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Understanding Unconscious Bias

  • By faber
  • December 8, 2020

Unconscious bias can affect our decisions in personal as well as professional areas of life.  Every leader should try to be as objective as possible. Although as humans we are subject to unconscious bias in some or the other way. The only way to reduce this us by being aware of this.

Unconscious bias has a massive impact on people related decisions at work, especially with promotion or appraisal, hiring, performance management and idea creation. When the bias exists, then the organizations will not be able to recruit people from varied teams and the efforts to improve workplace inclusion will be of limited success.

Let us look at the different types of unconscious bias, and the ways they affect decision making at work:

  • Affinity Bias

This is seen when we give preference to people who feel we are like or we can relate to. This could happen because of common characteristics like class, culture or geography or similar interests or hobbies. This can lead us to conclude that some one is not talented, or right for a particular profile because we do not have same traits in common.

  • Attribution Bias

This depends on how we look at our actions and the actions of others. We generally relate our success to our skills and our failures to factors that are outside our control.  But when it comes to others we relate success to luck and failures to lack of skills. This unfair approach can affect recruitments and appraisals

  • Beauty Bias

This is the kind of bias when we conclude based on the individual’s looks. Although all of us know that looks can be deceptive, we tend to favour attractive individuals for job even after knowing that looks do not guarantee that he/she can do complete justice to the role.

  • Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias exists when we try to make decisions or conclusion depending on our personal desires, opinions, and preconceptions. Although first impression matters in case of recruitment or interviews, but we need to make decisions based on facts and figures

  • Conformity Bias

It is the tendency of the people to work like people around them irrespective of their own beliefs and thoughts. It is also known as peer pressure. So we should have a diverse team and should keep encouraging team members to share their views and not get influenced by what the majority has to say.

  • Contrast effect

We keep comparing people all the time to help us put them in a framework or context. But comparing employees rather than assessing them on their individual merits or demerits results in the loss of impartiality.  For example, comparing the last candidate with the next candidate, will mislead us in recruitment.

  • Gender Bias

Gender bias is one of the most found bias in the workplace. For example, a male employee is recruited for a role that needs lot of physical strength or more women employees recruited for junior roles. This bias can get the employers and leaders / managers in to trouble for the discrimination.

  • Halo and Horns Effect

Halo effect is the natural inclination that people must consider some one as the best after learning something impressive about them. This effect can lead us to not looking at the negatives points of someone and thus finally choosing a wrong person for the role. The horns effect is the opposite of the halo effect. In the horns effect we emphasize on the persons negative points and fail to look at the positive achievements.

Though it is not possible to eliminate the unconscious bias completely, the next Transformation Tuesday we will look at how can we mitigate the effect of unconscious bias and thus make workplace decisions more objective and fair.

Written & Compiled by Faber Mayuri