Whether you're aware of them or not, in-group biases exist. Even at work. While these tendencies maybe be deeply ingrained into our lives, it's our duty to bring those biases to the forefront and dismantle them.

Before we dive in, check out our communication guide where we go discuss the do's and don'ts, famous leaders, and how to develop your unique communication voice to bring inclusion to the forefront of your teams.

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What is in-group bias?

According to the American Psychological Association, in-group bias is the tendency to favor one’s own group, members, characteristics, and products compared to other groups.

Psychologists have shown over and over again that even under the most minimal conditions, individuals gravitate towards their in-group members, allocate more resources to them, and hold stronger implicit favoritism towards them.

Why does it matter? While in-group bias is an inherent human trait that keeps us safe, it also stops us from learning about others and gaining new experiences. We can't always shake our inherent biases, but bring awareness and proactively combating to the negative biases can help us grow exponentially as people.

How to reduce in-group bias

Now we know what it is, how do we identify our own biases? Here are three ways to be aware and stay agile.

🔍 Take an outside view. To help yourself reduce your in-group bias, put your shoes in those outside your immediate viewpoint. An outside view at the onset of a project also prevents you from seeking only the data that validates your points.

🤔 Use prospective hindsight. Instead of waiting for a postmortem to understand the cause of a past failure, imagine your possible routes. Think about a possible future failure as a result of your actions and explain the cause. This will help you identify potential problems that ordinary planning and foresight won’t.

📣 Ask for advice. Don't be shy! Round out your perspective by reaching out to those you know to hear their thoughts. While it is important to seek council from someone you trust, it is also important to seek out different types of people to prevent an echo-chamber.

Below, J. Marshall Shepard shares on his TED Talk about the ways our individual worlds are shaped by our experiences and how we can leverage that to be inclusive instead of exclusive.

TED speaker, J. Marshall Shepard, shows us to bypass our in-group bias to be inclusive. (Video from YouTube)

What I can do about my in-group biases?

Two words: rational reasoning. Rational reasoning helps to reduce automatic bias. According to Psychology Today, building arguments for why out-group members are trustworthy and repeatedly act in-line with this belief when seeing out-group members foster generalization.

We are most susceptible to bias when we are fatigued, stressed, or multitasking. The next time you find yourself making any snap judgements, ask yourself, "Am I passing this judgement because I am tired? Does this person deserve this? Am I too busy right now to properly assess the situation?"

Seeing beyond your in-group bias can help you make more meaningful and colorful connections. (Illustration by Johanna Walther)

Addressing other people’s in-group bias

The last thing we want is for you to exclude someone when addressing their in-group bias. That would be counterproductive!

People make biased statements at an unconscious level. When that happens in the workplace, it’s important to understand, first and foremost, the kind of culture that you’re faced with.

According to Fast Company, when you respond to statements of bias with "specificity,” it goes a long way. Ask your coworker, “What do you think makes her aggressive? What did she say specifically that made you say that?” This will force the person who made the comment to give specific examples and think beyond stereotypes.

I think unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at.

— Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

Quick exercises to help you combat in-group bias

It's good to bring awareness to in-group biases, but we also need to actively kick-start our journey to inclusion. Here are a few ways you can get started with your team:

  • Challenge yourself to think twice when coming to a conclusion quickly.
  • Seek advice and feedback from people outside of your immediate decision-making group.
  • Play devils advocate before making big decisions.

The key to overcoming bias is recognizing and seeking feedback to prevent them from impacting your decisions. We can outsmart our in-group biases by nudging ourselves in the right direction.


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Cover Illustration by Aron Vellekoop León