“I may think I see you as you are, but in truth, I see you as I am.” - Susan Scott
If you’re human, you’re guilty of having biases. We all plead a bit of insanity.
We tend to see things through our own filters. Sometimes we make conclusions about a person or situation only to later realize the conclusion was unfair or lacked any basis in reality.
In case you need a refresher, cognitive bias creates prejudice, skewed perception, or preference to show up in ways (and in places) where our work and the people around us end up marginalized, misunderstood, or otherwise negatively impacted. They often consist of conclusions or assumptions that in some way veer from the reality of the situation, leading us to make decisions that also disregard reality.
Our workplace is affected by bias because we hire, interact with others, and even fire based on our judgments and perceptions. If our perceptions are faulty, our decisions will be, too.
There are over a hundred cognitive biases, making awareness a slow and complex acquisition. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you observe bias in yourself. Bias is a natural survival tendency, helping us sort through information and make decisions based on what feels safe. Even Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, whose work with Amos Tversky uncovered the biases that warp our judgment, hasn’t succeeded in completely eliminating his own bias: “There are many biases, and I certainly do not claim to be immune from them. I suffer from all of them.” Through awareness, practice, and training, however, we can reduce the influence of bias in our daily decisions.
A type of bias I often notice within myself is the “false consensus effect.” I inaccurately predict that my own perspectives will receive more agreement than they actually do. I think to myself, I’m coming from a well-intentioned place, and my argument makes so much sense to me. Surely others will be on board, right? Wrong. I have the tendency to overlook the fact that people have their own experiences from which they’ve built their contexts, and they might vary greatly from my own. When many people disagree with me at once, it can be a hard pill to swallow.
By exploring and addressing cognitive bias, both in how it shows up within organizations and within ourselves, we strengthen our ability to:
• Create an inclusive culture (Read more about bias, inclusion, and innovation in our latest whitepaper)
• Collaborate productively
• Hire the best candidates
• Have more effective conversations
• Engage and retain
We can grow in our awareness and reduce bias with this simple trick: ask yourself if the perception you currently have (or that someone else has) about a person or situation is reliable. Be willing to have this conversation with yourself and others. Ask, can you prove it? Do you have data to back it up? Is it the ground truth—what’s really happening—or does it veer from reality? Is this perception avoiding reality in some way?
When I default to the “false consensus effect,” a moment arises where I have an opportunity to check my assumptions. Am I making a decision based on the assumption that others will agree with me? Is that assumption reliable? Do I have any data to verify my assumption? If not, then it will allow me to either let go of all assumptions or gather more information before deciding.
By investigating the reliability of our perceptions, we can move beyond them and uncover what’s actually real—and hopefully make better decisions as a result.
Reducing bias happens over time with practice, and having the right conversation skills can greatly reduce the presence and negative impact of bias in the workplace. Check out our conversation training programs that can help you and your organization overcome the biases that are hijacking your culture—and your results.
Do you witness bias in the workplace? What is the impact? Share with us.