By Amy Tolbert, PH.D., CSP
Knowing we are all biased may be a hard pill to swallow. Unconscious bias is a key component of diversity and inclusion; it impacts our workplace relationships every day. It is not a question of if we are biased, but knowing which bias is at play is the first step to awareness. With that understanding we can then make a conscious choice to shift thinking which in turn allows us to change behavior. To understand bias, we have to understand that not all biases are the same. Within the umbrella of unconscious bias, there are various (over 150!) types of biases that can show up in your space and effect productivity and team moral within the workplace.1 With that, let’s get into a breakdown of a few of the most common biases so you know how to identify them when they arise:2
- Retroactive Inference: a bias that mirrors the re-writing of history, otherwise coined “the influence of after-the-fact experiences on memory;” specifically affects leaders within a workspace. Example: Senior leaders often believe they are exceptional at hiring, but when asked to elaborate it often becomes clear they believe this because they remember the successes but fail to acknowledge the hires that weren’t successful.
- Confirmation Bias: an apathetic process that occurs when the brain looks for information to confirm a preconceived notion. Example: Leaders who stick with what they know, ideas that have worked in the past, etc. rather than looking for other possible solutions or opinions.
- Affinity Bias: having the tendency to prefer or like those like oneself; this is a type of bias that is also understood through the lens of race, age, gender, religion, to name a few. Example: When a male leader holds interviews and connects with a male interviewee, but when interviewing a woman becomes withdrawn or uninterested in her experience, etc.
- In-Group Bias: like affinity bias, this is the positive perception of people simply because they are like you. Example: Again, when a male interviewer believes the male potential hire is more qualified than the woman potential hire not because of skill, but because of likeness.
- Out-Group Bias: perceiving those who are different from you in a negative way. Example: If a male interviewer, rather than favoring the male interviewee, explicitly dislikes the woman interviewee because of their difference.
- Perception Bias: having the tendency to form assumptions or stereotypes about certain groups making it impossible to have objective views/perceptions about members within that group.
- Blind Spot: identifying biases in others, but not oneself. Example: As a leader, when opening up conversation around bias, placing blame on others in the room without being able to be open and honest about their own ability to hold bias.
- Group Think: having the tendency to try and fit into a certain group through mimicking behavior or withholding thoughts out of fear of being excluded. Example: As a minority in the room, there can be a nervousness to assert opinions that go against the group – or majority.
- Anchoring Bias: having the tendency to rely on the first piece of information rather than continuing to evaluate through seeking multiple sources of information before making a decision. Example: Similar to confirmation bias, this can look like – a leader going with the most familiar/first suggested/easiest idea rather than looking for the best, most innovative idea.
1. Choate, Andrea. Neuroleadership Lessons: Recognizing and Mitigating Unconscious Bias in the Workplace
2. Choate, Andrea. Neuroleadership Lessons: Recognizing and Mitigating Unconscious Bias in the Workplace
This article was originally posted at eccointernational.com.
Amy Tolbert, PH.D., CSP is a faculty member of LEADERSHIP USA.