10 Types of Unconscious Biases Affecting Employee Well Being-Part 1

Summary- Unconscious biases plague productivity, performance, and workplace culture. In this blog, we’ll discuss the different types of unconscious biases that affect organizations at a macro level. Besides, we will also share some useful ways to overcome these subconscious biases and cultivate a happier work environment.


Unconscious biases in the workplace lead to serious ramifications. You don’t have to take our word for it — employees who experience stereotypes, discrimination, or treated unfairly are 3 times more likely to be disengaged at work and may even quit their jobs voluntarily. Besides, unconscious bias at workplace costs approx. $64 billion in the US alone and customers have become more cautious about how organizations treat their employees.

This indicates just how important it has become for organizations to address the ‘insidious bias’ which is not on the surface but can still be perceived by everyone. Everyone holds different types of unconscious biases, consciously or unconsciously. Most of the time, we are not even aware that we are being biased. However, the good news is that once we have an understanding of our own hidden biases, we can take steps to get rid of them and build a positive work environment for our employees.

In this context, we have created a list covering five of the most common types of unconscious biases that affect employees’ ability to thrive in their workplaces. These can be used to become more aware of the biases we are personally susceptible to, and build an inclusive culture that prioritizes diversity and equality.

The top five biases that we shall discuss in this blog include:

  • Ageism
  • Affinity Bias
  • Gender Bias
  • Contrast Bias
  • Champion Bias
  1. Ageism

Ageism is an often unaddressed form of unconscious bias at work. Despite bringing great potential and a wealth of experience to the table, lots of skilled job seekers with an advanced age are deemed slow in adapting to technology and tools. Similarly, young employees are often perceived as unreliable, incompetent and/or less mature for decision-making roles. Employees who fall under these two segments are either not hired or not nominated for promotions. In fact, a study has revealed that 35% of the workforce will be older than 50 by 2022 — yet age bias continues to affect workplaces.

While age discrimination is creeping into every organization’s recruiting practices and needs to be checked, leaders also need to be aware of the subtle clues. Anything from phrases used in day-to-day communication to ratings in the performance review should be given diligent attention. At times, using insensitive phrases like “You’re overqualified”, “Your graduation year must be included”, and “Time to hire fresh faces!” coupled with many other biases like harassment, unfair layoffs, hiring and promotions create a divide in workplaces. Not only do employees and/or candidates feel left out, but it also shatters their self-esteem.

To truly thrive in today’s dynamic environment, organizations must have an open door policy where employees from different backgrounds, cultures, ages, gender, and race are treated equally. Apart from building an age-diverse culture, leaders must implement systems wherein employees can report discriminatory remarks, get them reviewed, and have appropriate actions taken against them.

2. Affinity Bias

Also known as ‘similarity bias’, affinity bias is the tendency people have to connect with those that share similar beliefs, likes, interests, backgrounds, and experiences. It is one of the most common forms of subconscious biases that affect hiring and recruitment.

A usual example would be when hiring teams tend to gravitate toward people from the same background, language, shared interests, or beliefs. Hiring someone should not rely merely on gut instincts. It’s not always the wisest decision and can impact culture and performance. Due to affinity bias, hiring managers may end up rejecting the right fit for the role, preventing teams from becoming more diverse.

For instance, the fact that someone went to the same college as you may not imply that they are qualified for the job. It is their expertise, skill sets, and professional experience that should be objectively evaluated. Organizations should start leveraging diverse recruiting panels and club interviews with skill tests suited for a particular role. This way chances of someone getting hired because of affinity/likeability are eliminated.

3. Gender Bias

Gender bias in the workplace manifests itself in multiple ways. As the name suggests, gender bias is the tendency to prioritize one gender over another. It is a form of implicit bias that in most cases deters women from assuming professional positions that they truly deserve. In the workplace, gender implicit bias could mean devaluing women, not giving them equal opportunities and/or pay, and excluding them from important meetings and decision-making procedures to name a few.

Gender bias against women can further be categorized as Motherhood Bias, Caregiver Bias, Intersectional Issues, and ‘Women’s Work’ Bias, etc.

While organizations are making their way towards an inclusive culture, bias persists. Women are still underrepresented in the industry because of their gender. In fact, in 2020, women’s total annual earning was 83 percent less than that of men with an even larger pay gap for women of color.

But the real concern is whether the organizations are aware of how they can eliminate gender bias in the workplace so that women can realize their potential at work. The organization’s leaders need to lead by example. They need to buckle up and do away with their entrenched perceptions, thereby allowing true talent to step forward. More importantly, encouraging women to go after raises, avoiding gender-charged words in hiring, and calling out microaggressions are cultural imperatives.

4. Contrast Bias

Contrast is a type of unconscious bias that occurs when comparing one peer to another. This type of unconscious bias is generally seen when screening candidates or when evaluating current employees for performance reviews.

In this type of bias, employees tend to compete, not collaborate. In today’s hybrid workspace, the need to combat contrast bias has become more important than ever. Rather than evaluating two individuals in comparison, managers should assess them individually. The contrast bias can occur in either of the following ways:

  • Perceiving someone is more qualified for the role than they are.
  • Perceiving someone is not qualified enough than they are.

In any case, the other candidate is treated unduly because they’re not being ranked on their competencies. Furthermore, one person is always favored because the recruiter decides to hold fast to their perceived notion.

To avoid instances of contrast bias, hiring managers need to be aware of the fact that just because someone is charming or talkative compared to others doesn’t necessarily mean they may be the best fit. If organizations don’t make proactive efforts to recognize and curb unconscious biases like these, they are likely to end up missing out on top talent which, in turn, might negatively impact the workplace culture and increase the rate of attrition.

Secondly, organizations should go one step further and make the most of simulation-based courses that have been developed to help them identify and manage biases at work. A free demo of KNOLSKAPE’s latest simulation on ‘overcoming unconscious bias at work’ can be requested on the link provided. The simulation offers the learners a safe virtual world to explore, experiment, and experience recognizing ‌biases, while also managing them simultaneously.

5. Halo and Horn Effect

The Halo effect is a type of cognitive bias that causes us to judge someone based on one noticeable trait. For example, hoping that employees delivering tasks on time initially will continue to do so throughout their career. On the flip side, the Horn effect is exactly the opposite of Halo. For example, perceiving someone as incompetent or shabby purely on the basis of their “unimpressive” appearance. People tend to link one negative trait to another despite having limited knowledge about the person and their ability. A quick judgment based on past experiences can lead to unfair differences in how employees are treated.

The Halo and Horn effect may lead to significant consequences in the workplace. Some may be unfairly denied because of a negative trait or physical appearance. While others may be given an unfair advantage because of the Halos they may possess. With the Halo and Horn impacting organizations, hiring managers must direct their efforts on curating anonymous applications. This will ensure that only the qualified candidates make it to the interview. Similarly, investing in the right training can make leaders/hiring managers more aware of biases and find ways to combat them.

Hope you found this article interesting and useful. We will be releasing part-2 of this series shortly. Please keep an eye on our blogs section for updates.

Wrapping Up

At KNOLSKAPE, we’re relentlessly helping organizations become future-ready. To accomplish our vision for the digital age, we constantly keep developing new products that align with the new-age workplaces. ‘UnBias’ is our latest learning program designed for optimum retention and recall of concepts and practical strategies among our learners. The interface is intuitive and easy to understand.

A helpful, yet simplified scoring system gives the learners certain milestones to focus on. Each learner gets a personalized user report that can be downloaded at the end of the simulation that offers vital insights into their strengths and areas of improvement.

If you’re interested in developing an organizational culture that is less susceptible to biases, contact us today. We’ll be glad to offer a quick demo for your team.

Note- This blog was originally published here- https://knolskape.com/blog-top-10-unconscious-bias-that-affect-employee-well-being-part-1/




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