All human beings have biases, both conscious and unconscious. For now, we are focusing on unconscious bias. Unconscious bias refers to the stereotypes that automatically and unknowingly affect our behavior. Everyone has both hidden and open opinions about their colleagues in the workplace. Some choose to voice it out, whereas others choose to keep their thoughts to themselves. When it comes to these opinions, they can be influenced by biases that we hold, which change how we perceive our colleagues. This blog will talk about how leaders can help reduce unconscious bias in the workplace and allow employees to have a smoother and more stable work experience.
Examples of Unconscious Bias
So how does unconscious bias manifest in the workplace? Listed below are a few examples:
The Halo Effect
The halo effect refers to thinking too highly of a person and influencing certain decisions regarding them, such as hiring the person to work at an organization. Let’s say an employer receives a candidate’s resume through a recruitment website. Through reviewing their resume, the hiring manager may be drawn to the person’s interests, strengths, or capabilities, and be biased towards what they think this candidate would be like as an employee. More superficially, the employee might be impressed by the candidate’s photograph or educational background and be biased by that during the interview process. This error in judgment can be a big risk factor, not only for an organization but also for an entire team. For all they know, the candidate could be exaggerating their skillsets and turn out to be a completely different person altogether when working together.
Ageism or age discrimination is based on the assumption that employees within a certain age range are not as competent in performing tasks given to them as other employees. This can be a bias against younger employees or older employees alike. Younger employees might be seen as inexperienced, and older employees may be seen as unable to grow and change. Employers can be presumptuous when coming across older or younger employees because they feel like employee age and competency are correlated. While age does affect everyone by the day, it should not determine the competency of a potential candidate. For a lot of us, age is just a number. According to Indeed, “growing older doesn’t negatively impact our performance, productivity or skills.” Ageism may be determined illegal in the workplace; however, it does not stop all employees from judging each other based on their ages and experiences.
Affinity bias refers to having things in common with the people you interact with in the workplace. According to Indeed, “this could be about background, appearance, education, opinions, interests…etc.” Picture a high school environment where everybody sticks with their squad or like-minded individuals. This may look like a good thing at work to form camaraderie, but it’s the opposite. Employees need to be able to expand their knowledge and skillsets. The only way to do that is to interact with colleagues from other departments and walks of life. These interactions will allow employees to improve their current skillset and learn new skills for the future of their career journey.
The Horn Effect
According to Indeed, “the horn effect occurs when you learn something negative about a person, which casts that person in a negative light permanently.” This is usually about a person you would not know directly. Rather, it’s usually about a person you would know indirectly through another colleague. The horn effect could occur on several occasions. For example, when an employer looks over resumes for a potential job candidate, they would base their decision on the candidate’s looks rather than their skillsets and past work experience. This can cause them to ignore highly qualified candidates who could be the better choice. Another example of this can be with a current employee who shows up to work casually dressed and the employer admonishes them, no matter how much professionalism they show through their work. This behavior can be stopped by simply taking a step back and thinking more objectively before making any snap judgments about current and potential employees.
Reducing Unconscious Bias
Unconscious bias does not need to be permanent. It may not be easy to eradicate it, however, it is possible to reduce it amongst peers and colleagues.
Awareness is a great superpower. According to Forbes, “educating employees about stereotyping can raise awareness and keep people mindful of their stereotyping behaviors and perceptions.” Employees need to realize that not everyone fits the stereotypes society upholds. Educating oneself can help contradict stereotypes and connect with peers and colleagues who come from different backgrounds and have gone through completely different experiences. Organizations with a diverse and inclusive company culture are more likely to ignore biases rather than be influenced by them.
Ensure an Inclusive Work Environment
Inclusivity starts with the employer. Ensuring an inclusive environment begins with learning more about the representation and diversity within the company and showcasing this diversity to help colleagues learn about and from each other. People from marginalized or minority communities want to feel validated and wanted in the corporate world. Many are discriminated against due to some aspect of their identity. For example, individuals from the LGBTQ+ community might need a space to share their pronouns so that their colleagues can refer to them correctly. Business leaders need to stay with the current times in terms of the vocabulary and practices for such communities. Times may have changed but some mentalities remain the same, especially with older leaders. It’s important to keep up with the times and treat all employees equally to ensure a good workplace reputation.
Adopt a “Blind Recruitment” Strategy
According to Indeed, “blind resume screenings can help you choose the most deserving candidates for interviews.” Rather than focusing on gender and looks, employers should do the latter and focus on a candidate’s qualifications and experiences, both personal and professional. This is called a “blind recruitment” strategy. According to Harvard Business Review, “a blind, systematic process for reviewing applications and résumés will help you improve your chances of including the most relevant candidates in your interview pool.” Using a blind recruitment strategy is the way to go when it comes to having a more objective review system whilst recruiting candidates.
Tackling Unconscious Bias with PxidaEX
Behavior influenced by unconscious bias is inevitable, but it’s also controllable. PxidaEX is a wonderful tool for business leaders to send surveys to their employees to figure out what matters most to them in the workplace. With a variety of our employee experience, this powerful tool can help business leaders develop a solid foundation to understand their employee’s needs and expectations. Sign up for a free trial today!