Cognitive Biases in the Workplace: Identifying and Overcoming Them

Cognitive biases can appear whenever we make a choice. They’re systematic patterns that affect our judgement and decision-making processes. Understanding and addressing these biases is crucial for fostering a more inclusive and effective workplace environment.

How can cognitive biases impact our workplace?

Cognitive biases can impact many aspects of a business, including: 

So, how can you identify and reduce the risk of bias in the workplace? 

Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias refers to the tendency to focus on information that supports preconceptions. This need to be right always means that when we make decisions or talk with someone, we’re likely to ignore or reject information that doesn’t support our view. Doing so can result in flawed decision-making in business. 

How do we overcome confirmation bias? 

  • Use multiple reputable sources when looking for information: don’t just look for evidence to confirm your beliefs. 
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 
  • Challenge your own views, discuss matters with people who don’t share your views, and play devil's advocate. 
A team meeting

Hindsight bias 

Hindsight bias is a psychological phenomenon that allows people to convince themselves after an event that they accurately predicted it before it happened.” This bias happens when you convince yourself you knew the outcome beforehand. Hindsight bias can cause overconfidence in our ability to predict events, which could lead to taking unnecessary risks. 

How do we overcome hindsight bias?

  • Keep track of your past decisions and predictions.
  • Think of alternative outcomes—after something happens, try to think of some other outcomes that could have happened. 

Self-Serving Bias 

Self-serving bias is the inclination to attribute positive outcomes to our character and blame external factors for anything negative. This bias is detrimental to employee accountability in the workplace. 

How to overcome self-serving bias?

  • Work on your self-awareness—being aware of your shortcomings and not being afraid to admit them. Knowing more about self-serving bias can help you identify whether you’re prone to this bias. 
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself - if you notice this bias within yourself, it can be easy to criticise yourself. Instead, be self-compassionate and work on your accountability. 
  • Be mindful of your co-workers - treat them how you would like to be treated. 
Two colleagues looking at a laptop

Availability bias 

This bias is our belief that the information that readily comes to mind is more important than those we don’t recall so quickly. This can mean we miss the big picture and can make incorrect assumptions. 

How do we overcome availability bias?

  • Brainstorming is your friend. Seek help from your co-workers and brainstorm ideas. Ask them what they think about issues. 
  • Don’t rush into decisions - weigh the pros and cons, and don’t make hasty decisions. 

The Dunning-Kruger Effect 

This occurs when people overestimate their knowledge or competence, which can happen when their perception of their skills doesn’t match their reality. 

How to overcome the Dunning-Kruger effect? 

  • Always question your knowledge - double-check your conclusions because even though you believe it’s correct, you don’t want to be the victim of your overconfidence. 
  • Be your own devil's advocate. 
  • Ask colleagues for opinions or feedback. 

These are just a few of the biases, and there are many more to be aware of. Some of our main tips are to be aware of biases because knowledge is key to changing our way of doing things. Challenge your beliefs to be more open to other people’s ideas and consider different perspectives when making a decision. 

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