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The Most Common Biases Stalling Your Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

Published Thu Jul 30 2020


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Fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace is tough, but one major thing is probably holding you back. Whether you know it or not, almost every decision comes with some form of unconscious bias.

Every human is biased. Biases are natural developments based on our individual backgrounds and experiences. We can’t help it.

Our brains use shortcuts to help process information faster. We rely on this information to navigate the world around us. But these shortcuts can also lead to incorrect assumptions and reactions—

perhaps even to stereotypes and prejudice.

Businesses struggle with becoming more diverse and inclusive, especially in their hiring process and when identifying potential leaders.

Uncovering unconscious bias is hard, especially because bias happens in so many ways. Here are what we consider the seven most common biases that most often affect businesses:

1. The Halo Error: Have you ever know someone who seemed could do no wrong? Even when they made mistakes, everyone overlooked them. Why? It’s the halo error. It happens when people pick and choose a few memorable examples instead of seeing someone's full track record.

2. The Bandwagon and Authority Effects: “Yes” men and women agree with just about anything other people like to help them fit in. Similarly, people who always agree with an authority figure's opinions are falling victim to the Authority Effect. Both are biases because it means you’re not digging deeper.

3. Confirmation Bias: Everyone likes to have their beliefs confirmed, but relying strictly on this can create another type of bias. Confirmation bias happens when people make decisions based solely on information that confirms their previously held beliefs.

4. Overconfidence Effect: Confidence is good, but overconfidence can cause clouded judgment and bias. This happens when people believe their subjective judgments are far more accurate than they are despite other information.

5. The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Have you ever seen an expert underestimate themselves or a novice overestimate themselves? That's what psychologists call the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Sometimes experts hesitate to make a strong HR recommendation because it's hard to predict potential. On the other hand, an unskilled person may think they know exactly what they're doing and go with their opinion, forgoing any evidence to back it up.

6. Ingroup Bias and the Fundamental Attribution Error: Have you ever run into a situation where someone always seems to be recommending close friends for a job? Even if they don't have the right skills, this person insists their friend would be a perfect fit. That's called ingroup bias.

Or what about when someone emphasizes a certain skill that may be good fit but ignores the rest of their track record? This is a similar bias known as the Fundamental Attribution Error.

In both cases, bias is created when someone favors another person they can personally identify with. They're looking at the person's shared demographics, background, or work experience, not the overall person. Unfortunately, these types of biases create more of the same and resistance to new ideas.

7. Escalation of Commitment: People stand behind their investments and decisions no matter what, even if they receive information contradicting it. Their refusal to change their minds creates a bias called Escalation of Commitment. They fuel this bias with a fear of loss by changing direction.

Bias is everybody’s problem. Bias affects everyone, even the most skilled and intelligent among us. And it’s a big problem when it affects our judgment at work.

We live in a world where business is often disrupted. Businesses need a workforce that provides new skills, thoughts, and perspectives. These all come from a diverse and inclusive workforce.

With bias being so ingrained in decision making, how do we minimize or eliminate it?

For more information, including more details about the seven types of bias, visit DDI’s blog.

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