The Real Effects of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

HR and talent management professionals can make a positive contribution to their workplaces by rooting out and minimizing the unconscious biases that can undermine diversity efforts and recruiting and retention programs. By Horace McCormick

July 11, 2017

Unconscious biases are a fact of life.

Everyone harbors them - and takes them into the workplace.

Unconscious biases in the workplace can stymie diversity, recruiting and retention efforts, and unknowingly shape an organization’s culture.

Unconscious bias can skew talent and performance reviews.

It affects who gets hired, promoted, and developed - and this unwittingly undermines an organization’s culture.

HR and talent management professionals must ask the question, “To what extent are our organizational culture and business results being affected by unconscious bias?”

Unconscious bias permeates the workplace at all levels because we all have prejudices - numerous studies since the 1980s confirm that people harbor unconscious bias even when they explicitly believe that prejudice and discrimination are wrong (Henneman, 2014).

This white paper:

  • Discusses what unconscious bias is, its evolutionary purpose, and why we all harbor unconscious biases;
  • Examines some of the more than 150 unconscious biases that have been identified and provides examples of how unconscious bias manifests itself in the workplace;
  • Explores the impact of unconscious bias at work and to an organization’s culture;
  • Provides steps HR and talent management professionals can take to uncover and minimize the effects of unconscious bias in their workplaces, and;
  • Provides examples of employers who are attempting to address unconscious biases in their organizations.

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