Biases In The Workplace

Ignorant behavior, insulting comments and exclusion can often times contribute to biased discrimination. Biases can appear in many different forms. In fact, most people have a hidden bias which they are not even aware of. Hidden biases can be extremely influential foundations for the decisions we make, affecting our feelings and consequently our actions. When considering the workplace, hidden or not, biases can cause employees to feel unwelcomed and discounted because of one’s race, age, gender, nationality, religion, physical or mental disability, medical condition, pregnancy, marital status or sexual orientation. Allowing or being unaware of biased discrimination in the workplace can lead to legal action.

Discrimination can be cross combined with subtle or overt messages, making it difficult to confront and control biased workplace discrimination. Based on research, conducted by Judith Honesty, CEO of Honesty Consulting in Chicago, and David Maxfield, Vice President of Research at VitalSmarts, a leadership training company out of Salt Lake City, the two concluded that there are several ways in which people discriminate against others, specifically in reference to being categorized in a protected class.

  • Employees are discouraged from revealing their true selves based on stereotypes given to their race, sexual orientation, age, gender, etc.
  • Employees are interrupted, discounted, excluded or passed over for promotions which can make them feel as if they are less creditable based on a protected class, i.e., race, sex, age and so forth.
  • Biased comments being used and passed off as jokes.
  • Racist and sexist comments made about others outside of the workplace while still in a work setting.
  • Employees being excluded from work conversations and social gatherings.
  • Unfair and harsh treatment against one (1) employee versus another.
  • Using an unconscious/hidden bias to favor one employee over another, e.g. different genders.

Understanding biases is very important and can help eliminate or avoid negative consequences and actions. Individual biases change often and are typically maintained because of something heard or adopted through a third-party or through the influence of other like-minded individuals. Emotion usually accompanies one’s individual bias, by forms of greed, hatred or just being ignorant of the object itself.

When trying to combat or eliminate biased discrimination in the workplace, two (2) things must be considered: 1) Are leadership and management staff trained accordingly and are they held accountable for their actions? 2) Are employees trained properly to identify prohibited forms of conduct and how to report violations?

Finally, a motto to always follow and reference is, “when in doubt, leave it out” and ensure all workplace communication and behavior remains professional.

Creative Business Solutions specializes in ensuring each of our valued clients is in compliance with all laws and regulations applicable to their respective businesses, including unlawful harassment and discrimination policies as well as all other policies. Please call us today and we will be pleased to assist you with any HR compliance issue you may be experiencing.


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