Ethics at Work: Are you Biased?

As we enter the New Year I want to kick things off by taking a cold, hard look at ethics and how they apply in the workplace. Most managers believe they are ethical and, consciously, they may be. The problem is that everyone has a habit or bias that can be viewed as slightly unethical, whether they realize it or not.

Most of us have some sort of implicit bias, whether we recognize it or not. What is an implicit bias? It is one that, despite you not saying it outright, shows in the way you act. There are a few organisations that have tested managers and individuals to uncover some of their implicit biases, including Harvard and Here are a few examples of information about biases they uncovered:

  • A large percentage of participants had an implicit bias towards young people.
  • A large percentage of participants had an implicit bias towards white people.
  • A large percentage of participants had an implicit bias towards rich people.
  • Consciously desiring to not be biased will not make you an unbiased person.

What does this mean? Let’s say, for example, you claim not to be biased towards men. You have two similar resumes on your desk and you have interviewed both candidates – one male and one female. They are both highly qualified and it’s a very difficult decision to make but we’ll say for the purpose of this example that there may be one or two areas in which the female candidate might make a better fit. You claim to be reviewing their applications from an objective standpoint but your implicit bias towards men allows you to justify hiring the male candidate instead. You literally dig for a reason not to hire the female candidate and you  may not even realize why.

Being biased can be costly. You can lose great candidates or team members and possibly even be accused of bias and become the victim of a discrimination lawsuit.

I urge you to step back and think about your management ethics and hiring practices. Are you biased? Do you even realize it? Are you treating your employees fairly? Think about it and let me know.

Thanks again,


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   | Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo

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