Experts' Talk

How to Interrupt Bias in the Workplace?

Neha Sahi, Global People Head at Noora Health, on “How to Interrupt Bias in the Workplace?”.

Our choices are often influenced by our background, cultural values and experiences. We tend to create pre-set and unconscious opinions about someone or something without realizing it. Here, we will see how to address the workplace bias issue. All these opinions formed about someone is often based on certain ideologies and virtues. An organization’s workforce today comes from diverse backgrounds – in terms of geographies, ethnicity, religion, culture, gender, sexual orientation or even perspectives. A progressive workplace should provide an inclusive environment where this diversity is respected and celebrated.

Unconscious bias occurs beyond our control. It’s an unintentional bias that arrives when our brain makes snap judgements based on the information it receives, adding meaning to it. Our brains have learnt prejudices and attitudes or made unplanned and inherent categorizations.

In simple terms, unconscious bias refers to our feelings towards others that influence our judgement of people and groups — feelings we aren’t aware that we have. Unconscious bias can create conflict, separate people from each other, and hold back talent, negatively affecting business outcomes. 

Types of Unconscious Bias

Perception Bias: 

Perception bias, in layman’s terms, occurs when others are treated based on broad assumptions, which are often wrong. It can include a variety of other biases, such as age, gender, and height.

Halo Effect: 

The Halo effect is a cognitive bias in which a person’s positive single attribute or character influences our assessment of irrelevant factors. 

Affinity Bias: 

This is known as affinity bias when we treat someone more favourably just because they are similar to us or those we like. It is an unspoken preference for people who share attributes or perspectives with ourselves or someone we know.

Gender Bias:

Gender bias refers to subconsciously or consciously favoring one gender over the other. These attributed behaviours impact how a person perceives and interacts with others.  

Confirmation Bias: 

Confirmation bias is the human inclination to seek, favour, and use information that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs. To describe the same, terms like cherry-picking, my-side bias, or simply insisting on doing anything and everything it takes to win an argument are used. 

Beauty Bias: 

In a broader sense, beauty bias refers to employees’ preferential treatment when they are perceived as more attractive, consciously or unconsciously.

Eradicating Unconscious Bias at the Workplace

Several progressive organisations are actively taking measures to address and mitigate unconscious bias within the organization.

Include Diverse Perspectives

When making important decisions, make sure to:

  • Include fellow subordinates who can help broaden your perspective and balance hidden prejudices.
  • Approaching peers from different viewpoints to gain insight into your possible preferences and paying attention to what they say can help your decision-making.

-Train Managers On Unconscious Biases

Managers may also provide objective, non-partisan performance evaluations focusing on each person’s unique competencies and abilities and cultivating a keen awareness of their unconscious beliefs.

Build A Team To Support Diversity Goals

Invest in a Diversity and Inclusion committee to develop and maintain processes and enforce cultural behaviours aligned with the company’s diversity goals.

The truth being, that we don’t excel at knowing our own biases. It is suggested by research that the more assistance one may require in this area, the harder it becomes to recognize that one needs help in the first place. This is because people tend to underestimate their own bias, and the most biased ones often underestimate it.

Checking yourself through unbiased means is one initiative. Per researchers at the University of Washington, University of Virginia, Harvard University, and Yale University, another method is to refer to the Implicit Association Test, made available to the audience. Fair warning, though: you might not be comfortable or agree with the results, but that’s probably your bias.

Next, give yourself permission to be human and recognize the limits of your understanding. Merely being aware of your bias will not enable you to overcome them. This doesn’t mean we should ignore our biases or give in to them. We must set up systems, processes, procedures and technology to help us make better decisions. Ask for help. Get feedback from others. Set firm criteria and be consistent. Most of all, keep an open mind.


Global People Head, Noora Health

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