Why Subtle Bias Is So Often Worse than Blatant Discrimination

By Eden King & Kristen Jones, Harvard Business Review

Social science data shows that people are much more likely to encounter subtle forms of bias than overt ones. HR professionals no longer post signs reading “blacks need not apply,” and managers rarely catcall their female subordinates. Instead, managers might ignore the input of a woman or praise the eloquence of a black employee. These latter behaviors often are unintentional and can reflect unconscious beliefs about characteristics of women and people of color.

But more importantly, the results show that across every job and individual outcome, the effects of subtle discrimination were at least as bad as, if not worse than, overt discrimination. Subtle discrimination has not-so-subtle effects on employees and their performance at work.

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