A Tough Pill to Swallow: Why We’re All Biased

What is bias?

Bias is prejudice in favour of or against a thing, person, or group in a way that’s considered to be unfair. Race and ethnicity are biases we are all familiar with, and characteristics such as age, gender, physical abilities, religion, sexual orientation, and even height and weight are subject to bias.

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their conscious awareness. These biases are commonly formed subconsciously throughout life through parental and societal conditioning. Our brain processes the millions of pieces of information it gathers each day into categories and familiar patterns. Unconscious biases stem from our brain’s tendency to organise information via categorising and similarities — differences are more difficult for the brain to accommodate.

How does unconscious bias affect the workplace?

In the workplace, unconscious bias can pose a plethora of problems, such as recruiting, promoting, allocating work to, and managing performance with a skewed lens. It means that employees will continue to be disadvantaged and unheard at work, or talented people may not get the chance to enter the workforce in the first place. Employees are prevented from completely contributing to the organisation, and creativity and innovation are stifled. Unfortunately, unaddressed unconscious bias means that organisational cultures cannot genuinely say they are inclusive.

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Georgi Garvey

Georgi Garvey

Expert in: Psychology and evidence-based wellbeing at work (BA/BScPsy & MBusPsy). Also like: Creative writing, nerdy stuff, the outdoors, learning new things.