Manager, Heal Thyself of Unconscious Bias

We all exhibit unconscious bias whenever we interact with others. In fact, psychologists have catalogued many different types of cognitive biases that filter our perception of the environment.

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But, once we are aware of these biases, we can be alert for them and recognize when we are falling victim to them. Managers need to keep them in mind when dealing with their workers to make sure the managers are dealing fairly and consistently with everyone under them. If you are a manager, here are a few biases to watch out for.

  1. Bias in delegating

Do you unconsciously favor some people over others when you delegate work? Do you tend to give the same workers more challenging and interesting work, while assigning more mundane tasks to others? Also, sometimes managers, without realizing it, give more complete and detailed instructions to certain workers, while imparting scant information to other employees, making their task that much harder.

  1. Bias in feedback

Managers may also unknowingly soft-pedal feedback for some workers, delivering it in a more casual, friendly manner, while taking a more authoritarian and judgmental approach with others.

  1. Bias in assumptions

Managers may also not be aware of unconscious bias they have toward people based on their background, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or education.

Other factors affecting a manager’s judgment unconsciously can be a person’s appearance, mannerisms, and speech, such as a particular dialect. These stereotypes can color a manager’s beliefs about a certain employee’s ability. If you’re manager, you need to think about your behavior toward employees, bring your assumptions out in the open, and examine them.

Also, we tend to give more credence to information that confirms beliefs or assumptions we already hold, neglecting data that may contradict our beliefs.

  1. Bias in recognition

A manager may consistently recognize or praise certain workers and withhold it from others for reasons the manager is not really aware of. Again, unconscious bias may be at work influencing how the manager reacts to some employees.

  1. Bias in hiring

Managers unconsciously tend to favor people who are like them. It’s something everyone does. We feel people who look like, have the same backgrounds, etc. us are somehow better. This is a bias hiring managers need to keep in mind when doing job interviews. They need to figure out how to counteract it. This kind of bias can hinder a company’s efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce, leading to employees who generally all think the same way.

  1. Bias in socializing

Again, because we have an unconscious bias toward people like ourselves, we might tend to socialize more with people like us. Managers may be chatting and bantering more with some workers than others because of this bias. This could make some of your team members feel left out or unappreciated.

  1. Bias in mentors

The bias toward people like us can also manifest itself in the choice of people managers look to for advice and counsel. As a manager, ask yourself if you tend to go to the same people for advice simply because you feel more comfortable with them, depriving yourself of different viewpoints and perspectives.

The tendencies listed above are biases related to other people, but we also have many biases about how we perceive the world around us and the information we receive. For example, when examining an issue or problem, we tend to reduce it to general terms and avoid details and specifics. When we make decisions, we gravitate more toward simple solutions rather than more complex ones. We also tend to see patterns even when there is not enough information to clearly establish one. We tend to pay more attention to events that occur more often, even though they may not be any more important than other events.

Helpmates is here to help Southern California’s employers find terrific workers for their temporary, temp-to-hire and direct-hire job opportunities. Contact the branch nearest you for more information on how we can help you find great people to help your business thrive.

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