“Bias at the Workplace – 11 ways to avoid it”

We are all humans and possibly one of the most human
elements in our behavior is bias!

And bias comes in so many flavors: it can be based on
your tribal origin, where you went to school, where did you grow up, if you
have tattoos, your weight, skin colour (tone of it and whether you bleach), your gender, your age, your height, your rreligion, and so many
other things…  that list is ‘endless’.

Bias is
present in our social environmental, in all sorts of functions and human
interactions and of course in our workplace. You might have seen it there
affecting all sorts of decisions like hiring, promotion, career advancement opportunities,
evaluations/ performance management and even employee retention.

But there
are ways we can not only control but reduce bias.

Bias: 11 ways on How-to reduce it.

#1 Understand What types of Biases Exist, and which ones do you have.

HR is not exempt from bias. We are people, after
all. You should start by educating yourself on the topic, what types of bias
exist and how they impact individuals and organizations. Then spend some time
on introspection to identify your own biases. Thinking back, what factors have
influenced your interactions with others and your decision-making process? Ask
for feedback from people you trust
– Molly Nuhring, Otis Elevator

Awareness is the 1st Step!!!  If you are
unfamiliar with unconscious bias, a
good starting point is Harvard’s Project Implicit (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit)
and it is a free test.

#2 Be
Proactive: Develop an organizational antiBias Policy
You need
one for 2 reasons: to educate employees and to manage their behavior
when they deviate from these antiBias policies

Is your
organization too slow with this? Then take the initiative to develop a antiBias
Policy for your Team!

Keep in mind
that most of the times, bias is unconscious.

#3 Plan for
antiBias and monitor it
– having a policy or any other
excellent document without an execution plan will be a guarantee for failure.
That simple.

#4 Create and welcome supportive dialogue – don’t isolate employees or even colleagues who ‘feel biased
against’.  Discrimination can always
be felt but rarely be proven.

#5. Establish
clear criteria in advance of making decisions
promotion, etc.) – monitor their

#6 Hold ALL decision-makers accountable for Bias-
(yourself too).

#7 Survey employees confidentially to
find out what is really going on in every aspect of the employment

#8 Create
Opportunities for Intergroup Contact. 
Simply working with colleagues from different groups, is one
of the most tried-and-
successful ways of
breaking down
all sorts of
stereotypes. For example: men are overrepresented in technical jobs; ‘break’ all those departments and specialties that are segmented by gender!

#9 Train leadership and employees with an open
dialogue and awareness,
 and encourage the initiative
to go beyond the antiBias Workshops to affinity
groups, mentoring programs, etc

Mentoring is a great and effective way to eliminate lost of biases.

#10 Reward Employees who actively support your antiBias policies!

#11 SO WHAT?  Ask yourself,
what are your biases?

  • An employee
    having a tatoo? So what? How that affects their performance?
  • An employee
    with a disability? So what?
  • An overweight
    colleague? So what?
  • Any kind of
    bias? …So what?  ….So what if they have
    that ‘thing’ that you don’t like… Is that really a reason for discrimination or
    for not supporting them as colleagues??

SO WHAT?” questions can help most of us reduce all of our
biases- assuming that we are willing of course!


Harassment is a
form of discrimination. Harassment ia any unwelcomed behavior by a co-worker,
manager, client,
vendor/ supplier or anyone else in
the workplace
, that is based on:

  • race, color
  • religion,
  • sex (including
  • Tribe or nationality,
  • age (e.g. 40 or older),
  • Disability of any form
  • relationship to
    someone who may be discriminated against

Distribution of

I couldn’t find data for Ghana but as an indication in 2017 (the latest
possible data) in the US according to the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission, the breakdown of the discrimination-
complaints were:

  • Retaliation:
    41,097 (48.8 percent of all charges filed)
  • Race: 28,528
    (33.9 percent)
  • Disability:
    26,838 (31.9 percent)
  • Sex: 25,605
    (30.4 percent)
  • Age: 18,376
    (21.8 percent)
  • National
    Origin: 8,299 (9.8 percent)
  • Religion:
    3,436 (4.1 percent)
  • Color: 3,240
    (3.8 percent)
  • Equal Pay
    Act: 996 (1.2 percent)


Stop ‘Practices’ such

  • The “Beer/ Drink test”
    The ‘Beer/ Drink Test’ is about evaluating candidates on the basis
    of whether you would like to get a beer with them rather than looking at their professional  credentials and abilities. Great drink-mates
    they are not automatically great work team-members. You don’t need to love your
    co-worker in order to respect them and cooperate with them for a productive and
    overperforming team.

Another form
of it is leaning
toward a candidate who likes football as much as you do or who
likes the same clothes-designer etc…

We all
have the tendency
to gravitate toward people who are like ourselves, but that
should play no part in any hiring or other HR decision.

  • The Halo effect: This is
    a common term in marketing and other fields of applied psychology. Is is about
    the nice, polite,
    well-dressed, well-spoken and likeable applicant. When we like a
    candidate as a
    person, we tend to be more prone to overrating his or her
    skills and abilities.

These above,
are the 2 most ‘common’ biases in hiring.

In Conclusion

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission: if unconscious bias is rampant in a workplace, it can result
in discriminatory treatment or practices, negative business culture and a lack
of workforce diversity

Relying on any bias (usually it is done unconsciously), it saves us from having to
do the tough mental work of all sorts of decision making.

But since in all parts of the HR spectrum
(from hiring to promoting to advancing to firing employees) we are considering individuals
who could work for us and with us for many years, the bias-
shortcut might be the one that you probably do not
want to take

Please take an active role in preventing or at
least minimizing biases in your workplace!

Thank you and good Luck,


About the Author:

Irene Gloria Addison is the owner of HIREghana, a Leader Ghanaian
Recruitment Agency and also a boutique/ niche HRM Consultancy, based in Accra.
Irene is also busy with her CMI Master’s Course in Leadership Coaching and

HIREghana can be reached at +233 50 228 5155 or
+233 266 555 907 – Our website is

You can also follow up on https://linkedin.com/company/hireghana

Irene welcomes your feedback/ comments/ remarks/
suggestions via your email message to Press {at} HIREgh . com.

© 2019 Irene Gloria Addison and © 2019 Human
Intelligence Recruitment

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