Our unconscious biases affect many decisions we make and because they are unconscious we are not even aware of how they are impinging on our decision-making. These unconscious biases can lead to skewed judgement because we are heavily influenced by our unconscious expectations, perceptions and assumptions.
Taking steps to understand and combat unconscious bias is vitally important. Failure to do this can lead to inaccurate judgements, unfair presumptions, prejudicial decisions and discrimination. Unconscious bias awareness training helps you improve your ability to make informed decisions and overcome the negative effect of unconscious bias.
Biases affect our decision-making in that it influences:
- How we perceive others (perceptions)
- How we react to other people (attitudes)
- How receptive we are towards other people (behaviours)
- Which attributes of a person we pay most attention to (attention)
- How actively we listen to other people including verbal and non-verbal cues (listening skills)
- How we judge others (assessment)
Different Kinds of Unconscious Bias
Attribution bias is how we perceive our own performance and abilities compared to those of others. Attribution bias can be traced to our impaired ability to assess the reasons behind success or failure. We are more likely to attribute our success to our own skills and less likely to blame ourselves for failures.
However, this is often reversed when we assess the actions of other people. We have a strong tendency to attribute other people’s success to external factors like luck.
Affinity bias is our innate tendency to relate to people who are similar to us. We connect faster with those who we are able to relate to. Excessive emphasis on cultural-fit can become a barrier when seeking valuable and diverse candidates.
Affinity bias can cloud our judgement when it comes to recruiting candidates with unique skills and fresh approaches to work. Remember, just because a team member or candidate is not like you, it doesn’t mean they’re not as talented or potentially valuable.
This one may sound extremely unfair but it is unfortunately true. Many of us subconsciously favour employees or teammates if we find them physically attractive. While a smart, neat appearance goes a long way in making a good impression, physical appearance, by and large, has little to do with ability.
We may unconsciously feel that candidates with poor posture, untidy hairstyles or poor dress sense may not be a good fit.
At the fundamental level, every one of us seeks approval from our peers and colleagues. Conformity bias is said to occur when our opinions and judgement is swayed too much by the expectations of others. This has a significant effect on our decision-making in general.
For instance, we may outwardly agree with the opinion of the team even when we may have reservations or actually think differently about the issue. If your team seems to unanimously agree on most decisions, conformity bias may be an underlying problem. Encourage people to speak up and voice disagreement if they think it is right. It’s important to be able to share diverse and different opinions.
Confirmation bias relates to our tendency to search for information or evidence that supports our point of view instead of looking at more diverse sources. We subconsciously overlook other facts and focus on things that validate our position. Confirmation bias affects our ability to make rational assessments and also ends up reinforcing other unconscious biases.
Unconscious bias training programs help leaders and employees overcome mental blocks and support them in fair decision-making. Contact Symmetra for its highly-regarded programs to combat unconscious bias.