In a business setting, implicit bias can have far-reaching consequences if not addressed. Whether it’s unintentional assumptions about employees’ abilities or simply ignoring specific demographics, implicit bias can lead to missed opportunities and an inability to build a successful team.
In this article, we’ll explore how businesses can identify areas of potential implicit bias within their operations, equip leadership with strategies for recognizing and addressing any issues identified through dialogue, and create systems that foster workplace diversity and inclusion.
What is Implicit Bias in a Workplace Setting?
Implicit bias in the workplace refers to unconscious beliefs and attitudes, which can lead to biased decision-making.
This type of bias influences our behavior daily, whether we are aware of it.
Employees are more likely to be subjected to implicit biases based on characteristics like:
- disability status
Implicit biases can lead to a toxic work environment where people make assumptions based on their embedded biases rather than objective facts and evidence.
Recognizing implicit bias and actively understanding how our subconscious beliefs shape our interactions with others is critical for creating an inclusive and equitable work environment.
How Can Implicit Bias Harm Your Organization?
Implicit Bias Kills Collaboration
Beyond creating an uncomfortable environment, implicit bias can hamper collaboration between employees, supervisors, and other stakeholders.
Without trust and understanding between colleagues, implicit bias has the potential to decrease collaboration by inhibiting:
- open communication
- constructive criticism
- problem-solving skills
This creates a domino effect that leads to poorer work output, missed tasks, increased conflict, and lowered morale in the workplace.
Organizations must be aware of implicit bias and actively work to create environments that encourage collaboration and celebrate diversity.
Implicit Bias Can Cause Harassment
Implicit bias in the workplace can have dire consequences and create a hostile work environment that leads to harassment.
- As implicit biases grow unchecked in an organization, interpersonal dynamics among employees become strained, resulting in aggressive behavior that is detrimental to work relationships and causes mistrust among team members.
- No matter whether implicit or explicit, biased words or judgment leads to exclusion and discomfort among members of protected classes in the workplace.
- This limits the potential for personal growth within any organization.
Monitoring policies should be in place to improve employee morale and create a safe workplace with immediate repercussions for people guilty of discrimination.
Implicit Bias Makes Employees Feel Unsafe
Implicit bias in the workplace leads to a lack of comfort and safety.
- Employees do not feel safe bringing attention to implicit biases due to fear of retaliation from peers, supervisors, or higher-level leadership.
- This significantly impacts minority workers, who often bear a disproportionate amount of implicit bias.
- When implicit bias becomes implicit mistreatment at work, it leads to a toxic and hostile atmosphere that hinders productivity and encourages employees to stay quiet about it or leave altogether.
Implicit Bias Restricts Top Talent Acquisition
Implicit bias in the workplace can be a significant roadblock when acquiring top talent.
- Unconscious prejudices and stereotypes often play a role when employers select candidates for key positions, leading to fewer opportunities for talented individuals from diverse backgrounds.
- Implicit bias restricts top talent acquisition by preventing those with experience and qualifications from being considered based on their demographic characteristics instead of the content of their work and expertise.
- This can lead to a deficiency of skills and perspectives at all levels, limiting organizations’ growth potential and creative vision.
Overall, implicit bias has an adverse and detrimental effect on a company’s ability to pick out qualified personnel among the standard talent pool.
Implicit Bias Examples
Place of Birth Vs. Where they Live Now
A particularly glaring example of implicit bias is a bias regarding someone’s birthplace versus where they live now.
- Someone may assume that because an employee was born in a different country than where they now reside, they cannot trust them to do their job well, regardless of previous experience or success.
- This implicit bias can rob candidates with rich experience of opportunities for employment or advancement.
By recognizing implicit biases and eliminating them from decision-making processes, workplaces can strive for fairness and justice for all employees.
Work Experiences Gained Outside of the Country
Sometimes implicit bias in the workplace can affect those with work experience gained outside the country.
- Implicit biases against certain countries and cultures can lead to employers undervaluing job applicants because of where they obtained their experience.
- Companies deny themselves an opportunity to benefit from varied perspectives from international experience.
Implicit biases must be recognized and addressed to ensure hiring based on merit rather than implicit stereotypes.
Many implicit biases exist in the workplace, with one of the most common being based on academic and professional credentials.
- Individuals may be granted opportunities or judged more favorably if they have advanced degrees or titles that appear more prestigious.
- Conversely, those without specific credentials may experience prejudice when accessing jobs or new positions within an organization.
Such implicit bias can put individuals of similar qualifications at an unfair disadvantage due to these implicit biases rooted in academic and professional elitism.
Certain Employees Forced to “Prove” Themselves
Implicit bias in the workplace needs to be taken seriously and discussed openly.
An implicit bias example is employers asking employees to “prove” themselves.
- In many organizations, certain individuals, particularly those from marginalized communities, may be asked to take on extra tasks or demonstrate their worth beyond expectations for their colleagues.
- This can lead to these individuals feeling that colleagues undervalue their accomplishments and don’t see them as valuable team members.
Understanding how implicit biases manifest in the workplace is crucial to creating a working environment where every employee feels valued and respected.
Soon to Be Moms Focusing on Family Over Career
Despite more than 50 years of progress, implicit bias in the workplace continues to discourage soon-to-be moms from focusing on family and careers.
- This implicit bias is based on the belief that women must choose between having a successful career or starting a family.
- However, this mindset must recognize that women can prioritize careers and families.
It is time for our society to move past these biases and allow working mothers to succeed professionally and personally.
How to Combat Complicit Bias
Include a Diversity Statement
Including a diversity statement as part of HR policy can help combat workplace implicit bias.
A diversity statement should:
- Reflect the commitment of your organization to creating an inclusive environment for all races, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities
- Address the importance of creating a safe space that respects everyone’s differences
- Lay out expectations for an inclusive workplace
- Stand against any discriminatory behavior in the workplace.
- Be regularly re-evaluated and updated to ensure that its values remain current.
This document formally reminds employees that the company will not tolerate implicit bias by setting expectations for everyone.
Widen Your Recruiting Net
One way to combat complicit bias is to widen the recruitment net by reaching out to a larger pool of potential candidates.
Companies should look beyond traditional job pools and recruit from sources like:
- trade schools
- two-year colleges
- high school programs
- religious organizations
- online communities
Not only can this help to diversify the applicants, but it also brings underrepresented people into consideration who employers may otherwise overlook.
Script Your Interviews
A powerful tool to fight implicit bias in the workplace is to script your interviews.
This means that every job interview follows a standardized set of criteria and questions so that employers can assess candidates on merit rather than implicit biases.
Scripted interviews should ask all candidates the same questions and avoid inappropriate questions such as those relating to:
- gender identity
- religious beliefs
- cultural values
Whatever implicit biases may exist, scripted interviewing helps to promote an equitable environment where everyone can thrive.
Create Clear Compensation Plans
To combat implicit bias in the workplace, businesses should establish standardized compensation plans.
- Companies should create protocols for salaries, job progression, and merit-based pay so that every worker knows what they should receive for their hard work.
- Clear guidelines allow employees to compare where they stand with other colleagues.
- Clearly-defined pay plans reduce the chances of implicit bias or discrimination that can unfairly impact workers’ salaries.
Establishing a fair system will ensure everyone gets the appropriate compensation they deserve.
Invest in Cultural Wellness Training
One way to combat implicit bias in the workplace is by investing in cultural wellness training.
This type of training:
- teaches people how to recognize implicit bias, evaluate their own biases, and create an open and safe environment for colleagues
- Enables companies to ensure implicit diversity in hiring practices while understanding the effect that implicit biases can have at work
- Encourages a respectful culture and helps managers ensure productivity and a healthy workspace for all employees.
In summary, cultural wellness training is a significant investment that can help alleviate implicit bias in the workplace.
Invest in Mentoring Programs
A pivotal step to combating implicit bias is implementing mentoring programs in which every employee can access an experienced mentor.
Mentors can provide a space to identify implicit biases and safely develop solutions to overcome them.
Involving mentors combats implicit bias by:
- increasing accountability
- Promoting an environment in which team members can address implicit biases proactively.
- Fostering a culture of trust and collaboration
- providing employees with resources and information needed to foster relationships with colleagues of different genders, cultures, and generations
Mentoring programs in the workplace provide a powerful way for businesses to demonstrate their sincere commitment to addressing implicit biases in their day-to-day operations.
Create an Inclusive Work Environment
A great way to reduce implicit bias is to take active steps toward creating an inclusive work environment.
This might include:
- confronting biased comments and behavior
- having an open dialogue about expectations of workers around respectful communication
- brainstorming ideas to increase diversity in job roles
- assessing policies for any implicit bias associated with them
When companies are aware of implicit bias in the workplace and actively find ways to foster a more diverse community, the implicit bias has less of a chance to impact their collective well-being.
Implicit Bias Wrap Up
Implicit bias can be a difficult thing to recognize, let alone combat. But businesses need to identify and address implicit bias to create an equitable environment where everyone is respected and supported.
By taking steps such as:
- creating clear compensation plans
- investing in cultural wellness training
- establishing mentoring programs
- creating an inclusive work environment
Businesses foster a culture of respect and collaboration, promoting innovation and productivity while helping to ensure all employees feel valued in their roles.
What are your thoughts? What strategies have you seen be effective in fighting implicit bias in the workplace? Let us know in the comments!
Implicit Bias FAQ
Implicit bias includes stereotypes about people based on race, gender, age, or other factors.
The three types of implicit bias are cognitive biases, which involve automatic and unconscious associations; affective biases, which include emotions or feelings that may be unconscious; and behavioral biases, in which people’s unconscious attitudes influence their behavior.
Examples of implicit bias in the workplace include: making assumptions about employees based on their demographic, considering applicants of specific backgrounds to be more qualified than others, and creating policies that unintentionally disadvantage certain groups.
Implicit bias can harm the workplace by creating unequal opportunities and respect. This can lead to lower productivity, decreased morale, and higher turnover rates. It can also create a hostile environment that may make employees feel unwelcome or intimidated.
Implicit bias is the unconscious tendency to make assumptions about a person or group based on their background, such as race, gender, age, etc. These biases are often ingrained in our beliefs and can be challenging to recognize.