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Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

By: Erich TollUncategorized
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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

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