7 Examples of Implicit Bias in the Workplace

Implicit Bias in the Workplace

It’s a fact that we all bring our own implicit biases into the workplace. Everyone has thoughts and judgments deeply ingrained into their minds that they don’t even notice. These thoughts can often have the best intentions, but could ultimately end up discriminating. This is something you can’t afford to ignore at work. It can affect your culture, recruiting and retention – ultimately impacting the success of your business. Here are some examples of implicit bias in the workplace that may manifest themselves.

Examples of Implicit Bias in the Workplace

There are numerous types of implicit bias, yet most of us are unaware of the many types we may harbor. Here’s a closer look at some of the examples of implicit bias in the workplace that you, or your coworkers, may have, and how they may affect you:

Gender bias 

As its name implies, this implicit bias refers to preferring one gender over another. While either gender can be preferred, gender bias is more likely to happen with men. This may mean that male candidates are preferred over female candidates for jobs, or for promotions, even when both have similar qualifications.

Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias occurs when you make an assumption about someone and then look for evidence that that assumption is true, whether or not it is. For example, a new coworker arrives late to a meeting, and you decide he or she is unprofessional simply because of that. You continue to hold that belief and look for other ways he or she is unprofessional as you work together.

Similarity bias

Similarity bias, or affinity bias, plays off the fact that individuals tend to be more comfortable with people who are more like themselves. In the workplace, you may notice that you would rather spend time with coworkers who are similar to you in age, gender or background, or who enjoy the same hobbies or interests that you do. While this is natural, this example of implicit bias in the workplace can make it more difficult to connect with others in which you may have less in common.

Ageism, or age bias

Age bias describes the tendency to have negative feelings about a worker because of his or her age. You might have age bias if you work for someone younger than you and you assume he or she cannot have enough experience to be a good manager. Or you might have this example of implicit bias when you assume an older employee is not able to learn new skills at work.

Beauty bias

This example of implicit bias in the workplace indicates a tendency to believe that the people we consider conventionally attractive are smarter and more qualified and successful than people who are not as attractive. While this may benefit more attractive people, it’s a bias that you should be aware of and work to overcome.

Conformity bias

Conformity bias describes the fact that in a group, people are more likely to ignore or downplay their individual beliefs and instead act the way the rest of the group does. Also known as peer pressure, this can influence your behavior in meetings and other group settings. If the majority of the group decides on one option, you may feel that it’s easier to go along with their decision even if you disagree with it.

Halo effect

The halo effect is a type of implicit bias that occurs when you attribute certain abilities to someone simply because of an accomplishment, such as graduating from a top caliber college or having an impressive job title. You may assume that the person has abilities that he or she does not or give the individual more credit than he or she deserves. Like beauty bias, this example of implicit bias tends to help the person who is the recipient of it, but you should still be aware that it may change your feelings and interactions with the person.

How to Address Implicit Bias in the Workplace

Implicit bias in the workplace is an ongoing issue, but fortunately there are numerous ways to combat it, such as:

Use a professional hiring agency

If you can use a professional agency to hire your employees, you should. They typically understand the importance of inclusion and focus on bringing you a diverse group of candidates. Any kind of discrimination in the hiring process will put a company in major trouble, so it’s very important to go through this process properly. If using an outside agency is not an option for your business, make sure that you have multiple people involved in interviewing and are using structured questions for each candidate to give everyone a fair chance.

Consider having your employees complete implicit bias training

You probably heard about the recent incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks that brought forth accusations of racial bias against the company. The CEO of Starbucks has announced that they will close 8,000 of its locations to hold implicit bias training for his top managers. Holding this type of training for your employees is not a bad idea. Getting them thinking about the implicit biases they may be bringing to the workplace and how they might be impacting the company is very important. We can’t change these implicit biases if we don’t become aware of them, and holding a training session is a great first step toward recognizing our actions and how they influence everyone with whom we work.

Create an accountability program

The issue with these implicit biases is that it’s very easy to fall back into them if we don’t continuously hold ourselves accountable. Create an accountability program for your employees so the topic of inclusion is always at the forefront of their mind. Work with a coach to help you work through the examples of implicit biases that show up. Organizations hire CoachDiversity to provide a bench of qualified coaches who understands the challenge of a global workforce and the need to be more inclusive in the workplace.

Ready to address forms of implicit bias in your workplace through unconscious bias training? CoachDiversity Institute works with forward-thinking corporations, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and government entities who are ready to challenge how diversity training has been implemented in the past. Contact us today to learn more.