The Consequences of Bias in the Workplace and What to Do About It

The human brain is wildly complex. Discoveries emerge all the time about how the brain functions and contributes to our day-to-day activities. 

One thing we know is that the brain operates almost entirely unconsciously. Scientists estimate a staggering 95% of brain activity occurs below the threshold of conscious awareness. 

So, what does this mean for businesses? 

Without anyone in your organization realizing it, biases, behaviors, and attitudes can significantly impact recruitment and retention efforts. Unconscious bias’ effects can influence the harmony and productivity of your workforce and diversity and inclusivity initiatives.

Unconscious biases can powerfully impact the success of an organization. 

Without training, tools, and strategies in place to reduce the impact of unconscious biases, organizations lose out on high-performers that challenge implicitly held stereotypes during recruitment and hiring process. Companies will likely struggle to retain diverse professionals, which leads to compromised morale, creativity, and productivity. 

In this article, we go over the ins and outs of unconscious bias in the workplace- what it is, how to spot it, its common consequences, and how to reduce or eliminate them with a combination of training and technology. 

What is Unconscious Bias?

Unconscious biases, also known as implicit biases, are beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes that influence our decision-making and interpersonal interactions without rising to the level of conscious awareness. 

These biases can be pervasive and difficult to reduce or eliminate due to their unintentional nature. As a result, unconscious biases remain some of the most problematic and rampant biases affecting workplaces. 

Here are a few common unconscious or implicit biases that may be harming your organization’s morale and performance.
The 5 Most Common Unconscious Biases in the Workplace

1. Gender bias: preferring one gender over another, typically due to deep-rooted stereotypes and assumptions surrounding gender roles in the workplace.

2. Affinity bias: an unrecognized bias between individuals that share similar backgrounds or personal qualities, such as common interests or alma mater.

3. Confirmation bias: the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions and biases.

4. Halo Effect: the tendency to form a significantly positive impression of a person based on a single characteristic or observed attribute. The Halo effect often leads to overlooking or minimizing negative qualities.

5. Horns Effect: the opposite of the halo effect, this unconscious bias leads individuals to make wholly negative impressions of someone due to a singular trait or attitude. When this occurs, it can be difficult for an individual to give fair credence to beneficial or positive qualities in the same person. 

The Consequences of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace 

While most companies have woken up to the innovative and creative benefits of a diverse workforce, many remain unsure or unaware of how to promote and cultivate diversity effectively.

Unconscious biases represent a significant barrier to achieving diversity and inclusivity goals. Implicit bias compromises even the most well-intentioned D&I efforts from their outset. And this stumbling block standing between organizations and diverse workforces can even impact their bottom-line. 

Companies with top-quartile ethnic and cultural representation outpace their competition by 36% in profitability. This finding and others like it make a strong business case for introducing systemic safeguards that reduce or eliminate unconscious biases’ impact on your organization.

Generalizations in Recruitment

Unconscious biases often wreak havoc on an organization’s recruitment and hiring process. 

For example, multiple studies have found that perceived race or nationality due to the first and last names on resumes leads to disproportionate callbacks and interview opportunities for certain races. 

Black and Asian-American candidates who deleted references to their race, such as HBCU attendance, minority student organization involvement, or ‘Americanized’ traditional black or Asian names, received twice as many interview invitations compared to their original resumes.

This is merely a single example of how unconscious biases affect recruitment. The sad reality is unconscious biases can manifest at every step of recruitment and hiring and can affect individuals from various religious, racial, and cultural backgrounds. 

Unconscious biases can also impact your organization's ability to recruit high-performing professionals that are members of the LGBTQ+ community and women in male-dominated fields.

How to Reduce Bias in the Workplace - Three Steps to Get Started

Unfortunately, there are no foolproof, one-size-fits-all solutions to unconscious biases in the workplace. But through a combination of education, technology, and community-building, organizations can begin to identify and overcome biases harming their workplace. 

Let’s look at three simple steps to begin reducing or eliminating harmful biases in your organization.

1. Empower Your Managers to Recognize and Address Bias

Provide your managers with ongoing training to hone their ability to recognize and mitigate both conscious and unconscious instances of bias during day-to-day operations.

Their teams will likely follow suit as they become increasingly adept at spotting and eliminating bias. As a result, they’ll eventually have a more inclusive and unbiased environment.

2. Encourage Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Public displays of peer-to-peer recognition help cultivate a shared sense of community and purpose among the workforce.

3. Host Anti-Bias Training Workshops

Awareness is key to reducing unconscious biases. Anti-bias workshops are ideal to quickly equip your organization with the strategies and tools to recognize its implicit biases.

Learn How We Combat Bias in Sales Hiring

The responsibility of creating a workplace that supports diversity and inclusivity and minimizes biases ultimately falls to leadership. Executives and managers must take charge and lead by example to demonstrate a commitment to these endeavors before expecting buy-in from their teams. 

PerceptionPredict uses predictive analysis to help lighten the load for sales leaders. Our unique candidate profiles, called Performance Fingerprints, eliminate conscious and unconscious biases during the recruitment and hiring process. 

To learn more about combatting the consequences of bias, book a demo today.

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