How Does Unconscious Bias Affect The Workplace?

Unconscious bias, also known as prejudice, occurs when humans behave on subconscious, deeply rooted prejudices, preconceptions, and perceptions formed from their innate human behavior, perspectives, cultural background, and surroundings. 

You may be introducing yourself to unconscious bias if you function on your particular prejudices, thoughtless reactions, or suppositions. Even if people do not start believing in stereotypes, this can mean that those people affected by their behavior may well be unfairly discriminated against or favored without their knowledge. 

Various researchers believe that stereotypes serve a useful purpose in a broad sense because classifying people in groups with similar characteristics enables us to experience the world without being exhausted. The drawback is that bias gets ingrained into human behavior. 

Different Types of Unconscious Bias

The human brain processes precise decisions and evaluations of people and places without fully understanding them, known as innate or subconscious biases. Your unconscious brain is 200,000 times faster than your rational thought at processing information.

 Its patterns and regularities in actions influence your conscious brain whether you like it or not – most likely without you even realizing it. Mentioned below are some popular types of unconscious biases. 

  • Affinity Bias

 It usually happens when people favor people who are similar to them in some way since they consider them more compatible and quicker to associate and befriend. It could be due to shared preferences or hobbies or shared characteristics like class, ethnic background, or geographic location. It could lead people to believe that somebody is not skilled or eligible for a job since they do not share the same beliefs or experience.

  • Attribution Bias

 It relates to how people interpret their own as well as other behavior. They prefer to compare their achievements on their abilities and mistakes on circumstances beyond our control. On the other hand, people tend to equate other accomplishments to fortune and their inadequacies to a lack of skill. It can lead to disparities in recruitment and performance evaluations.

  • Conformity Bias

 It refers to an inclination to make choices based on the judgment of others instead of pursuing individual decisions. Having a large team and motivating them to express their feelings boldly involves bringing a wide range of knowledge and expertise to the table, enabling even more inventive and well-considered suggestions to arise. Hence, it is critical to assure that people do not feel compelled to consent with other points of view.

  • Contrast Bias

People constantly try comparing individuals and things to bring things into context. However, evaluating individuals positively or negatively rather than evaluating them on their qualities can contribute to a loss of neutrality. For example, the latest person you interviewed for a job may appear to be superior to all of the others you have previously evaluated – but you might not have reached the same conclusion if you would have examined the same individual initially.

  • Gender Bias

 Gender imbalance is among the most widely debated and measured forms of prejudice in the workplace, and it can lead to racist charges for owners and employees. Gender bias can materialize itself at work in several aspects, such as a male candidate getting employed for a physically strenuous job or high-ranking females asked to take minutes in conferences rather than males in lower-level positions.

Effect of Unconscious Bias on the Workplace and Ways to Overcome Them

While various opinions and innovation are pivotal to accomplish results and workplace productivity, an unconscious bias remains a challenge for achieving diversity and innovation in a workplace. Unconscious biases can sneak everywhere, right from the vocabulary utilized in job stipulations and choices on who to employ or promote to administrators neglecting poor performance of people recruiters know and prefer. 

Furthermore, in recruitment, unconscious biases can point to generalizations that ascertain the appropriate applicant for the job not based on their abilities but their nationality or name. According to the latest statistics, around 24 percent of job aspirants of white British origin gained an emphatic response from companies, contrasted with just 15 percent of ethnic minority candidates with equivalent CVs and cover letters. 

Also, in some more critical cases, the influential preferential prejudice of any sort can point to unlawful harassment, workplace bullying, or discrimination placing businesses at tremendous risk of reputational harm and any associated monetary damages as problems grow. 

Hence, it becomes imperative for every business to steer clear of unconscious biases. Mentioned below are some ways to overcome this problem of unconscious bias in your workplace. 

  • Understand what unconscious biases are

The initial step of restricting the impact that unconscious biases hold on your workplace is making sure that people are aware that such problems exist. 

Hence, awareness education is the primary measure to explain unconscious bias that enables employees to understand that everyone holds biases that must get identified and worked on to create a better working environment. 

  • Understand where unconscious biases can affect your workplace

Unconscious biases tend to influence people who get employed, who gets raised, who gets what job role, and so on. By understanding where unconscious bias is most likely to sneak in, you can take actions to warrant that these biases get discussed when you make notable decisions for your business. 

  • Revive your hiring approach

To assure that unconscious biases do not negatively influence your employing decisions, you may rethink and reestablish your hiring approach. For instance, various research reveals that the expression in job specifications can deter women candidates from applying for a particular job role. 

Hence you must ensure to rework all the job descriptions to attract a wider pool of job applicants. In addition, you must also make sure to hire people only on their merits and not by looking at their name or nationality. 

Moreover, consider providing applicants with sample assignments to understand their work contributions and problem-solving approach. Eventually, systematize the interview procedure, as disorganized interview processes tend to point to poor hiring choices.

  • Inspire team members to talk about biases

Inspiring your team members to talk about biases is another way to limit the impact of unconscious bias in your workplace. Hence, always strive to build a more transparent work environment that fosters open dialogue between people working in your company. This way, when employees feel that a decision might get affected by unconscious biases, they won’t be hesitant to talk and articulate their viewpoint. 

  • Bring heterogeneity into your employing decisions

If you aim to employ a diverse staff, make sure that there is heterogeneity among the group of individuals entrusted with hiring new employees. Bringing heterogeneity into your employing decisions will ensure that there is no or less impact of unconscious bias at your workplace. 

Every workplace, at some point or the other, faces the problem of unconscious bias. However, the sooner you become aware and start taking action in this direction, the better you can limit its impact. Also, by overcoming the repercussions of unconscious bias with proper training, you can build a good reputation amongst customers and serve them efficiently. 

The Get Impactly team can help you train your employees better on unconscious bias. To learn more about our assistance, schedule a live demo now. 

Related Content


Impactly’s online sexual harassment and diversity, equity & inclusion training packages are used by hundreds of organizations across the country. Impactly is powered by Get Inclusive, one of the largest providers of prevention and compliance training for colleges and universities.