Unconscious Bias, Status Quo and Decision Making

We all have unconscious biases. These are learned assumptions, beliefs or attitudes that exist in the subconscious. Our subconscious brain works to keep us safe and away from harm, using mental shortcuts to quickly process information or threats.

These biases form and develop over time as we go through life, accumulating life experiences and exposure to different situations. Usually, subconscious biases are activated involuntarily and usually without an individual’s awareness or control. Our conscious mind unintentionally follows suit, affecting decision making, change response, immediate reactions and more. 

We might not know it, but these biases influence can affect our professional lives in the following ways 

  • Decision making 
  • Workplace interactions 
  • The way we think 
  • The way we act 

These biases also have the potential to 

  • Skew judgements 
  • Reinforce stereotypes 
  • Make poor decisions 

Having a leadership team or individual decision makers be led by their unconscious biases can have detrimental effects on an organisation, especially when it comes to rapid decision making, recruitment and more. 

How does an unconscious bias affect change?

The Status Quo Bias describes our inherent preference for the way things are or the need for things to remain the same, which creates a resistance to change. The status quo represents the safe option, often taking less effort and buy-in from those around us. This is detrimental in an ever-changing corporate landscape that is likely to shift at any point in time, that destroys longevity, collaboration and innovation. 

The status quo bias in action can look like: 

  • Hiring team members that form part of the same demographic 
  • A hesitation to move forward with new systems, technology or ways of working 
  • An unwillingness to invest in new opportunities, especially if there’s risk involved 

A status quo bias can also affect the decision-making process when it comes to change. When there are importance decisions or multiple options, leaders are more likely to pick the option that maintains the current state because it is the ‘safer’ option – even when it potentially isn’t. Maintaining the status quo means to minimise the risk associated with change, which on the flip side, means the potential of losing benefits that outweigh the risk.  

As a leader and in an organisation, it’s important to weigh up and consider all options and schools of thought. Sticking with status quo can have detrimental and unforeseen consequences and can impact the longevity and impact of your organisation. 


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