Hidden Biases in the Workplace

Marie W Watts, SPHR

Marie W Watts, SPHR

So, I’m guessing, like me, you probably ate and drank too much over the holidays.  Furthermore, as I have, you may have a New Year’s resolution to exercise and eat healthy.  I’m challenging you to one more resolution.  Vow to not allow your hidden biases guide your business decisions during 2015.


Hidden biases?  Do I really have them?  Yep, we all have them.  And it’s not just the usual culprits — race, religion, national origin, sex, and age.  It can also be disability status, height and weight, pregnancy, college attended, or introversion and extroversion, to name a few.


I know, you’re now saying, “Who cares?”  Well, you should care.  Every time a hidden bias pops into a business decision, you cannot be sure you have made the best decision for your company’s bottom line.  And that, in fact, is what companies expect you to do — maximize earnings.


On an unconscious level, according to Dana Wilkie in “Bringing Bias Into The Light” published in the December 2014 issue of HR Magazine (see link below), deep prejudices or stereotypes are developed by our upbringing, culture, and mass media that influences our perceptions about people and our behavior towards them.


The problem is not that we have them, but that most of us fail to try to understand and deal with our biases.  If you want more assistance uncovering your biases, try the Implicit Association Tests at link provided below.


Then, follow the tips from Outsmarting our Brains:  Overcoming Hidden Biases to Harness Diversity’s True Potential, Ernst & Young LLP, 2013:

  • Evaluate your actions daily.
  • Seek out regular feedback on your own behaviors and actions from trusted, yet objective colleagues.
  • Increase purposeful mentoring and coaching.  Sponsor people who are not like you.
  • Be proactive about recognizing people’s different capabilities, and help prepare them to take on challenging assignments.
  • Consider who might consistently feel like an outsider, and take steps to actively address the situation.
  • Establish clearly defined, measurable interview criteria against which all candidates will be evaluated.
  • Set reasonable parameters around the nature and amount of help you will offer to special connections.
  • Attend professional affinity group meetings and inclusiveness events to enrich your understanding of diversity.


Marie W. Watts SPHR is a human resource consultant who provides training and other human resource services to area businesses.  For more information on her services and background, please visit www.mariewatts.com.





Marie W Watts, SPHR

Topics: General Interest

Written by Marie W Watts, SPHR