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HR.com: 5 Proven Ways To Shatter Implicit Bias In The Workplace

October 03, 2022

How are implicit biases harmful?

As humans, we all have biases—preconceived beliefs or opinions about someone or something. Biases are not inherently negative. They can help us make decisions efficiently, such as selecting a shirt in a certain color or style that we already know we like instead of trying on every shirt in the store.

The pitfall, however, to biases is that these cognitive shortcuts can lead to prejudgments and discriminatory behavior. Implicit or unconscious biases refer to attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner, according to the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. They include social stereotypes that people unconsciously assign to others based on a range of characteristics, such as gender, race, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and other characteristics.

From a business perspective, implicit biases undermine productivity, innovation, employee morale, business results, and more. Learning how to recognize our biases and disrupt them are critical for building an inclusive and diverse workplace where all employees feel that they belong and can do their best work.
What Are Implicit Biases?

In contrast to explicit biases, i.e., attitudes or beliefs that we openly express, implicit biases often exist outside of our conscious awareness. For instance, a hiring manager who avoids hiring non-native English speakers based on the unconscious assumption that they may not perform as well as native English-speaking candidates is a sign of implicit bias.

Implicit bias could be as subtle as only inviting colleagues to lunch who are the same age as you and share similar interests because you’re more comfortable with them. There are many types of implicit biases: ability bias, gender bias, race and ethnicity bias, age bias, LGBTQIA+ community bias, and more. How Are Implicit Biases Harmful?

Left unchecked, implicit biases undermine a company’s efforts to foster a more diverse and inclusive work environment. Not only are diversity and inclusivity important values—they’re good for business. Research shows that diverse companies enjoy a higher cash flow per employee; inclusive teams improve team performance, and diverse leadership teams boost innovation.

For example, in an inclusive and diverse work environment, a software engineer who feels safe sharing that their family relied on food stamps and coupons to stretch their meals could have an in-depth understanding of the pain points behind using coupons. That knowledge can be applied to building a better coupon app that improves the customer experience and increases customer loyalty.

However, employees who feel pressured to conform to certain characteristics may censor themselves, leaving out valuable observations or suggestions. Employees who do not feel their ideas and contributions are valued or taken seriously are also more likely to depart from the company.

Click here to read the full HR.com article.

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