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Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

In part 1 of this post, we explored 4 different types of unconscious bias. In part 2 below, and we’ll explore 5 more types of unconscious bias in the workplace.

As we seek to be more inclusive in work, we must be more aware of – and avoid – these biases. Arming your employees with this knowledge – and calling out incidents -will allow you to reduce the unintentional discrimination at work. Let’s get started with 5 more unconscious bias examples in the workplace.

    1. The Contrast Effect

      Overcoming unconscious bias in the workplace starts with naming these biases. The Contrast Effect occurs when you’re comparing two similar things. Typically, this bias will distort our perception of something by comparing it to something else. 

      Example: The Contrast Effect may make a color appear lighter than it is when placed against a dark background. This bias often plays into recruitment because it pits one candidate against another. While it can be helpful to compare, interviewers may lose sight of the best candidate by comparing criteria that may not matter for the specific position.


    2. Gender Bias

      As its name suggests, Gender Bias is a preference for one gender over the other. Often, it causes an individual to lean unconsciously toward an individual based on their gender and the qualities associated with it. The “qualities” normally stem from deep-seated beliefs about gender roles and stereotypes. Just like an affinity bias, we often favor those we relate to and especially those of the same gender. 

      Example: Certain terminology on job postings favor men over women (and vice versa). Depending on who writes the job posting and interviews candidates, this can prompt a gender bias.  Workplace microaggression training is also essential to reducing gender bias.


    3. The Halo/Horns Effect

      This is another type of unconscious bias in the workplace. The Halo Effect occurs when we focus on one positive attribute of a person, and let that “halo” glow impact our overall opinion. The Horns Effect is the opposite. Your entire opinion of someone can also be affected by one negative trait. 

      Example: A good example of the Halo Effect is knowing that someone went to an Ivy League school and expecting that they’re otherwise great in everything that they do. An example of the Horns Effect is thinking negatively of someone’s professional work just because you don’t like the way they dress in the workplace.


    4. Name Bias

      Other unconscious bias examples in the workplace include name bias. For example, candidates with “white-sounding” names are more likely to be successful at various stages of the recruitment process. The only way to remedy this is to institute a name-blind recruitment process.  

      Example: One study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that white names receive 50% more callbacks for interviews than Black American names. The same held true for applicants living in nicer neighborhoods.


    5. Weight Bias

      According to a study by the Journal of Eating Disorders, a weight bias is defined as “negative weight-related attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, and judgments toward individuals who are overweight and obese.” However, the definition can also extend to all who have weight-related issues, including eating disorders. Thus even individuals who have low weights may suffer from unfair judgment.

      Example: Employees with higher body weight face weight-based inequity in employment. These include unfair hiring practices, lower wages, fewer promotions, harassment from co-workers, and unfair job termination.

Final thoughts

Unconscious biases are often based on inaccurate or incomplete information. And while they usually have no ill intent, they can impact who gets recruited or promoted.

How to avoid unconscious bias in the workplace? The first step is to enable your employees see and name these patterns. And ensure your people are always respectful and inclusive, with managing unconscious bias training

Workplace Microaggressions Training

During the MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, workplaces worldwide are making unprecedented efforts at diversity training in the workplace. These efforts seek to reduce or eliminate racism, sexual harassment, and other behaviors that lead to employee turnover, brand damage and costly lawsuits.

Perhaps more difficult to root out are workplace microaggressions. These are behaviors or statements that do not necessarily have harmful intent. But microaggressions at work nevertheless inflict insult or injury, often unknowingly.

The term was first coined after the Civil Rights era, in the late 1960s and 1970s. During this time, visible and violent expressions of racism were replaced by subtler manifestations. Today, microaggression has become a buzzword in the social justice arena, and now we’re breaking it down for you to understand. 

What is a Microaggression in the Workplace?

Many employees struggle to define or recognize microaggressions in the workplace . Unless you’ve learned about them before or been a victim yourself, microaggressions can be tricky to conceptualize.

It’s not because they don’t exist – it’s because in some cases they’re like implicit biases. Microaggressions and implicit biases are often not problems to anyone who isn’t directly impacted by them. In other cases, they might be related to the different types of unconscious bias.

As psychologist, author, and Columbia professor Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D., puts it, microaggressions are “the everyday slights, indignities, put-downs, and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations, or those who are marginalized experience in their day-to-day interactions with people.” 

Microaggressions in the Workplace Examples

Here are some examples. See if any of these are familiar to you!




Alien in own land

“So, where are you from?”

You are a foreigner

A White person does not want to acknowledge race

“When I look at you, I don’t see color.”

Denying a person of color’s racial/ethnic experience

The notion that the values and communication styles of the dominant/White culture are the ideal/”norm”

To an Asian, Latino, or Native American, “Why are you so quiet? We want to hear what you think. Speak up more!”

Assimilate to the dominant culture

A statement made when bias is denied

“I’m not racist. I have several Black friends!”

I could never be racist because I have friends of color 

Statements that assert that race or gender does not play a role in life successes

“I believe the most qualified person should get the job!”

People of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race

White dominant society expect Black folks to be less competent

“You’re so articulate or well-spoken.”

This remark suggests that they assumed that the person would be less articulate and are surprised to find out that they aren’t

Microaggressions at Work

Dr. Sue writes that microaggressions cause frustration, self-doubt, anxiety, and cumulative emotional, psychic, and spiritual burden. Unlike macroaggressions – the large-scale, overt aggressions that mostly occur at the systems level – microaggressions are interpersonal.

In fact, they commonly occur in workplace settings. This means that microaggressions at work are committed by people you know and in settings you should be comfortable and feel safe in. That’s why giving your employees programs such as microaggression training online is essential.

How to Deal With Microaggression in the Workplace

If you’re commonly on the receiving end of microaggressions, it can be an exhausting experience. How do you disarm them without exceeding your emotional bandwidth? Denise Evans, a certified facilitator of implicit bias and cultural intelligence workshops in West Michigan, suggests using wittiness. She, herself, is black. Here’s an example of how she “throws” microaggressions right back at the individual she’s speaking with. 

If an individual tells her that she’s “well-spoken” or “articulate” – a known microaggression – Evans doesn’t miss a beat. 

“I have said, ‘Thank you very much, so are you,’” says Evans. She then asks, with a smile, why they felt the need to say anything, including a list of possible reasons in her question: Is it because she’s a native New Yorker? A woman? Black? 

And I literally wait for [an] answer,” she says. “I give people their microaggression and their implicit biases back in a pretty box with a nice bow on it. I hand it to you, and I wait for you to open it and tell me what you see.”

While you may find this awkward at first, as an educator, Evan says that these are teachable moments. Brains have made unconscious associations, and we have the power to undo the damaging ones (i.e. “African American and “uneducated or “women” and “assistant”). 

The goal is to create a truly inclusive and respectful workplace, for employees and customers alike. The solution to microaggressions in the workplace, is to ensure that your efforts include diversity elearning – focusing on workplace microaggression training.

June 2020 Diversity Calendar

Below you’ll find a small sampling of this month’s diversity events. To view all 100+ events and religious observances, see our Diversity Calendar suite.

Our June 2020 Diversity Calendar is here, to help you celebrate a wide variety of diversity events and topics as they occur. As a summer month, June isn’t packed full of holidays. So be sure to enjoy our June multicultural calendar to keep you on track.

LGBTQ+ Pride Month

Break out your rainbows! It’s time for everyone to join together for the top June diversity celebration. The sixth month was selected as LGBTQ+ Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, a series of spontaneous and violent demonstrations by the gay community in Manhattan in June, 1969.  Regardless of how you identify, join in solidarity and support for the rights of this community. Love is love. And remember June is an ideal time for LBGT sensitivity training.

Caribbean American Heritage Month

Caribbean American Heritage Month was named a June diversity observance by presidential proclamation in 2006. It aims to promote the rich culture and heritage of the Caribbean American people. Their contribution to the United States is sometimes overlooked. Now is the time to learn about how Caribbean people helped shaped our country.

6/7: Trinity Sunday

June diversity days include Trinity Sunday, a Christian holy day celebrating the Holy Trinity. This day always occurs on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Christians celebrate this feast to affirm the three members of the holy trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For more religious observances, see our 2020 Interfaith Calendar.

6/14: Puerto Rican Day Parade

June multicultural holidays include the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It celebrates the 3.2 million people living in Puerto Rico or of Puerto Rican heritage. Although it’s cancelled for 2020 due to Covid-19, it’s still great time to shout out online and honor Puerto Rican culture.

6/19: Juneteenth

June diversity topics include Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Juneteenth Independence Day. The holiday commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865. It more broadly represents the emancipation of African Americans throughout the former Confederates States of America. Soul food is commonly served on this day — fried chicken, barbecue, greens, black-eyed peas, watermelon, and red soda water.

6/19: Feast of the Sacred Heart

June diversity events include the Feast of the Sacred Heart. It’s considered a solemnity, or one of the most important feasts.The Feast of the Sacred Heart is a devotion to the love of God, and marks the spirituality of St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century. Always 19 days after Pentecost, the date ranges between May 29 and July 2.

6/20: Summer Solstice and Litha

Our June multicultural calendar includes the summer solstice. Known as midsummer or Litha by the Wicca community, it happens when the Earth’s poles have their maximum tilt towards the Sun. Occurring twice a year, the summer solstice is the longest day and shortest night in the Northern Hemisphere. Make the longest day of the year count in the way most festive for you.

Summer of Inclusion

There you have it! Enjoy our June 2020 Diversity Calendar to keep you informed on all of June’s diversity celebration and multicultural holidays. Get a head start on the rest of the year, with our 2020 Diversity Calendar.

March 2018 Diversity Calendar


March National Women’s History Month

The highlight of the March 2018 Diversity Calendar is Women’s History Month. This annual theme month honors the accomplishment of women in history and contemporary society. It’s celebrated in March in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, along with International Women’s Day on March 8. In the United States, women’s history week started in 1980, followed by Women’s History Month in 1987.

Hindu: Holi – date varies*

*for the 2018 date of this and other moveable holidays, see our Online Diversity Calendar

Holi Hindu Festival 2018

One of the most colorful diversity events, Holi celebrates the coming of spring throughout India and the new harvest of the winter crop. It is celebrated over two days, with newly harvested grains, coconuts, and sweets are thrown into the fire as offerings. The following day is the festival of colors, a riotous and exuberant celebration of throwing colored powder, as well as dancing, singing, feasting, and more.

Black: Harriet Tubman – March 10Harriet Tubman birthday

Our March 2018 multicultural calendar also features Harriet Tubman. A leading abolitionist, Tubman was known as the conductor on the Underground Railroad, a secret system for helping slaves escape to freedom in the North. An escaped slave, she earned the nickname “Moses” for her heroic work in leading more than 400 slaves to freedom. She died on this date.

Jewish German American: Albert Einstein – March 14
Albert Einstein birthday

The leading theoretical physicist of the twentieth century, Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. When the Nazi government confiscated his property and deprived him of German citizenship in 1933, Einstein immigrated to the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen and took a post at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Irish: St Patrick’s Day – date varies* St Patrick's Day 2018

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by people of Irish descent all over the world as an expression of pride in their heritage. Ireland’s patron saint, the anniversary of his death is celebrated in Ireland as a national holiday. Green, the color of the day, signifies undying gratitude to the memory of St. Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland. The shamrock is worn to commemorate its use by the saint as a symbol of the Trinity.

Jewish: Passover begins – date varies* Passover 2018

One of the key diversity holidays is Passover. Observed for eight days, it marks the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Moses confronted the Pharaoh in the name of God, demanding freedom for his people. The celebration of Passover, a spring festival commemorating freedom and new life, begins the previous evening with a Seder, a meal during which the story of Passover is read from the Haggadah.

Mexican American: Cesar Chavez – March 31
Cesar Chavez birthday

A labor leader and activist, Chavez was a migrant farm worker who became a nationally respected voice for social justice. He spent his life combating the poverty and discrimination suffered by Mexicans and Mexican Americans, particularly agricultural laborers. In 1962, he began organizing farm workers in a strike against California grape growers for better wages and more humane working conditions.

For a complete list of more than 100 diversity events + inclusion tips, see our online diversity calendar.

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