Biases, that part of us that decides how we perceive things.
Every time you make a decision, your social background, personal and cultural values, and life experiences influence your reasoning. This is beneficial for helping you make day-to-day choices that align with your goals, but in HR it can lead to unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, which unfairly influences how we interact with employees. Everything from performance reviews, to recruiting, to layoff decisions, can be influence by these biases.
Type of Biases
Affinity bias refers to when you unconsciously prefer people who share qualities with you or someone you like. For example, if an applicant went to the same school as you or they share similar hobbies, you’re more likely to prefer them over other candidates.
We all unconsciously notice people’s appearances and associate it with their personality. Appearances are important, particularly in a workplace setting, as they reflect on professionalism and self-awareness. However, many of us judge others too harshly based on their physical attractiveness.
Other times, you may unconsciously dislike certain features in a person. Maybe you think they’re too short, that they have poor posture, or they don’t have an expressive face. These may stem from a subconscious, stereotypical view of what a successful or friendly person looks like.
Conformity bias happens when your views are swayed too much by those of other people. It occurs because we all seek acceptance from others – we want to hold opinions and views that our community accepts.
Confirmation bias refers to how people primarily search for bits of evidence that back up their opinions, rather than looking at the whole picture. It leads to selective observation, meaning you overlook other information and instead focus on things that fit your view. You may even reject new information that contradicts your initial evidence.
Gender bias is simply a preference for one gender over the other. It often stems from our deep-seated beliefs about gender roles and stereotypes.
The halo effect occurs when we focus on one particularly great feature about a person. You view everything about the person in a positive, ‘halo’ light, which makes you think they’re more perfect than they are. Similar to affinity and confirmation bias, this makes us overlook other information. It skews our opinion of other aspects, including negative ones.
The horns effect is the opposite of the halo effect: you focus on one particularly negative feature about a person, which clouds your view of their other qualities. For example, if a person uses a particular turn of phrase you dislike, you may suddenly dislike everything else they say.
The recency effect occurs when we make a decision or judgement based only on the most recent memory or interaction. For example, if a sales employee recently made a large sale, we may base our assessment of their performance on this sale as opposed to looking at the data from the past year.
How to Overcome Unconscious Bias
Recognizing these biases are the first step in overcoming them.
Use the following strategies to counter your unconscious biases: