventions to move the needle. A single training is almost never sufficient, both in my experience and according to research.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Prejudice may be hardwired into us as part of our survival instinct, but we need to be the bigger person and not let it cloud or run our judgment. We don’t like it when someone judges us just because of how we look or because we have an unfamiliar name. So, we also need to stop doing the same to others.
As professionals, we need to be constantly aware of potential biases, so we’re not prejudiced towards anyone just because they’re different from us. Employers and interviewers need to be objective and evaluate someone based on their merits and skillsets.
Unfortunately, our gut reactions lead us to make poor judgment choices when we simply follow our intuitions. Unconscious biases are systemic and need to be addressed in order to make the best decisions. It takes a long-term commitment and constant discipline and efforts to overcome unconscious bias, so get started now.
Source: HBR / Philosophy, / Diversity Inclusion Institute
Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for information only and is not offered as advice. Readers are encouraged to consult a suitably qualified professional adviser to obtain advice tailored to their specific requirements.