10 Unconscious Bias Examples and How They Manifest at Work

10 Unconscious Bias Examples and How They Manifest at Work

Unconscious bias is more concerning than conscious perceptions, especially in the workplace.

Unconscious bias, when left unchecked, can lead to unintentional workplace discrimination.

It can affect the hiring process, promotion, and employee learning opportunities. Also known as implicit bias, they’re difficult to detect and counter. But it's possible to do so when one becomes aware of them.

The 10 Common Implicit Biases at Work

Unconscious bias comes in many forms. Because of its multifaceted nature, it can be tricky to address. Still, it's crucial to confront these prejudices so they can't affect your work. Below we discuss in detail the ten common types of implicit biases:

  1. Affinity Bias. Also known as similarity bias. It refers to discrimination based on commonalities we share with certain people.
    For instance, sharing the same hometown as your manager can lead to playing favorites.
    This bias can affect your status as an employee. It can also affect your relationships with coworkers. Particularly those who may notice the unfair treatment.
  2. Ageism. involves discrimination against older employees at work. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC) implemented the Age Discrimination in Employee Act (ADEA).
    ADEA protects employees 40 years and older from unfair workplace regulations. Under ADEA:
    • It is illegal to refuse to hire someone over the age of 40.
    • Discrimination can only happen when both the perpetrator and the victim are over 40.
    • Employment policies and practices can be illegal when it affects those over 40 years old.
  3. Attribution Bias. This occurs when one credits another person's mistakes or accomplishments from subjective perceptions.
    For example, a supervisor may make assumptions about an employee's shortcomings. They may assume it's laziness without considering the work factors around their tasks.
  4. Beauty Bias. Also known as lookism. It is the partiality shown in favor of physically attractive people.
    A 2017 study showed that attractive individuals were more likely to get hired and earn more. They are also more likely to get promoted than unattractive people.
  5. Confirmation Bias. This is the most common type of bias. It’s when a person seeks evidence to affirm their existing beliefs and assumptions.
    In businesses, this is prevalent in product research. For example, researchers may work to prove the market for a commodity instead of analyzing its viability.
  6. Conformity Bias. Often results from peer pressure or one's desire to belong. Conformity bias happens when one defaults to the group's judgment.
    In the workplace, this may manifest when a group leaves out one coworker for being an outcast. Going against the grain may challenge the status quo. It may put one at risk of being another workplace pariah.
  7. Gender Bias. This manifests in fields dominated by certain genders.
    For example, is the stereotype that engineering is a "man's job" and vice versa in nursing. Further, companies are more likely to deny jobs to LGBTQ+ employees of color. Those employed are also more likely to experience verbal harassment.
  8. Halo Effect. This happens when everything one does is seen in a positive light. The Halo effect happens when a person is put on a pedestal due to a trait or a positive encounter or experience.
    One example is assuming a job candidate that looks good on paper would also make a good employee.
  9. Horns Effect. This is the opposite of the halo effect. This bias negatively warps the way a person sees someone else due to a single trait or experience.
    This commonly happens in first impressions. One example is when an employer perceives an employee as unreliable due to being late on the first day.
  10. Name Bias. This is the usual workplace bias that affects the employment of many non-Anglo-sounding names.
    For example, a study showed that candidates with White sounding names received 50% more callbacks than those with African American names. Inevitably, this bias disproportionately affects people of color (POC).

Addressing Unconscious Bias: Where to Begin?

Assessing your own biases is the first start to unlearning them. This may be a challenge as it shakes your predisposed beliefs. But, it's also an opportunity to learn and grow.

Implementing bias and diversity training is a start to cultivating a discrimination-free workplace.

You can try our A Brighter Tomorrow training here. It features an interactive course program that resonates with workers today. This training opens difficult conversations into a Choose Your Own Journey® format, such as:

  • Understanding and addressing microaggressions
  • Confronting nepotism and bias in promotions
  • How privilege manifests itself in the office
  • Having difficult conversations around sexuality, race, and gender identity

Try it for yourself today with our free demo.