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Most Common Examples of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace


As human beings, we all tend to gravitate toward a certain category of people. Perhaps they share our alma mater, lifestyle, or race. Or maybe they don’t, which causes us to dismiss them because of it. We don’t even notice that we are doing it – it just happens.

Most people will say that they do not have any biases and that they treat everyone fairly. That being said, according to studies, those who claim don’t have any biases are more likely to have them. They just don’t notice them because they are somewhere in the back of their minds.

What Is Unconscious Bias?

An unconscious bias (or implicit bias) is a type of learned belief, assumption, or attitude that is located somewhere in the back of our subconscious. Every person has such a bias, which they use for quick information processing and mental shortcuts.

Unconscious biases are developed throughout time, as we gather more and more life experiences. Very often, they get exposed in the form of stereotypes. Someone with an unconscious bias may provide favorable or unfavorable assessments without being fully aware of it.

Examples of Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias may take on many forms. It may have to do with someone’s appearance, religion, birthplace, education, and many more. When it comes to the workplace, here are the most common types of biases you will often come across:

1.    Gender Bias

Gender bias, commonly referred to as sexism, is a tendency to prefer one gender over the other. For instance, an employer may prefer a man instead of a woman to lead a project instead, or they may lean towards hiring men over women, depending on the environment. The gender pay gap is also a very common example of unconscious bias. This can ultimately impact a business negatively.

2.   Affinity Bias

Affinity bias occurs when you are favoring people who are similar to you or share your background. For instance, you may prefer hiring someone over anyone else, simply because they went to the same university or grew up in the same town that you did. A recruiter may also spend the interview time talking about their shared interest in certain music genres rather than their qualifications. Hiring them may feel natural, but ultimately, may lead to problems in the productivity area, as the company is not growing its talent pool.

3.   Ageism

Ageism is one of the most common types of bias, with about 1 in 4 people over the age of 45 being subjected to it. These people either have a difficult time finding jobs or are pushed out of their jobs prematurely. Ageism may also occur with younger employees, with a teammate telling you that you are much too young for a job. In this case, an older employee may be placed to lead the project, even if the younger one is more qualified for it.

4.  Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias occurs when you are looking for information to reinforce your ideas and beliefs, ignoring the contradictory kind. For instance, you may have someone coming in for an interview and you decide that you like that person. Instead of looking through potential weaknesses, you may subconsciously give them questions that will work on their strengths.

5.   Race and Ethnicity Bias

Race and ethnicity bias occurs when you are favoring one ethnicity of people instead of others. For instance, a teammate may be pro-diversity, but may unconsciously lean towards working with people that have the same ethnicity as them. As an example, in Springfield, there is a high diversity with 20% of the population being African-American and 2.8% being Asian.

That being said, since the majority is still white, people may be leaning toward the majority. Most Springfield employment discrimination lawyers claim that their cases are built on circumstances of unconscious bias. In these cases, the teammates or employees did not realize that they were accidentally benching their workers or teammates.

6.  Beauty Bias

Beauty bias occurs when you make an assumption about someone solely based on the way they look. For instance, someone may have a preconceived notion about a teammate simply because they have multiple tattoos. They may also unconsciously believe that someone wearing a ponytail and sweatshirt on a Zoom call “does not have their act together.”

The Bottom Line

Unconscious bias can happen at any time, whether you intend it or not. As human beings, we create certain “shortcuts” in our brains to help us make an easy choice. However, unless we correct those biases, we may end up losing opportunities simply because we allowed ourselves to be influenced.


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