We all hold some type of unconscious bias or stereotype—an unsupported opinion in favor of or against someone or something—that we aren’t even aware of.
Stereotyping results from our need to categorize experiences into a shorthand that helps us make decisions more quickly.
However, those unconscious biases can harm individuals—and companies. Unconscious biases surface through microaggressions, comments and actions that harbor a prejudice toward someone, most commonly a member of a marginalized group.
For businesses, the damage can be significant.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the founding president and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, shared the following results of her organization’s study on the negative impacts of unconscious bias.
- Costly disengagement lowers productivity. Employees at large companies who perceive bias are nearly three times as likely (20% vs 7%) to be disengaged at work. That kind of clock-punching is costly. Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs U.S. companies $450 billion to $550 billion per year.
- Reduced retention impacts individuals and organizations. Those who perceive bias are more than three times as likely (31% vs 10%) to say that they plan to leave their current jobs within the year.
- When people withhold ideas it stymies innovation. Those who perceive bias are 2.6 times more likely (34% vs 13%) to say that they’ve withheld ideas and market solutions over the previous six months.