A Bit About Bias

Lesson 2: Topic 13 of 14

Dr. Jon Christiansen, cofounder of a data analytics company and principal at a marketing and business intelligence company, has identified eight primary reasons for employee turnover. One in particular revolves around integrity: the leader’s own innate bias. Left unchecked, it can cause you to pass over certain deserving employees (for training, raises, promotions, etc.) in favor of other, less deserving ones.  This can have a huge negative impact on staff retention, causing a needless expense. Cost concerns aside, when staff see managerial bias it lowers productivity and dampens morale.

“Bias” is sometimes confused for bigotry, prejudice, intolerance, and similar concepts. For clarity, that is not how the term is used here. Bias simply simply refers to the way we’re predisposed to understand our environments – mental shortcuts, so to speak. Biases are neither morally right nor wrong … but they may lead to good or bad outcomes, depending on the situation. Here are a few you may recognise within yourself:

  • Anchoring Bias – Also known as “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” this is the tendency to be overly influenced by the initial evidence or experience you have.

  • Normalcy Bias – The impulse to believe everything will be the way it always has been before.

  • Confirmation Bias – Giving greater weight to ideas that line up with what you already believe, and downplaying ideas that contradict what you already believe.

  • Halo Effect – Thinking that a person’s success in one specialized area makes them successful in other, different specialties.

  • Consensus Bias – The confidence that other people, even very different ones, basically believe what we believe, think the way we think, and share the same values and concerns that we do. 

  • Blind Spot – Believing that you are less biased than you actually are.

Any or all of these biases – and there are many more – can cause leaders to make serious mistakes in today’s workforce, from hiring to firing, from selecting vendors to marketing to customers, and every other aspect of business.

Watch out for them!