We try our best to be objective but, bias is everywhere, the workplace included. In a survey conducted be Deloitte, it was found that up to 39% of respondents feel that they experienced bias at least once a month! Of course, some of these biases may be unintentional (aka unconscious).
In this article, we cover multiple unconscious biases that take place in the workplace and provide some examples so organizations can become more aware of what they look like.
1) Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is a common bias in many organizations. It is defined as the tendency to search for and use information that confirms one’s pre-existing views on a certain topic. Confirmation bias can lead to bad decision-making and faulty leadership. This can often happen when reviews or feedback conversations are not happening frequently. It is very easy for managers to forget behaviors and actions of employees; hence, they relay on pre-existing views to make their performance decisions.
Organizations need to encourage managers to have frequent feedback conversations with their direct reports. Moreover, managers need to be able to document these feedback. A reward/ recognition system can also be beneficial to help managers remember (and recognize) good work. A continuous feedback software can help document these conversations – check out Pavestep for more details (Pavestep also encourages 360 feedback which can help reduce subjectivity as well).
2) Attribution bias
Attribution bias refers to the systematic errors make when people evaluate or try to find reasons for their own and others’ behavior. It can often be found in the workplace where employees make internal attributions about successes, and external attributions about setbacks.
Given that this bias causes people to create their own ‘subjective reality’ from their perception of the input, it can be challenging to address this bias. First and foremost, we would suggest to focus on input vs output as input is in peoples’ control (while results/output are not). Moreover, when giving feedback, it is important that employees focus on behaviors and actions which can be improved, corrected, and changed. Having regular training on unconscious biases can help employees be mindful of this bias as well.
3) Affinity bias
Affinity bias refers to getting along with people who we like or who are like us. This is similar to the halo bias which is to favor someone after you hear something impressive about them.
Encourage objectivity. Requiring specific examples in performance reviews can help the reviewer to reflect on the feedback before giving it. Bias prompts can also be helpful (e.g., would you give this feedback to another direct report?)
If this bias is creeping up in the hiring process, make the process blinded (blind out demographic and name) and solely base interview process on skills and experience.
For even more unconscious biases that occur in the workplace, check out another previous blog!
How does your organization try to eliminate workplace bias? – Let us know!