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Confirmation Bias: Are You An Aware Leader To Your Team?

Confirmation Bias is one thing that managers and leaders need to bring more awareness to around, both in their work and personal lives. 

[ Confirmation bias: the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs. ]

While everyone is reminiscing the year that has gone by and pondering what the next year should look like,  there is one thing that managers and leaders need to bring more awareness to: confirmation bias and the need for more awareness around it.

Your mind constantly seeks proof that will confirm your beliefs. That is why it’s important to be aware of your beliefs and set yourself up for success. This awareness can play a positive role in a managers’ life. This applies a lot to the way they perceive their team members.

The best description I have come across is on britannica.com.: Confirmation bias is the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs.

This biased approach to decision-making is largely unintentional and often results in ignoring inconsistent information.

There are three types of confirmation bias

  • Biased Search for Information: This type of confirmation bias explains people’s search for evidence in a one-sided way to support their hypotheses or theories.
  • Biased Interpretation: This is based on something that you want to believe about the information you receive.
  • Biased Memory:   You have a set memory about the person or the situation, then you stick to it and don’t want to assess the current situation.

This happens quite often at the workplace, where people look for evidence that confirms what they already think is true.

For e.g. A manager may like someone in their team and will then only look for information that supports their liking or may not like a person and then constantly look for things that confirms that belief. They then start putting evidence to it, and this then extends to building stereotypes and using personal biases when assessing information.

We have come across examples of such bias across industries.  A chef is expected to be large bodied, women in high paying jobs to be aggressive, men not to be caregivers, so on and so forth.

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This happens because humans are constantly looking for evidence that confirms what you already think is true, rather than considering all the evidence available. Relying on stereotypes or personal biases when assessing information can lead to affecting people in the wrong way.

How can a manager stop confirmation bias from happening: 

  • Be conscious about the bias you may/may not have.
  • Take a second opinion, especially from a person who doesn’t think like you and will tell you the truth.
  • Give the person time to narrate their side of the story and then asses with all the facts on the table.
  • Take decisions responsibly, think of the consequences of your decisions.
  • Take some time away from the person/situation to be able to assess it without any bias.
  • Write down the points for and against and go through them multiple times to remove any bias that may present itself.
  • Ensure you are not surrounded by ‘yes’ people who can further the confirmation bias you may have
  • Accept people with different qualities.

Confirmation bias can lead people to make poor decisions because it distorts the reality from which we draw evidence. Hence, as leaders and managers, it is our duty to constantly self-evaluate and self-check our ideas and thoughts.

Build awareness towards this and set yourself up for success in 2023.

Image source: Syda Productions, free and edited on CanvaPro

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