Implicit Vs Explicit Bias: Differences, Effects And Steps To Tackle These Biases

Implicit Vs Explicit Bias: Differences, Effects And Steps To Tackle These Biases

The Facts

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Implicit bias (also called unconscious bias) refers to attitudes and beliefs that occur outside your conscious awareness and control. Explicit bias, on the other hand, are biases that you are aware of on a conscious level. 

It is important to understand that implicit biases can become explicit biases. This occurs when you become consciously aware of the prejudices and beliefs you possess. That is the surface in your conscious mind, leading you to choose whether to act on or against them.

Continue reading to know further about implicit and explicit bias and the difference between both.

Implicit Bias vs Explicit Bias

Implicit biases are attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. People are not even aware of when these biases occur. They are prevalent and permeate throughout the workplace at all levels.

Explicit bias refers to the attitudes and beliefs we have about a person or group on a conscious level. Much of the time, these biases and their expression arise as the direct result of a perceived threat. When people feel threatened, they are more likely to draw group boundaries to distinguish themselves from others.

Effects of Biases at Workplace 

1. Implicit Bias 

There are more than 150 cognitive biases, with five that have direct impacts within the workplace:

  • Affinity Bias: It is human nature to gravitate towards individuals who look like us. Therefore, we prefer people who look like us.
  • Halo Effect: The tendency to think everything about a person is good because you like that person.
  • Perception Bias: The tendency to form stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups that make it impossible to make an objective judgment about members of those groups.
  • Confirmation Bias: The tendency for people to seek information that confirms pre-existing beliefs or assumptions.
  • Group Think: This bias occurs when people try too hard to fit into a particular group by mimicking others or holding back thoughts and opinions. This causes them to lose part of their own identities and causes organizations to lose out on creativity and innovation.

2. Explicit Bias

Numerous studies show that explicit forms of differential treatment contribute significantly to the underrepresentation of women and racial and ethnic minorities.

The most explicit forms involve sexual harassment, unfair pay, and bias in the allocation of promotions and work assignments.

Bias influences decisions at all levels of an organization. When biases are not addressed, they can affect :

  • Working relationships and trust
  • Diverse talent recruitment
  • Work productivity
  • Promotion and professional development
  • Creativity and innovation in the workplace

Steps to Eliminate Unconscious Bias or Implicit Bias 

While it may be impossible to completely eradicate these biases, there are certain steps to reduce the chances as many decisions are influenced by them. Follow these nine steps to limit your organization's unconscious or implicit biases.

  1. Learn what unconscious biases are

The first step of limiting the impact unconscious biases have on your organization is making sure everyone is aware that they exist. “Awareness training is the first step to unraveling unconscious bias because it allows employees to recognize that everyone possesses them and to identify their own”.

  1. Assess which biases are most likely to affect you

Take tests to figure out which of your individual perceptions are most likely to be governed by unconscious biases. Armed with that information, you can take proactive steps to address them on a personal basis.

  1. Figure out where biases are likely to affect your company

Biases tend to affect who gets hired, who gets promoted, who gets raises and who gets what kind of work, among other things. By knowing where bias is most likely to creep in, you can take steps to ensure that biases are considered when important decisions are made in those areas.

  1. Modernize your approach to hiring

In order to make sure that unconscious biases do not adversely impact your hiring decisions, you may need to make some big changes. Rework job descriptions so that you are able to draw from a wider pool of applicants. Do not look at anyone’s name or gender and instead hire on merit alone. Additionally, consider giving candidates sample assignments to see what their work contributions might look like. Finally, standardize the interview process, as unstructured interviews tend to lead to bad hiring decisions.

  1. Let data inform your decisions

If your company’s upper management echelons are only staffed by white men, unconscious biases are determining which employees are promoted. Make it a priority to diversify your management team so that more voices and backgrounds are represented.

  1. Bring diversity into your hiring decisions

If your goal is to hire a diverse staff, make sure that there is diversity among the group of people tasked with hiring new employees. Otherwise, you may continue hiring the same kinds of homogenous workers — despite your best intentions.

  1. Encourage team members to speak up about biases

The more people involved in a decision and the more transparent the decision-making process is, the less likely an organization will be to be affected by unconscious biases. Create a culture that encourages open communication. That way, when employees realize a decision might have been influenced by unconscious biases, they won't be afraid to speak up and set the record straight.

  1. Hold employees accountable

While you should not necessarily punish someone for making a decision influenced by unconscious biases, you should keep track of whether such decisions are being made. If the data reveals bias, someone may need to intervene.

  1. Set diversity and inclusion goals

From more innovation to more talented employees to higher retention rates, there are a number of reasons why companies should focus on creating diverse workplaces. Set diversity and inclusion goals to make sure that your diversity program is more than just lip service and you actually make progress toward building a diverse team.

From an organizational perspective, the sooner you realize the reality and take proactive steps to overcome the biases that hold you back the stronger your companies will become, and the better positioned you will all be to serve your customers effectively.

What Can Be Done About Explicit Bias? 

Expressions of explicit bias (discrimination, hate speech, etc.) occur due to deliberate thought. Thus, they can be consciously regulated. 

  • People are more motivated to control their biases if there are social norms in place which dictate that prejudice is not socially acceptable. 
  • It is important that you reinforce norms in your homes, schools, and the media that promote respect for your own and other groups. 
  • Research shows that emphasizing a common group identity (such as “we are all Americans”) can help reduce interracial tensions that may arise between majority and minority ethnic groups in the U.S. 
  • Also, when conducted under the right conditions, studies show intergroup contact between people of different races can increase trust and reduce the anxiety that underlies bias.

In a Nutshell 

Explicit biases are done intentionally, while implicit biases are done unintentionally, but it is only seen by people who are aware of these biases. It is necessary to take action against the biases that are taking place at your workplace and find out ways to eradicate the same in order to have smooth functioning at your workplace. 

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