Unconscious Bias Examples Blog Feature

Unconscious Bias Examples and Ways to Avoid Them

Do first impressions matter? Studies show that people make their first impression about someone within seven seconds of meeting them. 

A decision made in such haste is based on what immediately meets the eye, such as looks, clothing, voice, etc.—i.e., an unconscious bias. 

In this blog post, we hope to make you conscious of such biases and help you avoid them in the workplace.

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What is Unconscious Bias?

Unconscious bias is a prejudice or belief system held by someone, based on which they make decisions. These prejudices influence our interactions, often leading to preferential or discriminatory behavior towards others.

We might not know that we hold such a belief, making it even more challenging to identify and avoid.

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Importance of Understanding Unconscious Bias

By definition, unconscious bias is bias against specific groups of people, behavior, or actions. It threatens equality, equity, and individual freedoms. Organizations that show biases in hiring can face lawsuits and penalties. 

Preventing negative consequences is just the beginning. Understanding and consciously avoiding unconscious biases can offer businesses a great competitive advantage. Here’s how.

Diverse hiring for business growth

When hiring managers and interviewers know their unconscious biases, they can hire truly diverse candidates. Diversity in the workforce will bring newer ideas and viewpoints, opening up newer markets and opportunities.

Inclusive work environments for new ideas

Is an extrovert speaking too much in meetings? Are vocal team members taking credit for work done by the shy ones?

The ability to identify such behavior helps create a more inclusive workplace for everyone. This way, we hear from people who have had different life experiences, offering solutions that have not been considered before.

Better business decision-making

Awareness of biases leads to more objective and fair business decisions. When choosing the best HR software, you might consider its accessibility features. When designing a chatbot, you might consider the implications of its name or identity.

Acknowledging unconscious biases helps build a better future.

Stronger collaboration

When everyone in the team understands unconscious biases, there is less judgment or politics. People will be willing to listen to their teammates without preconceived notions. This creates a safe space for people of various work styles to collaborate in the work place,  innovate, leading to stronger outcomes.

Fairness and equity to attract and retain top talent

Job seekers today want to be appreciated and compensated fairly. When an organization is aware of its unconscious biases, it will likely be more fair and equitable, attracting and retaining top talent.

Understanding and avoiding unconscious bias is more than just doing the right thing. It is good business sense. 

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15 Examples of Unconscious Bias

Unconscious biases manifest themselves in various ways. It could be based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. But it could also be what we consider superficial, like being a cat person or a smoker, or someone who wears their hair a certain way.

While it is the responsibility of every individual to identify their own unconscious biases, here are fifteen most common ones and how to avoid them.

1. Racial bias

Stereotypes around race, ethnicity, religion, class, etc., have existed since time immemorial and continue to exist today. While one might not consider themselves racist, they might hold an opinion that is unfounded and biased.

In the workplace, this might involve choosing someone from one race over another or determining whether people of a particular ethnicity are good or bad at something. 

Avoid this by:

  • Evaluating resumes after retracting names or any information that might reveal one’s race
  • Actively questioning beliefs you have about various races and checking them
  • Listening carefully to people of diverse backgrounds to understand them as individuals

2. Gender bias

Women make up 6.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs. Women earn 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. Studies across the globe have shown that there is a prevalent gender bias in every organization, much beyond overt sexism.

This could mean men speaking more than women in the workplace, assuming that women can’t take challenging assignments, etc. 

To avoid this:

  • Conduct perception surveys and focus groups to understand women—ClickUp Form View is a simple way to collect feedback and perform detailed analysis
  • Perform gender gap analysis regularly and pay equitably
  • Watch gendered language in the workplace. Use assigned comments to point out when someone says something inappropriate on chat
  • Never make assumptions
ClickUp form view for collecting feedback and analysing it
ClickUp form view for collecting feedback and analysing it

3. Maternity bias

A part of gender bias is maternity bias, which increases significantly when someone returns to work after their leave. This form of bias assumes that women will be less committed to their careers, will not like to travel, cannot take up challenging tasks, prefer to work from home, and so on. 

This creates an environment where mothers are treated as anomalies instead of natural parts of any organization, affecting policymaking.

To avoid this: 

  • Stop assuming that all mothers are the same
  • Stop making decisions on behalf of mothers, however well-meaning you are
  • Have honest conversations with mothers returning to work without patronizing them

4. Age bias

We regularly categorize people based on their age as part of demographic surveys. We identify characteristics that are common among this group to understand them better. However, this can turn into unconscious biases.

For instance, one might think an older person isn’t suitable for programming or social media jobs. This results in unnecessary micromanaging, which turns counterproductive. 

The simplest way to avoid this is only to consider each individual’s skills and experiences when making business decisions. It is easier said than done, but managers and team members must actively avoid looking through the lens of one’s age.

5. Pedigree bias

One’s background plays a huge role in hiring and workplace decisions. Someone who has gone to Harvard or worked at Apple will likely be given more consideration than someone who hasn’t. This unconscious bias assumes that those without a pedigree can not have the same skill level.

Avoid this by:

  • Evaluating resumes for demonstrable skills and experience over pedigree/association
  • Conduct skill assessment tests instead of assuming capabilities
  • Do not speak of Ivy League education or big tech experience as a badge of honor

6. Designation bias

Another unconscious bias is respecting an individual based on their designation or job role. This bias arises from the assumption that a person’s value is determined by the money they make or the power they have.

It creates gross inequality within the organization. For instance, a janitor might be accorded less respect and consideration than the company’s CEO. 

To avoid this:

  • Set up a basic code of conduct within the organization that everyone is required to follow. Publish this on ClickUp Docs and share widely
  • Have equal policies around welfare, leave, insurance, etc.
  • Discourage addressing those with higher designation as Sir, Ma’am, etc.
ClickUp Docs Overview

7. Similarity bias

People like people who are like them, creating a similarity bias or an affinity bias. That is, we favor people with tastes and opinions similar to ours. This creates an echo chamber within organizations, gradually eliminating diverse opinions and disagreements.

A prevalent example of this is neurotypical people being reluctant to hire those unlike them. They end up seeing neurodiversity as dissimilar, therefore building an affinity bias, even though it’s not conscious.

As strange as this might sound, name bias is fairly common form of affinity bias. People think of someone whose name is different or unpronounceable as the ‘other.’ So much so that people from certain parts of the world often have an Anglicized version of their name to belong.

To avoid this, ask yourself why whenever you feel you ‘like’ someone. When you feel like someone is ‘relatable,’ question it. Regularly evaluate your team’s composition for similar people.

8. Authority bias

Authority bias is simply assuming that the boss is always right without fact-checking. While it is prevalent among early career employees, even experienced candidates are not free of it. This then creates an unquestioning group of people who don’t question the status quo.

To avoid this, managers and leaders must create a culture of productive conflict. Encourage diverse opinions and disagreements. Respectfully evaluate opinions shared by team members without authority and give feedback. Never say, “because I said so.”

9. Proximity bias

Proximity bias occurs when you think those physically close to you are more productive than those seated further away. This form of bias often arises from a lack of trust, leading people to think that if they don’t see it, it’s not happening.

A prevalent example is managers thinking employees working in the office are more productive than those working remotely.

Avoid this by:

  • Outlining expectations clearly so people can work free from the constraints of space
  • Regularly evaluate productivity and performance based on neutral metrics
  • Discourage people from showing they are doing the work and encourage demonstrating outcomes

10. Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is when we favor information that confirms what we already believe to be true.

At work, this can perpetuate racial, gender, age, and all other kinds of biases. To avoid this, set aside all personal information and evaluate candidates only on their skills/performance.

Collect feedback about an individual from a diverse group of teammates so that their opinion evens out your confirmation bias. 

11. Status quo bias

No one likes change, especially teams that feel like they’re working well enough. For instance, a manager who’s used to having a team in the office might be unwilling to take on remote workers.

While not all disruption is good, change is not all bad. To avoid status quo bias, question what feels comfortable. Consider what you might be worried about when hiring or promoting someone because they feel like a safe choice.

12. Disability bias

Ableism is a very common problem in the workplace. Whether it is using a wheelchair or getting mental health support, people with disabilities are often treated differently. They are either patronized or given unnecessary leeway.

This creates an environment where disabled people feel unwelcome, making the organization more and more ableist.

To avoid disability bias, build stronger people practices. Create a physical and digital environment that’s accessible to people with disabilities. 

13. Attribution bias

Attribution bias refers to taking a small piece of information about someone and making assumptions or judgments based on that. People with this bias often extrapolate specific actions to character instead of situational factors.

For example, you might see a shabbily dressed candidate at an interview as unprofessional or uninterested instead of considering that they might have had a mishap or an untoward incident in the morning.

To avoid attribution bias:

  • Stop yourself from making judgments about a person based on 1-2 actions they take
  • Be open to explanation if someone’s actions make you uncomfortable
  • Practice empathy

14. Anchoring bias

Anchoring bias is setting the standards based on the first piece of information you receive. For instance, while conducting performance evaluations, if the first candidate is your best performer, everyone on the team might look like underperformers, even though they’ve done reasonably well.

An adverse effect of the anchoring bias is that people often refuse to change their minds even when evidence to the contrary is presented. This can hinder progress as you are hung up—or anchored—on the first piece of information.

To avoid this, 

  • Set up a rubric before evaluating people, ideas, etc.
  • Make decisions cumulatively instead of knocking out options at each stage
  • Re-evaluate the anchoring piece of information to ensure accuracy and relevance

15. Recency bias

Recency bias is giving disproportionate importance to events from the recent past. For instance, if a team member performed well all year round but failed a big project in Q4, their evaluation will be disproportionately affected by the failure rather than the entire year.

To avoid recency bias:

  • Build a culture of documenting/noting down performance throughout the year
  • Set clear structures and processes around activities that happen all year round
  • Give and take feedback immediately instead of waiting for evaluation time

These 15 are simply examples. People encounter dozens of other biases daily, adversely impacting organizational performance and employee engagement. Addressing unconscious bias as a whole requires an organization-wide strategic intervention. Here’s what that might look like.

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Strategies to Address Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias training

Conduct diversity and unconscious bias training for every new employee and offer refresher courses for existing team members. Ensure that this is practical and actionable.

In training, show the practical impact of unconscious biases through stories and lived experiences. Include mock scenarios, and role plays to understand unconscious bias intricately. Offer actionable interventions to biased behavior.  

Immediate feedback

Call it out when you notice acts that result from unconscious bias. Using an internal collaboration tool like ClickUp also helps you monitor the ClickUp Chat View to observe trends of recurring behaviors/concerns.

Chat view stores all of your comments in ClickUp to quickly find any conversation
ClickUp chat view for easier collaboration

While doing so, remember that people who are being biased aren’t aware of their biases. So, instead of reprimanding them, gently explain the scenario. You don’t want to make them appear racist or sexist in front of the team.

Use employee recognition software that automates your team’s goal achievement tracking. Allow team members to appreciate or reward each other.

Encourage real-time communication. ClickUp’s collaboration detection shows you who’s online, so remote teams can speak to each other live. 

Build an open and learning culture

When teams work together, they must interact and collaborate. This can help team members understand each other, and when interpersonal relationships are strengthened, they can overcome their biases. 

Set up a collaborative workspace. Be transparent about the project, tasks, standards, and measures of success. Invite team members to leave comments and debate ideas within the context of each task. 

Use the ClickUp Whiteboard to brainstorm ideas without limiting creativity. Leverage ClickUp Docs to document learning. 

Choose from any of ClickUp’s communication plan templates to get a kickstart on your initiatives.

ClickUp Communication Plan Template
ClickUp communication plan template

Strengthen hiring practices

Diversity begins with hiring, even though it must be nurtured daily. To eliminate unconscious bias from your hiring, 

  • Set up a hiring process free of unconscious biases
  • Use AI tools for HR processes like shortlisting candidates based on skills and experience, but be careful of inherent biases in the AI tools
  • Retract any personally identifiable information from application forms
  • Create a diverse panel of evaluators
  • Regularly train interviewers to identify unconscious biases and avoid them
  • Collect candidate feedback and act on them
15+ views in ClickUp to customize your HR workflow to your needs
See the 15+ views in ClickUp to customize your HR workflow to your needs

Get the foundations of your hiring processes up with any of the free HR templates. Customize them to suit your needs, and get going!

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Build a Better Workplace with ClickUp

Every project management system is created to improve productivity, efficiency, and organizational output. ClickUp does all this, of course.

But it does a lot more. ClickUp for human resources is designed to power your equitable and fair organization.

ClickUp HR Views

With ClickUp, you can track employee performance, engagement, and development with customizable views. ClickUp Docs help create and share company policies transparently. The inbuilt forms help collect instant feedback.

Customizable dashboards help you visualize your performance on diversity, equity, and inclusion metrics. 

ClickUp is all the tools you need to set up systems to eliminate unconscious bias in one place. Try ClickUp for free today!

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