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Implicit Bias in the Workplace: Definition, Examples & Impact Video

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  • 0:04 What Is Implicit Bias?
  • 2:14 The Impact of Implicit Bias
  • 3:31 Addressing Implicit Bias
  • 5:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Implicit bias in the workplace might sneak in where you least expect it! In this lesson, you'll learn more about what this type of bias is, learn about its impact, and find strategies to address it.

What Is Implicit Bias?

Implicit bias, sometimes called unconscious bias, happens when we allow our own attitudes, feelings, stereotypes, or beliefs to impact our judgment or understanding of other people. It's called unconscious because it isn't something we do blatantly; rather, it is an involuntary process based on our deep-seated thoughts.

Implicit bias may be based on any number of characteristics, ranging from race, age, social group, or appearance. Those are the ones you might suspect. But implicit bias can also be based on height, weight, marital status, children, disability, political affiliations, college attendance, and so much more. Some of these biases are born as early as childhood. Later they may be strengthened by friends, entertainment, and even media reports.

Some experts say there are more than 150 various implicit biases out there. Let's take a look at some types of implicit bias and some examples of them in action.

Affinity bias

This is tending to be more receptive to people who resemble our lives is some way. For example, imagine a job recruiter saying, ''I hired her because she reminded me of my sister.''

Confirmation bias

This is looking for information that supports our beliefs and ignoring details to the contrary. Now imagine someone saying something like, ''He's from Appalachia so, of course, he isn't very well educated.'' This is an example of confirmation bias at work.

Halo effect

This happens when we like something about someone and, therefore, assume that everything about them must be great. For example, imagine a teacher saying something like, ''My student is well-behaved, so he must also be smart.''

Perception bias

This is stereotyping people based on a group they belong to. For example, imagine someone saying something like, ''Many crimes are committed by this particular ethnic group, so a person of the same ethnicity must be a criminal.''

Bandwagon bias

This is simply believing something because others believe it. You've probably seen this expressed with one of your friends saying something to the effect of, ''No one else enjoyed that movie, so neither did I.''

The Impact of Implicit Bias

You can see from our examples that we've just covered, some biases may not be that serious. After all, what difference does it make that someone hates a movie because everyone hated the movie. Implicit bias in the workplace, however, can have very detrimental effects on employees and the organization as a whole.

Unconscious biases can present challenges to a company's diversity and inclusion initiatives. Let's say a business is trying to become more diverse, but one of the hiring managers has an unconscious bias against hiring outside his race. This presents a problem for the entire company.

Implicit bias can also prove to be a problem with retaining good employees. Let's say a woman is consistently neglected for a promotion she deserves because her boss has an affinity bias toward promoting male employees. She's far more likely to leave the company.

Another area that can be negatively impacted is the area of annual performance reviews. Let's say an employee is well-liked by her supervisor because they attended the same women's college. Because of this, the supervisor may not be able to objectively assess the employee's performance.

All of these can add up to undermine the entire culture of a business. It can take an organization that strives to be diverse and inclusive and turn it, unintentionally, into one that rejects people based on a whole host of preconceived ideas.

Addressing Implicit Bias

So how does an organization go about addressing and managing implicit bias? By nature, being unconscious, it presents difficulties because it may not be easy to spot.

Businesses that want to correct or avoid unconscious biases should consider these strategies:

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