Search
Advice » In the Workplace» Workplace Issues » Positive Bias Is Dangerous, Too
Positive Bias Is Dangerous, Too

Positive Bias Is Dangerous, Too

Bias is alive and well in the American workplace. Although blatant examples of discrimination, racism and sexism are thankfully rare, subtle assumptions still exist about individuals based on the group to which they belong. These assumptions cause that quiet voice inside us to say, "I know you; I know all about you; I've met someone like you before," when we meet someone new.

Quite simply, biases are preconceived judgments about the abilities, personality and values of someone you do not know. One of the biggest myths about bias is that the prejudgment is always a negative one. When we think of bias, we think of inaccurate and inappropriate statements like, "All men are sexist," "All women are hysterical," and "All gay people are flamboyant." In fact, it is just as biased to say, "All men are assertive," "All women are nurturing" or "All gay people are artistic," even though these are good characteristics -- most of us would love to be assertive, nurturing and artistic.

Skewing Perception

The truth of the matter is that positive biases can be just as unfair and destructive as negative ones. Both restrict accurate perceptions of people's personalities and values, distort interactions with them and limit their ability to be themselves. Think, for example, of the awkward position that a man who is shy, retiring and soft-spoken is in, given the stereotype that men are assertive -- after all, our culture shouts, "Real men don't eat quiche." Because this man doesn't conform to the basically positive stereotype of assertiveness, he is considered a wimp or a weakling. If we were willing to look at each person as an individual, we would see this man as a gentle human being who doesn't need to conform to a culturally based bias.

Suppose a woman finds herself in the same position. She is married, makes a nice income and is physically fit. She is a good woman with a good marriage and a great fondness for the nieces and nephews who are an important part of her life. Despite her love of children, she and her husband have chosen not to have any of their own. This is fine for her, but the problem is that people look at her just a little bit funny when they learn of her life choice. "What's wrong with her?" they seem to be asking. "She must be awfully selfish not to want kids when she has so much to offer."

Finally, imagine a young, gay man with a passion for baseball, 1950s rock and roll and Mexican food. As much as he loves these things, he has an equally strong aversion to art galleries and talking about women's clothing, and he couldn't care less whether his couch matches the wallpaper. In short, he conforms in no way to the popular bias dictating that gay men are artistic. This was most disconcerting to his boss, who asked him to supervise the redecoration of their small offices. The boss was angry when he learned he had hired an interior decorator and wouldn't just do it himself. This man ended up looking bad, not because his boss believed gay men are overly emotional or flamboyant, but because his boss assumed he would have the skill and interest to redecorate the office himself.

Many of us fall into the trap of feeling good about our positive biases. Thinking that all Mexicans are family loving, all African Americans are musical, and all workers with disabilities are cheerful and brave provides us with the illusion that we are tolerant, loving people. In fact, these positive biases are just the flip side of racism or homophobia and can be just as destructive to workplace relationships.

Latest Jobs

Neat Heat & Cooling
Posted: 10/31/2014
Island Park, NY, 11558
Penske
Posted: 10/31/2014
Santa Maria, CA, 93455
Bed Bath & Beyond
Posted: 10/31/2014
Bristol, VA, 24202
Sears
Posted: 10/31/2014
HOFFMAN ESTATES, IL, 60179
Manpower
Posted: 10/31/2014
Boulder, CO, 80302

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile

 
 
 

Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
ArtBistro
Create and connect.
Excelle
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships
Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Education.org
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military.com
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.

Interviewing

100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2014 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2014.4.70.79-302
eTrustLogo