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

By Irene Gloria Addison

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 religion, 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.

Workplace 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 (hiring, promotion, etc.) - monitor their effectiveness

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

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

#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
sex (including pregnancy),
Tribe or nationality,
age (e.g. 40 or older),
Disability of any form
relationship to someone who may be discriminated against

Distribution of Bias-Complaints
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)

Other Bias-Considerations?
Stop ‘Practices’ such as;
(i)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.

(ii)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,


Author's Bio: 

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 Mentoring.
HIREghana can be reached at +233 50 228 5155 or +233 266 555 907 - Our website is https://hiregh.com 
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