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What is implicit bias in the workplace?

Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about sexual harassment and various types of workplace discrimination. One term that you may have heard is "bias in the workplace," or, more specifically, "implicit bias." However, this term is not well-understood, despite the fact that it can affect a wide swath of the working public.

Some refer to implicit bias as unconscious bias, which gives a clearer picture of the type of behavior under examination - that it is not consciously acknowledged or perhaps even recognized, but still exists and plays a role in the workplace. 

Basics of implicit bias

Many different types of bias exist that can have a negative impact on workers. These are subconscious attitudes relating to factors such as gender, age, appearance, race, disability and other attributes typically associated with discrimination. Implicit bias in the workplace can not only reduce diversity in hiring, but also reduce productivity among employees who experience bias. Since implicit bias is, by its very nature, an unconscious and often automatic response, it can be quite insidious and difficult to identify. However, that should not discourage people who are experiencing it from making its effects and negative impacts known.

How bias leads to discrimination

Bias can lead to discriminatory behaviors in the workplace, which may exclude members of certain employees who commonly experience discrimination and prejudice. An example of this could be that a supervisor has an implicit bias against female employees, and thus only promotes men. This could be a case of gender discrimination in the workplace. One could say the same about other subjects of bias, such as race or age.

Workplace discrimination can cause many hardships for the people the employer discriminates against, and employees experiencing discrimination should not ignore it. Legal remedies and protections in place aim to help employees exercise their rights. While the prospect of speaking up about workplace bias and discrimination may seem intimidating, the benefits of seeking protection under the law outweigh the potential drawbacks, especially when discrimination leads to wrongful termination.

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