Unconscious bias is another phrase for stereotyping and is something, at times, we are all guilty of without realising! It is a way of favouring a person, a group or an idea based on different opinions, views or characteristics. However, we can be completely unaware this is happening, and it can be unintentional. This usually happens as we can jump to conclusions based on our experiences and create impressions from past events.
Recognising and becoming aware of the different types of unconscious bias may help you think twice and remove any kind of bias happening in your team/organisation.
1. Affinity Bias
Affinity bias is when you tend to favour someone based on their similar characteristics to yourself. This could be; gender, race, nationality, interests etc. It can be easy to be drawn towards people that share the same background, interests and hobbies, however, it is important to recognise if you have a habit of favouring people similar to you as this is affinity bias. Have you ever gravitated more towards someone because you felt they were better at the job, just because you studied at the same university? Or maybe chosen someone because you both worked for the same company in the past. 95% of staff have said recognition for their hard work creates a positive company environment. However, if employers / managers only praise / promote the members with the same background, traits and characteristics as them, a lot of people who don’t fit into the same category could be overlooked and will not feel valued.
2. Gender Bias
This type of unconscious bias is very common. It is when one gender is favoured over the other and is usually based on your previous experience or thoughts with that particular gender, or even just a typical stereotype you may not know you have. You may know it as preferential treatment men receive over women – we have all heard the stories where women don’t get hired as “they may have babies” or “are not as ruthless” but it’s not just that! It could be a man always hires a woman as he thinks they win more business. Or a woman always hires men as she finds them easier to get along with. And it’s not just hiring it effects. Promotions, giving staff the based projects or even favouring people in meetings / teams is often affected by gender bias. Do you unknowingly respond more to one gender over the other? Think about how you can create a more gender-neutral environment.
3. Beauty Bias
Beauty bias is another well-known type of assumption people make where they adopt the idea of ‘success comes from beauty.’ Employers may favour attractive people thinking they are more social, happy and successful. Beauty bias is frequently aimed at mostly women – it can work in their favour to be hired for some roles and against them for others – as they are less likely to be hired for leadership roles is they are very attractive. However, both men and women can be hired based on their looks. Making sure to not use this kind of bias in your workplace for both hiring and once hired, would mean going ‘blind’ on people’s appearance and focusing more on their merits and achievements – something we should be doing as a matter of course.
4. Contrast Bias
Contras bias is when we compare someone to somebody else, rather than judge them on their own merits. It is important we set people clear standards and goals and judge them against these only and not compare to other people. We often see it when someone says “he’s not as good as xxx was”. It can be dangerous for many reasons including: Comparing someone to others may hide their own strengths and discourage them from shining. Also is someone is particularly weak it may make others seem better than they are. It is far better to set expectations and judge against them only and not others.
5. Halo Effect/Horns Effect
The halo and horns effect are another form of unconscious bias that you probably have also used without realising! Halo effect is used when you see someone or something positively and tend to ignore any kind of negativity or shortcomings they may have. For example, if you were to hire someone because they have a great sales record, which is needed for the job, but when it came to the role and their personality or industry knowledge wasn’t a great match. You may have ignored this because you used the ‘halo effect’ when first interviewing them. Opposite to the “halo effect” is the ‘horns effect’. If you were to meet someone for the first time, and you have a negative opinion of them, you may be using an unconscious bias to stick to that first negative impression without looking for positives or good in them. Writing them off for one issue rather than looking at the whole picture. Now you know what the main workplace biases are you van make a conscious effort to spot if you are your staff are inclined to fall into these biases and introduce techniques in the workplace to try eliminating bias altogether.