The meaning and what you need to know about it
Chances are you’ve come across “bias” more than once in conversations. Bias is a tendency or (pre)judgment and/or assumption towards something or against a person. Bias is a natural reaction for or against an idea, object, group, or individual.
It is often learned and relies heavily on aspects such as one’s socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, educational background, etc. Unfortunately, most biases are often based on stereotypes, rather than actual knowledge of an individual or circumstance. Whether positive or negative, such cognitive shortcuts can lead to biases that lead to hasty decisions or discriminatory expressions.
People are naturally biased, often without being fully aware of their biases. It is acquired at a young age, often as a result of one’s upbringing. In other words, often because of the influence of external diversity in youth.
This is even more developed when a young person grows up to become an adult in an environment/culture where bias often occurs such as in the workplace and/or in the daily interaction with others in society. Factors influence this within organizational and worldly diversity.
What is an unconscious or implicit bias?
This unconscious bias becomes problematic when it causes an individual or a group of others to be disadvantaged due to their gender, ethnicity, race, or other factors. This can be clearly seen today, especially in the labor market, in recruitment, and generally in company cultures.
The complaints including (evidence!) from students from a minority background are pouring in because they cannot find an internship because of a “foreign” (sur)name. This also applies to all people with a minority background in recruitment, potential promotion, and performance management.
Can someone or a company be bias free?
Generally not. Everyone has a certain amount of bias. It is human nature to give judgment based on first impressions. From an early age, people will discriminate between those who look like them and those who are not like them.
On the plus side, they can get a sense of identity and security with bias. However, this can go to extremes and can promote an “us-against-them” mentality and lead to harmful prejudices with polarization as the ultimate result.