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3 Examples of Confirmation Bias at Work

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Confirmation bias is one of many cognitive biases we are victims of since everyone has it. These prejudices prevent us from adequately analysing other people’s opinions or seeing from their perspective, which ruins our chances of engaging in civil discourse. 

What is confirmation bias?

Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek information that favours your position or beliefs. You have probably searched for data to back up your points in a debate. In that search, you have consciously or unconsciously ignored data or information against your position. That is your confirmation bias at play. 

If one believes that people with tattoos are more irrational than people without tattoos, then every time they see an inked person behave irrationally, they would magnify this ‘proof’ that already backs their views about tattooed persons. They might even look for additional evidence to support their prejudice while ignoring the countless times non-tattooed people have behaved irrationally.

Confirmation bias is simply finding ways to make our beliefs true by looking for information that favours that belief. 

Since no one is immune from this sort of bias, it can occur even in the workplace and disintegrate the cooperation and progress of the organisation. Unless the civil discourse definition changes, confirmation bias can hamper productive and polite debates. 

Examples of confirmation bias in the workplace 

We have ascertained that everyone is prone to confirmation bias, which can occur in the workplace. Still, there are several instances where this prejudice can happen at work. Let us look at some of them. 

Lazy colleague

A common confirmation bias is the mindset that a coworker is lazy. This is common in many organizations. If you single out a colleague as a lazy person, you tend to view everything they do as being lethargic. Certainly, you have witnessed this situation or seen it play out. 

You need no convincing that this prejudice harms the company’s overall development. Sometimes, this judgment of a person’s behaviour is based on facts, but most times, it results from bias that has no bearing on facts.  

You may think you’re enlightened and above such mundane prejudices, but these biases did not magically appear. They originated from beliefs that are clearly not true but have been repeated so often that it’s now seen as fact. These beliefs can linger on, and you can unconsciously act on them.  

High expectation

Another very common but overlooked confirmation bias is the belief by some owners and managers of businesses that what was obtainable last month or year will be obtainable this year or next year.  

Although it seems sensible to draw conclusions from past events, we should understand that a product that didn’t sell last month doesn’t mean it won’t sell this month and vice versa. Many managers overlook data pointing out this trend and rather focus on integrated information acquired over time. 

The perfect boss

Many managers have difficulty listening to team members when they point out issues in the company’s process. This is not unusual. Frontline staff usually notice an issue in a company’s process first. As a manager, it can be hard to take. After all, it’s your job as a manager to detect and address these issues. 

When frontline staff reports these issues to managers, they often downplay it, look for data supporting the operation, and even make the staff feel miserable for trying to help.

This results in employees overlooking little gaps that could cost the company little to nothing to block until the gaps become huge and the senior management starts looking for the cause of the issue. If only they had realized that listening to employees’ opinions, encouraging them to speak up about issues, and promoting civil discourse in the workplace could have saved them expenses!

Avoiding and overcoming confirmation bias

Confirmation biases play a role in how we assimilate, interpret, and recall information. It shows that our perception of things is not only very objective but also keen to resort to our personal prejudices and assumptions. This will definitely display how we react to sensitive discussions at work and out of it. It can create a weak decision-making process which would affect the work environment. 

This makes avoiding confirmation biases important in having a happier, more collaborative, and more productive work environment. But how? 

The following steps and actions can help you avoid confirmation biases at work. 

  1. Know the drawbacks of confirmation bias, acknowledge the potential risk, and toil on productivity, collaboration, and other contributing factors to a healthy work environment. Once you identify this, avoiding and overcoming them becomes a piece of cake. 
  2. Use a standard method for hiring workers and ensuring it is devoid of bias. 
  3. Use falsification bias to counter confirmation bias; they are the opposite of each other. 

Be interested in different perspectives, and here is when understanding the civil discourse definition comes to play. It involves exploring the opinions of coworkers even when it goes against yours.

Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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