How to fight Unconscious Bias in the workplace

unconscious bias

All you want to know about unconscious bias at the workplace. Biases facilitate decision-making by providing a starting point, an initial forecast of which option to choose. We base our first decision on the biased conclusion and then alter it depending on new facts. Biases are not necessarily harmful. Nevertheless, several, called unconscious biases, can negatively impact the workplace and the recruitment process. 

 If you hire based on “gut instinct,” you hire based on unconscious biases. The best approach to avoid these unconscious biases is to become aware of them. You can then prevent them when recruiting, hiring, and keeping personnel. Awareness of one’s unconscious bias is the most effective strategy to minimise them. It will assist your team in creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

What Is Unconscious Bias?

Unconscious bias is also known as implicit bias. They are views that people have that influence unconsciously how they feel and think about others. Subconscious attitudes aren’t always as well-formed as logical thoughts, but they may be pretty entrenched. Since infancy, many people have unconscious prejudices that they have absorbed from witnessing their social, family, and institutional contexts. Unconscious biases can influence people’s emotional and intellectual responses to everyday events, influencing their behaviour.

How to Outsmart Your Own Unconscious Bias | Valerie Alexander | TEDx Pasadena

Unconscious bias types

Affinity bias

Affinity bias, also known as similarity bias. It refers to people’s predisposition to connect with individuals with similar interests, experiences, and backgrounds.

When businesses employ “cultural fit,” they often succumb to affinity bias. When hiring teams see someone they like, they usually share similar interests, experiences, and backgrounds. Similarities should, of course, not immediately reject a candidate. They should also not be the determining factor.

Methods to avoid affinity bias. Note the similarities you share with the candidate. You can distinguish between attributes that may cloud your judgment and the concrete skills, experiences, and unique qualities that would contribute to your team as a “culture add” rather than a “culture fit.”


unconscious bias Ageism

Inclination to judge another person based on their age.

Ageism affects older individuals more than younger ones, especially in American workplaces. Approximately 58 per cent of workers feel age discrimination begins when they reach their fifties. At that time, it may be more difficult to switch jobs, obtain work, or advance in their careers since businesses increasingly prioritise younger people – even though experience and knowledge are vital skills for any successful organisation.

Methods to avoid ageism. Teach your team members about ageism and clarify some stereotypes regarding employees of various ages. Recognise that elderly workers may have talents and experiences that younger people may not.

Anchor bias

Occurs when a person relies on a single piece of information to make a choice.

In the workplace, anchor bias exists. Anchor bias is a regular occurrence throughout the recruiting process when comparing prospects. A recruiter may notice one element of a candidate and then be unable to “unsee” that aspect while examining other candidates. For example, the first candidate a recruiter considers may want a much lower wage than the succeeding applicants. It can lead to an expectation of anchor bias, with the latter candidates asking for too much.

Avoiding anchor bias involves comparing all aspects of a candidate and never relying on a single piece of information as a decision factor.

Attribution bias

Attribution bias is when you attempt to make sense of or criticise a person’s conduct based on past observations and interactions with that person that comprise your perception of them.

Individuals are prone to criticise and incorrectly infer things about others without knowing their entire story. Regarding hiring, attribution bias might lead hiring managers and recruiters to rule out a candidate because of anything strange on their résumé or unexpected conduct during the interview.

Instead of assuming that an applicant is unqualified for a job because they arrived late for the interview, ask them what occurred. It might be completely harmless and unprecedented. If anything on their résumé or something they said during the interview led you to have an opinion about the candidate, ask them clarifying questions. Allow them to tell you their entire tale before passing judgment. Remember that discussions are typically apprehensive and may make mistakes or stumble.

DIFFERENT | Award-Winning Short Film by Tahneek Rahman

Authority bias

When an idea or viewpoint is given more attention or perceived correct because an authoritative person presented it.

In the workplace, there is an issue known as authority prejudice. Because hierarchies are already in place, authority bias is very easy to detect in the workplace. Existing orders make it quite simple to just “follow the leader,” even if the leader’s views are not in the organisation’s best interests of its employees. 

Depending on the culture of a workplace, avoiding authority bias might be challenging. Create an atmosphere of ideas where people may speak out and express their perspectives and ideas.

Confirmation bias

Tendency to form opinions about a situation or a person based on your wishes, beliefs, and prejudices rather than objective merit.

Confirmation bias frequently plays a negative influence in hiring from the beginning of the process. When you first scan a résumé, you create an initial assessment of the prospect based on insignificant criteria such as their name, where they’re from, where they went to school, and so on. This opinion can accompany you into the interview process. As a result, influences questions to corroborate the candidate’s original view.

Methods to prevent confirmation bias: While each interview will lend itself to a unique discourse depending on the individual’s past, it’s critical to ask standardised, skills-based questions that give each candidate an equal opportunity to stand out. It will keep your staff from asking too many off-the-cuff questions, which might lead to confirmation bias.

Conformity bias

Often known as peer pressure, conformity bias is the propensity for people to act similarly to others around them, regardless of their particular ideas or idiosyncrasies.

Conformity bias can cause individuals to shift their assessment of a candidate to reflect the majority’s perspective when your recruiting team meets to evaluate an applicant’s application materials and perform the interview. The difficulty is that the majority is incorrect, leading to your team passing on a great applicant since individual perspectives become jumbled in a group setting.

Methods to avoid conformity bias: Before gathering your recruiting team to examine candidates, have them write down and submit their comments separately immediately after the interview. Then, assemble your team and review what everyone put down so you can hear their unbiased perspectives.

Unconscious bias at Work — Making the Unconscious Conscious.

Contrast effect

When you compare two or more items you have come into contact with — simultaneously or one after the other — you exaggerate the performance compared to the other.

There is a contrast effect in the workplace: This is a bit of a stretch, but it’s also one of the most prevalent sorts of prejudice in the recruitment field. When analysing many prospects, it’s easy to compare one application to the next in the stack and conclude which one is superior. A successful interview with one candidate may make the next appear dreadful.

Methods for avoiding the contrast effect: Create a systematic candidate evaluation and interview process so your team can evaluate applications and interview responses on an apples-to-apples basis rather than an apples-to-pears basis. It also applies to individual employee performance evaluations and awards.

Gender bias

unconscious bias Gender

Gender bias is the preference for one gender over another. Men are frequently given preferential treatment over women in the job. However, one study discovered that men and women favour male job prospects. When both candidates are equally qualified, a male is 1.5 times more likely to hire than a woman.

Methods for avoiding gender prejudice include doing blind reviews of applications. You remove features of an applicant that may disclose their presumed gender, such as name and interests. Again, compare applicants based on expertise and quality rather than characteristics that may impair your judgment of them.

Halo effect

The halo effect is the propensity for individuals to elevate another person after discovering something outstanding about them.

The halo effect might occur at any point during the recruiting process. You could notice a candidate who worked for a well-known firm or graduated from a prestigious institution.

How to Avoid the Halo Effect. Regarding screening prospects, the halo effect may be highly blinding. When going through a stack of applications, you’re probably searching for anything unique that sets a candidate apart from the crowd. Consider the applicant who does not have that one sparkling characteristic and how their experiences, talents, and personalities compare to other candidates who may not have had the same advantages or chances.

Heuristic effect

Heuristics are mental shortcuts that help us make better judgments. The heuristic effect arises when we make judgments based on our feelings. It may help us reach a decision faster, but it is not necessarily accurate or fair.

Because emotions may impair your judgment, it’s best to avoid making judgments in the heat of the moment. For example, an interview applicant may make an inadvertent remark that offends a recruiter despite their best efforts. Despite being the most qualified applicant, the recruiter rejected the candidate because they were irritated by the statement.

How to Prevent Affect Heuristic Bias. Be conscious of your emotions: Simply being aware of our degree of emotions in a circumstance might assist us in taking a step back and evaluating the issue more logically. Take time to reflect: Consider an incident after it has occurred. Your emotions will likely be less intense than during the occurrence, allowing you to reach a more objective judgment.

Horns effect

The horns effect is the propensity for individuals to develop an unfavourable opinion of another person after discovering anything unpleasant or harmful about them.

The horns effect, the polar opposite of the halo effect, can force recruiting teams to screen applicants based on an antithetical quality to the team’s preferences. It may be anything as insignificant as the applicant working for a firm you despise or demonstrating a specific quirk or mannerism during the interview. Even if a bit aspect may or may not be significant, such characteristics may ultimately affect your opinion of the individual.

Methods to prevent the horns effect: If you feel terrible about a prospect, investigate where that “gut feeling” comes from. It might be minor or trivial, but it shouldn’t harm their chances of getting the job. You should also consult with the rest of the interviewing team to learn their ideas and preferences regarding a candidate.

Unconscious bias: watch the first 2 minutes about several biases during candidate selection.

Idiosyncratic bias

Idiosyncratic bias influences how we assess the performance of others. We frequently assign ratings to others based on our subjective readings of the assessment criteria and our notion of “success.” We are typically untrustworthy when it comes to assessing others. According to research, over 60% of a manager’s assessment reflects the boss rather than the rated team member.

For example, a manager who excels in project management has higher criteria for this competence and assigns harsher grades to team members who possess it. On the other hand, the manager is more tolerant when judging team members’ marketing talents because they are less experienced.

Establish explicit and unambiguous evaluation criteria: Create a rubric or a set of standards for evaluating performance. Managers are prompted to offer supporting evidence based on a team member’s performance or achievements to judge their performance. Conductidentify possible improvement areas is a team member receiving feedback from their colleagues and management and conducting a self-evaluation. Having many assessments to draw upon can assist managers in gaining a more comprehensive perspective of a team member’s performance and identifying possible areas for improvement.

Name bias

The propensity for individuals to assess and favour persons with specific names — often names of Anglo origin — is known as name prejudice.

Methods for avoiding affinity bias. Remove the candidate’s name and personal information from their application documents, such as email, phone number, and address. You may do this by assigning candidates a number. It ensures that recruiting teams choose candidates based on their abilities and experiences rather than useless personal information.

Nonverbal bias

Process of assessing nonverbal communication features such as body language and allowing them to influence a choice or judgment.

Nonverbal prejudice might sleep in when you meet a candidate for an interview (whether in person or remotely). It’s easy to misinterpret a weak handshake, crossed arms, or difficulties maintaining eye contact as apathy, overconfidence, or an unpleasant attitude. It is critical to remember that how a person goes through the world does not reflect their genuine objectives or whether they will be a successful addition to your team.

Methods for avoiding nonverbal bias: Remember that everyone is unique, including their mannerisms and physical communication styles. For example, if an applicant crosses their arms during an interview, they or they might be nervous. You can educate someone to uncross their arms, but it does not guarantee they will bring the essential skills to their job.

Recency bias

Recency bias arises when we emphasise recent occurrences over previous ones because they are simpler to recall.

This bias is more likely to occur when we have to digest a significant quantity of information. For example, because hiring managers frequently assess many job applications in a single day, it may be more challenging to recall applicants they screened earlier in the day. Recency bias may also show during the interview process when a hiring manager becomes more likely to base hiring choices on the most recent candidate interviewed.

How to Avoid the Effects of Recency Bias. Take thorough notes throughout each interview and go over them afterwards. It might assist you in keeping track of notable prospects regardless of when you have interviewed them. Allow yourself mental breaks: Conducting back-to-back interviews may be psychologically taxing. When your working memory suffers, you are more susceptible to recency bias. Maintain your mental alertness by taking intervals between interviews to allow your brain to absorb and recall the material.


The assertion that “biases are bad” can be misleading. Bias is neither good nor evil in and of itself. Biases certainly have advantages—they boost decision-making efficiency. However, an unconscious bias might influence your behaviour or judgments without your knowledge.

An unconscious bias may significantly affect the workplace, determining who you hire and promote. Unconscious bias does not make you a horrible person; it indicates you are human. It is, nevertheless, possible to interrupt bias. The first stage is to become conscious. David Gousset.

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