1300 136 146 & 0437 022 246 enquiries@maureenkyne.com.au

How unconscious bias affects your decisions

by | Apr 15, 2020

Unconscious bias is a type of unintentional prejudice that all of us suffer from. It typically occurs as spontaneous judgments about people or situations based on your past experiences, culture, background or exposure to media.

These hidden preferences can affect nearly every decision you make, which flow on to affect you, your employees, strategies and tactics. Unconscious bias contributes a great deal to organisational culture and has been shown to impact many decisions, including recruitment, promotion of work practices, work allocation or leadership appointments.

Ultimately, it could mean the success or failure of a business. A few of the known unconscious biases that directly impact the workplace include:

Affinity bias: The tendency to warm up to people like ourselves.

Halo effect: The tendency to think everything about a person is good because you like that person.

Confirmation bias: The tendency for people to seek information that confirms pre-existing beliefs or assumptions.

Group think: This occurs when people try too hard to fit into a particular group by mimicking others or holding back thoughts and opinions. This causes them to lose part of their identities and organisations to lose out on creativity and innovation.

The one that is the undoing of many a good intention:

Perception bias: The tendency to form stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups that make it impossible to make an objective judgement about members of those groups. In other words, perception bias is the unconscious act of referencing only those perspectives that fuel our pre-existing views, while at the same time ignoring or dismissing opinions — no matter how valid, that threaten our world view.

Understanding bias in perception

Perception is our interpretation of reality. It is the cognitive process of simplifying and mentally organising the environment. It includes a series of mental models of common characteristics and scripts to make events and situations predictable.

Factors that influence perception:

  • Cognitive functions
  • Personality
  • Past experience
  • Education
  • Gender, age, ethnicity, culture etc.

Situational perception:

  • Affects how we view our managers, peers, co-workers and subordinates.
  • Impacts the way we manage people.
  • Affects how we make decisions.
  • Can lead to inappropriate behaviour.

Why we need to learn more about perception and individual differences and how this affects the workplace:

  • Perception is the process through which we receive, organise and interpret information from around us.
  • When we understand ourselves and those around us, we can be more effective
  • When we integrate factual and perceptual inputs into our belief system, we change the way we think and behave.

Strategies to prevent unconscious bias include:

  1. Ensure employees understand exactly what unconscious bias is, when it happens, and the ways in which it can impact your business objective
  2. Training should highlight clear and actionable steps that employees can take when they recognise behaviour that should be challenged.
  3. Create a workplace where employees are encouraged to speak freely about a topic, and where they are open to discussion without judgment.
  4. The topic of unconscious bias is important in itself, but the overall effect it has on your company’s culture is of critical importance.

Often unconscious bias affects diversity within the workplace. A study by McKinsey found a direct relationship between diversity and financial performance. Companies in the top 25 per cent of racial and gender diversity consistently outperform competitors and national standards.

  • Companies with a high gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to outperform competitors.
  • Racially diverse companies are 35 per cent more likely to have higher financial returns.
  • These companies experienced a 0.8 per cent rise in profits for every 10 per cent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior executive team.

When unconscious bias goes unchecked it can lead to bullying and inappropriate behaviour having a further impact on productivity, turnover, and brand damage for the organisation and well-being for the individual.

Maureen Kyne



Maureen Kyne

Maureen is a leading authority in workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination. With qualifications and a career spanning nursing, manufacturing, construction, transport, HR, IR & WHS she brings wide-ranging experiences.

Having lived and worked in both regional towns and capital cities, Maureen understands the economic and workplace pressures faced across diverse environments from harvesting sheds in farming communities to metropolitan corporate boardrooms.

Maureen presents with a warm demeanour and easy conversational style yet is fearless in raising the issues most prefer to avoid. Whether wearing a prevention, detection or correction bullying hat, Maureen knows how to peel back the layers and get to the root cause of the toughest and most complex situations.

Respect drives change and as a confidante and training facilitator Maureen will do what it takes to save lives and build better futures.


HR Blueprint

Bringing an intuitive, respectful & rational lens to your people challenges

  • Are you an owner or senior leader in your business?
  • Do you struggle with ensuring you’re up to date with your HR obligations and processes?
  • Do you worry about costly WorkCover or IR claims?
  • Do you want to improve the workplace culture for your team?

Managing people can be stressful – but it’s less stressful when you’re not managing it alone.

HR Blueprint is your trusted partner in HR. We understand your human capital is the most important asset of your business.

HR Blueprint was created by Justin Hocking and Maureen Kyne in 2020 as bushfires impacted our country and the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, changing Australia’s business landscape.

As your outsourced HR department, we listen attentively to your challenges; assess each issue individually; and develop efficient solutions.

We are committed to doing whatever it takes to work through your problems. We treat your business as if it were our own.