GeneralHr Library

Diversity, inclusion, equality and BIASED DECISIONS!

Source | LinkedIn : By Neetubala Raina

In a seminar, while I was busy interacting with groups, I responded to a question stating, “I would reserve my opinion as situational leadership must be exercised to tackle certain cases and to me at times, it could even mean crossing the line slightly, as far as I have conviction for my actions!”  A light remark slipped in, “See! That’s a typical HR trait, providing no direct views! ” I kept wondering to myself, was that not a clear cut, direct viewpoint from me? Well! That is what unconscious bias is about, this is perhaps a bias toward certain profession! Yes! Unconscious bias exists everywhere, within you, me and them and all of us. Unconscious bias refers to a bias that you are, unaware of, and which happens outside of your control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is primarily influenced by your experiences, education, exposure, and the environment you live in.

Today, when globalization is a way of life, a global mindset is a must to avoid negative influence of biases which are basically our mental shortcuts! We are bound to resort to these mental shortcuts given the diversity and variety of work, people, perspectives that we deal with. With a deluge of data and information and the evolving digital world, how do we make timely and effective decisions? It is our unconscious bias as well, which helps us to filter some information and data for a decision; a decision that is a result of both, conscious bias as well as unconscious bias.

So the important questions is, “is bias healthy or unhealthy?

Everything that we deal with, even bias, must be balanced out. Yes! Excess of anything is not healthy and therefore could be detrimental!  Here are a few interesting biases to ponder over for effective decision-making at your workplaces:

Overconfidence bias – means believing too much in your own ability to make good decisions, especially when outside of your expertise. For e.g., a true leader leads in an inclusive environment and hence seeks the expert advice, without getting lost into the ego battle that s/he knows the best, so need not consult or listen to other perspectives. They have a welcoming and open mind that loves to listen to people.

Anchoring bias– means using early, first received information as the basis for making subsequent judgments. A leader or manager must be careful of not throwing anchors while communicating with employees. When a leader throws an anchor, “uses certain words to describe a person/situation”, it leads to branding certain people in a way that may be unfair. Similarly situations described using anchors may be perceived as threatening leading to chaotic perceptions. Words create perceptions, so you must throw anchoring words but that have positive connotation and a message!

Confirmation bias – means a type of cognitive bias that involves favoring information that confirms previously existing beliefs or biases. Confirmation biases impact how people gather information, but they also influence how people interpret and recall information. For example, people who support or oppose a particular issue will not only seek information that supports their beliefs, they will also interpret new stories in a way that upholds their existing ideas and remember things in a way that also reinforces these attitudes. For instance, a few managers prefer promoting employees who are aligned to their attitudes and behaviors! So a robust performance assessment system and process is must!

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