Biases In Workplace Examples: 5 Common Kinds Of Biases That Occur
Biases in the workplace happen when our brain automatically judges a person, makes assumptions about them, and functions on those preconceived assumptions. It can be of various qualities, the most common being implicit bias. Biases are hard to overcome, but there are multiple training courses now to overcome bias against or for another person. In this article, we will try to understand different biases and see different examples of the biases in question.
What is Workplace Bias?
In its simplest sense, workplace bias refers to any kind of prejudice against another human being. Biases are our way to make sense of the world in binaries. Biases are mostly based upon our childhood background, upbringing, isolated events that lead us to form a specific but unfair opinion about a community.
If you are biased towards something, you are most likely biased against something else. This leads to unequal treatment of peers of employees. Most biases are unconscious and take a lot of time to overcome. Bias harms diversity in the workplace immensely.
Having a bias does not necessarily make someone a bad person. But the person has to be willing to understand and overcome his immediate biases. Biases can be categorized in two ways–they can be cognitive errors or are termed emotional biases. Cognitive biases are not actually bad things and are not related to harmful prejudice. So we will be dealing with emotional or implicit bias.
The emotional biases are often intuitive and out of our immediate control. But with the right training, those can be overcome too. The world is becoming more inclusive by the day, so children have less chance of picking up numerous biases growing up. But it won’t completely go away. Implicit bias exists within our minds without us even knowing it does.
How Can Bias Affect a Workplace?
There are multiple ways unconscious bias can affect a workplace. Let us check out some of those.
- Affects the Hiring Process
If the hiring process involves individuals with prejudice or implicit bias, it can affect the hiring. Applications are rejected based on people’s appearance, race, gender, sexuality, every day because of implicit biases. This often leads to hiring a less competent candidate and affects the productivity of the whole organization.
- Unhealthy Work Environment
People who are not direct victims of someone’s implicit bias are affected by it too. Often one’s implicit bias leads other employees to behave in similar ways, especially if the first employee is an executive or placed higher up. This leads to an unhealthy work environment, affecting the quality of work.
- Ruins Employee Experience
Implicit bias obviously ruins the employees’ experience in the workplace if they are the victims of it. But it also ruins the overall experience for employees who are not directly targeted but are close to those who are. This can lead to the organization having bad reviews and a damaged reputation.
- Wasted Potential
If the mental health of the employees is compromised because of workplace biases, it is bound to curb their potential as professionals. Often victims of bias may leave the organization. This leads to the organization losing a perfectly potent and talented employee and the employee losing the chance to earn their place.
- Less Diverse Workplace
Implicit biases are mainly based on age, gender, appearance, gender expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, color, nationality, etc., which can lead to the diversity of a workplace being harmed.
- The Cost of Unconscious Bias
The cost of unconscious bias is estimated to be 64 billion dollars annually for multinational corporations. This is calculated based on the cost of losing and replacing nearly 2 million American workers every year. This is not a concrete figure but paints you a picture of just how much workplace bias affects the economy. This amount does not even consider the legal costs of the penalties that companies have to pay if charged legally.
Apart from this, the harmed mental health of the employees lead to above-average turnover and less customer satisfaction and conversion.
- Affects Evaluation
Like the hiring process, the evaluation of projects and assignments too can be affected by implicit bias.
- Affects the Physical and Mental Health of the Employees
The workers or employees who face workplace bias have reported having succumbed to depression, stress, and anxiety. It has proven to increase accidents in the workplace and absenteeism. This leads to little to no engagement with the work they are doing. And that, in turn, leads to decreased productivity.
5 Examples of Workplace Bias
Let us see the most common kinds of biases that occur in the workplace.
- Gender Bias
Gender bias is the prejudice that leads to giving an employee preference based solely on their sex. Or, in other words, preferring one sex over all the others. This usually means giving preferential treatments to male employees over female employees, transgender employees, employees who identify as non-binary.
A study conducted in 1998 shows that even female employers are affected by the preference towards men and often will give the job to male applicants even if their CV is not as good as another woman applicant.
Gender bias is actually easier to overcome than other biases. Still, for it to be eliminated, it has to be properly recognized and acknowledged by the person who is practicing it. You can understand when your behavior suggests wrongful preference based on a person’s sex and reconsider immediately.
- Age Bias
Age bias is when you give preference to an employee based on their age instead of their potential or experience. This type of unconscious bias often leads to thinking younger people have less experience or that older people cannot do a job as well as a young employee. Like in an IT company, a young person is preferred because unconscious bias leads the employer to think they won’t be as tech-savvy as someone of the current generation.
Age is a sensitive matter for people often because aging can cause an inferiority complex within people. Young people often struggle to be independent and need jobs but are rejected because of their age. This leads to the organization losing perfectly good employees.
In order to avoid this, the employees need to value people based not on their age but expertise and potential.
- Affinity Bias
It is a bias where you prefer people who look or behave similarly to you. It is a natural human trait, but giving professional preference to people similar to you is just wrong.
- Height Bias
Only two to three percent of the American men are six feet and above, but more than 33 percent of the male CEOs of a U.S. company are six feet or above. Linking height with professional drive or success is also a form of workplace bias. This is true for women as well.
- Racial/Color Bias
This kind of bias leads us to prefer one race or color over others for no apparent reason. In the U. S, preferential treatment often goes out to white people.
Workplace bias is not something homogenous to categorize under one umbrella. It only becomes irreversible when someone refuses to acknowledge their biases, in other words, when it becomes confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when despite evidence to the contrary, we refuse to let go of our existing biases. Biases can be harmful to the organization in multiple ways but are possible to overcome.