Emtrain Blog

Top Questions Your Employees Are Asking About Workplace Bias

Posted by Janine Yancey

July 1, 2015

Do your employees know the difference between bias and discrimination?

Do you know the top question your employees ask about bias? We've gathered the questions employees are asking about bias using our anonymous course Q&A feature. They all point to the same trending question:

How does bias differ from discrimination?

We've compiled some learner questions and expert answers to put your finger on the pulse of this trending employee question. Please use this insight to start a dialog in your workforce so people understand and know how to recognize workplace bias.


Questions employees are asking about bias in the workplace:


1. Is my co-worker being discriminated against based on her gender?

Is my co-worker facing discrimination?

Our situation seems more subtle. A male supervisor consistently asks for more review and editing of a female employee's work, values her opinions less, discounts her requests, micromanages her more. It seems based on their personal conflict more than on gender, but since she's the only woman on his team, it's hard to know. She says its gender discrimination.


We are prohibited from commenting on specific workplace situations such as the one you outline. But generally, unconscious bias comes before more conscious discrimination and the unconscious bias shows itself in not listening very well to certain people, not valuing their work performance, micromanaging, etc.

While unconscious bias is a workplace problem, it is generally not illegal or actionable because it's significantly more subtle than outright discrimination. As a best practice, it makes sense to alert the HR team that managers may need some training on recognizing and becoming more aware of unconscious bias.

2. Is my boss giving his male friends preferential treatment?

Is my boss sexist?

What color would you describe a situation where a male manager is friends with the male employees reporting to him but is strictly professional with the two women reporting to him. The manager assigns all the “good” projects to the male employees, who then get more visibility within the company. 


These situations are very fact specific and any determination must factor in all the details of the situation. But as a best practice, a manager who has a personal friendship with some of his direct reports, should make a conscious, deliberate effort to provide career opportunities fairly and based on solid business criteria in a transparent manner to help ensure people perceive his actions as “fair.” Anything less than that would be “yellow” or “orange” on the Workplace Color Spectrum™.  

3. If I'm excluded from socializing at work, is that discrimination?

Am I being discriminated against?

I’m a woman on a primarily male team. The guys are nice and respectful but usually don’t include me when they go for coffee, lunch, drinks, etc.  I’m not included so I don’t have a chance to build a relationship with our manager and then I’m on the fringe while my peers have the inside track. Is this gender discrimination?


We are prohibited from commenting on specific workplace situations such as the one you outline. But generally, there’s a difference between unconscious bias and gender discrimination. Gender discrimination is when someone suffers a negative job impact or doesn’t receive a job benefit as a direct result of their gender, e.g., “I don’t want a woman in this role as I don’t think she’ll work long hours and be committed to the job.” Bias is much more subtle and indirect in its impact on workplace decisions. Not being inclusive or fostering social relationships with women is an example of unconscious bias. And while it’s a workplace problem and should be addressed, it’s not a legal issue.

4. Is my boss limiting my work projects because of my gender?

Is my boss limiting my career because of my gender?

I work in a consulting business and we typically work at our customers’ site for weeks at a time. It seems like my boss assigns me to accounts where the customer is a woman (I’m also a woman). While I understand trying to match people who have things in common, it concerns me that my work projects are limited by my gender. Thoughts?


We are prohibited from commenting on specific workplace situations such as the one you outline. However as a best practice, managers should base their decision-making on objective facts and business logic rather than emotional or intuitive criteria. You may want to ask your manager to outline the decision-making process for pairing consultants with clients and/or seek guidance from your HR team to facilitate this discussion.


Understanding bias in the workplace is nuanced and can take some training and communication for your employees to be able to identify and understand their own biases. Interested in finding out what other questions employees are asking? Check out our Learner Q&A page!


   Learn More About Our Upcoming Managing Unconscious Bias Course     
Have a question for our workplace experts? Feel free to leave a comment or shoot your question to experts@emtrain.com!

Topics: HR Compliance, Talent Management, Business Compliance, People Skills, diversity training, diversity