How Bias Creates Limitations in the Workplace

By: LaKisha C. Brooks, M.S., M.Ed, CDR, CDP

How Bias Creates Limitations in the Workplace

Bias is an inclination towards a particular outlook that is usually based on prejudice or subjective judgment. Bias can be conscious or unconscious but influence how you treat people. For example, biases can lead you to give preferential treatment to those like you or discriminatory treatment to those different from you. Managing bias in all business processes is an essential consideration for any business. Marginalized groups are susceptible to how biases play out in the workplace. If an employee or potential hire feels uncomfortable, they will not stay with your team or be the best asset to your business that they could be.

Bias Limits Hiring Processes

Many companies have a bias in their hiring practices, and sometimes this can be hard to fix. There are lots of opportunities for business hiring methods to be biased. With resumes, hiring teams get a snapshot of someone’s professional experience, but they also get access to their gender, address, and name. It’s sometimes possible to tell what a person’s ethnicity is from their name. Also, a quick LinkedIn or Google search can often tell you what someone looks like before you even invite them in for an interview. When someone makes a hiring decision based on these factors because of a preference, it dramatically limits candidate pools and diversity.  Businesses should implement practices that help them select the best employees based on capability and not what seems familiar or comfortable.

Bias Limits a Positive Employee Experience

The employee experience starts from the moment you engage with a person in the interview process. Each employee will have a unique cultural profile with multiple points of intersectionality, so no two employees will be the same or have the exact needs.  For this reason, equity should be the goal throughout the employee experience. Although companies may need to consider particular aspects of multidimensional diversity, sometimes minor considerations can go a long way.  For example, some companies have removed men and women designations from their company bathrooms and made them all unisex.  This is a consideration for LGBTQ and non-binary employees that can enhance their sense of belonging. 

Bias Limits Employee Engagement

Unchecked biases create disengaged employees who come to work and go through the motions. These employees quickly realize when they are a part of a company culture that doesn’t understand them and will keep offenses and microaggressions to themselves. This can lead to lower employee retention, which cuts into company time and money. Employees need to feel a sense of belongingness to thrive and give their best. When employees gather for training or meetings, inclusiveness should be a priority. A variety of input and hearing from everyone should be encouraged.

All businesses can benefit and thrive from fostering an atmosphere of allyship and inclusiveness regardless of the cultural backgrounds of current employees. Implement changes in employee hiring processes, employee experience, and employee engagement to reduce bias to build a more robust diversity initiative.