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  • Are you aware of biases in the workplace?
  • What are your biases?

All of us have biases. I don’t think it is possible to eliminate biases. As I see it, the objective we should strive for is how to manage them. I have addressed racial and gender bias in previous blogs so I won’t explicitly discuss them here, but you can use some of the information in this blog to work on those issues. I am going to focus on these four biases this week: conformity, beauty, affinity, and confirmation.

Conformity is another name for groupthink. In a group, individuals are less likely to think independently. People with strong opinions and voices tend to sway the group’s opinion. Although they might not explicitly tell others how to think, it is hard for less confident co-workers to share their thoughts, especially if in opposition. So, they get in line for fear of being left out. The best way for colleagues to avoid conformity bias is for group members to be confident enough to be authentic and compassionate enough to allow others to freely share their thoughts regarding hiring and operational decisions to name a few. Sometimes we have to represent the thoughts and feelings of those not in the decision-making space.

We often think about bias when it works against an individual or group. Well. that is not the case with beauty bias. I was at a conference having dinner with my staff. One of them had been a waitress and self-proclaimed herself to be a darn good one. Therefore, she felt qualified to critique our servers. Before this meal, she was very critical of the wait staff. However, we had a very handsome waiter at this meal. He was doing a fair job, but in her eyes, he could do no wrong. When one of her colleagues pointed out a few issues, she defended him. His good looks favorably affected the tip she gave him in a work setting which could affect an employee’s performance appraisal, which could disadvantage other employees.

Affinity bias can occur when you share a common interest, such as attending the same school or are members of the same organization. As long as the person’s qualifications and/or job performance is not colored by the affiliation, it might not be a problem. To avoid giving the appearance of giving the person special treatment, periodically check with another manager to make sure your hiring decision or performance review is objective. Giving constructive feedback to people with whom you have a close relationship outside of work can be uncomfortable.

Confirmation bias occurs when a person assumes he or she is right regardless of the information presented. For example, if you are on a product selection team and you want the company to purchase a certain product. You are likely to think that your judgment is better than others because you want to confirm your product evaluation process.

 Bias is an unavoidable part of professional life. With awareness and training, you can limit the negative effects of bias on hiring and management practices.

What will you do to make your workplace better? To learn more about my coaching practice, visit: