1. Career Advice
  2. Career development
  3. Examples of and tips for countering confirmation bias in the workplace
Examples of and tips for countering confirmation bias in the workplace

Examples of and tips for countering confirmation bias in the workplace

Artwork by: Anastasia Kraynyuk

  • The psychological roots of confirmation bias
  • How confirmation bias can damage a company’s profits and cohesion
  • Avoiding confirmation bias when hiring employees
  • Countering confirmation bias when writing reports or making presentations
  • Receiving or offering feedback without confirmation bias
  • Key takeaways

Find out what confirmation bias is, what causes it, and discover how to check yourself for it at work. We’ll also discuss avoiding confirmation bias when hiring, and how to counter it when writing reports.

In stressful situations where co-workers don’t get the points you make, it’s tempting to believe that you’re the only rational professional in the workplace instead of exploring other perspectives. In such moments, it's natural to gravitate towards details that reinforce your existing beliefs, falling victim to the subtle trap of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias, simply put, is our tendency to seek, interpret, and favor information that confirms our existing beliefs or preconceived notions while disregarding contradictory evidence.  By understanding how confirmation bias works and how to counter it, you and your co-workers can help each other overcome preconceived notions and forge a healthier, more effective working environment.

To learn more about what confirmation bias is and how it can be countered, read through the following article sections:

  • What causes confirmation bias

  • How confirmation bias can damage a workplace

  • Avoiding confirmation bias when hiring employees

  • Countering confirmation bias when writing reports or making presentations

  • Receiving or offering feedback without confirmation bias 

The psychological roots of confirmation bias

The human brain is a marvelous tool for survival because it absorbs useful information, recognizes danger based on past experiences, and comes up with creative solutions for problems. That said, the brain’s knack for recognizing and remembering patterns doesn’t always translate to rational decision-making. Furthermore, when our brain learns a lesson, that lesson can be hard to unlearn.

The psychological phenomenon called confirmation bias is a tendency for people to remember information that confirms the beliefs they hold and ignore information that throws those beliefs into question. The idea that your worldview may be wrong or flawed can be scary, and arguments that your beliefs are wrong can feel like an attack. As a result, it’s easy for even the most logical professionals to cling to their current ideas, even as evidence against those ideas grows.

How confirmation bias can damage a company’s profits and cohesion

In large and small businesses, confirmation bias among employees or managers can damage a workplace’s flexibility by reinforcing existing beliefs, stifling innovation, and inhibiting open-mindedness.This resistance to new information can impede the adoption of flexible work policies or hinder the organization's ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Among managers, moments of confirmation bias can disrupt their ability to make rational decisions on how to help their company grow. Suppose a manager gets excited about a new business strategy and searches for data or research that validates the idea. If the manager ignores information that proves the strategy is flawed or ignores information about better ideas, company resources and time will be wasted while pursuing the suboptimal strategy.

Confirmation bias can also damage relationships between co-workers, particularly when certain employees stubbornly cling to an inefficient work strategy or ignore better suggestions from colleagues. When employees only seek information that aligns with their existing views, they may dismiss or devalue input from others who hold different viewpoints.

Fortunately, there are several ways you can determine if you exhibit  confirmation bias or trigger it in others. 

Statistical Insight

According to an article published on the Frontiers psychology website, confirmation bias can greatly affect a person’s ability to evaluate the accuracy of information gained from web searches on sites like Google. 

In a psychology experiment involving participants researching the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods, test subjects with a pre-existing negative opinion of GM foods and minimal knowledge of health science tended to research the topics less rigorously and change their minds less frequently.

Avoiding confirmation bias when hiring employees

Hiring managers are supposed to pick applicants that best fit the new job and company culture. During job interviews, however, it’s easy to pick or reject candidates based on gut feelings that don’t reflect the reality of an applicant’s strengths. Confirmation bias can perpetuate stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups of candidates. Preconceived notions based on gender, race, age, or other demographic factors can influence perceptions of candidates' abilities and potential fit within the organization. For example, middle-aged professionals may be overlooked in favor of younger workers who are seen as more adaptable.

Expert Tip

Some companies emphasize the use of phone interviews so hiring managers aren’t influenced by the appearance or body language of job applicants. Other companies will ask multiple HR staffers to evaluate candidates so their different perspectives balance out perceptions of applicants. 

Encouraging multiple evaluators to assess candidates independently and then come together to discuss and reach a consensus helps balance individual biases and ensures a more comprehensive and fair assessment of each candidate.

If you’re a hiring manager seeking new applicants for a job opening, consider creating a checklist of specific qualities, skills, and experience you want applicants to possess. This helps create an objective framework for evaluating candidates and reduces the potential for bias based on subjective judgments.

Countering confirmation bias when writing reports or making presentations

If you’re writing a report or developing a presentation, it may contradict a viewpoint held by management or urge co-workers to change traditional practices. There’s always the risk managers or co-workers will reject your recommended changes on reflex and keep doing what they’ve always been doing.

To keep co-workers from dismissing you out of hand, draw on useful conflict strategies to refine the language of your reports and presentations. Avoid wording that implies your listeners are misguided or incorrect, even if they are. Instead, emphasize terms and phrases that are non-judgemental and non-combative, yet still confident. 


Sample diplomatic phrases to use when delivering reports or presentations:

“To refine our current methodology…”

“To complement our company’s primary strategy…”

“This alternative approach has several advantages…”

“This new data strongly suggests that…”

If your listeners don’t feel personally attacked, they’re more likely to give your reports and presentations serious thought.

Receiving or offering feedback without confirmation bias

Choosing your words carefully is also important when you’re offering colleagues constructive feedback on their work responsibilities or their behavior in the workplace. 

Statements such as “I feel” or “from my point of view” can soften the blow of critical feedback, since they’re a verbal acknowledgement that you aren’t always right. You can also encourage employees to earnestly listen by expressing sympathy for their challenges, honestly praising their real accomplishments, and being conscious of your body language. Finally, displaying your own willingness to listen to and genuinely consider feedback creates a bond of reciprocity, inspiring co-workers to take your feedback seriously as long as you do the same for them.

  • “The impression I’m getting is…”
  • “I’m worried that…”
  • “You could really refine your…by…”
  • “It’s important that…”
  • “You need to be better at…”
  • “You’re completely wrong about…”
  • “This is a huge mistake.”
  • “You don’t understand.”

Key takeaways

  1. Confirmation bias is the tendency to reject or ignore information that contradicts established beliefs.

  2. Confirmation bias can hinder the workplace by making co-workers resistant to new ideas, alternate strategies, or the perspectives of others.

  3. To counter confirmation bias in the workplace, establish clear guidelines for evaluating new hires, use non-antagonizing language in reports and presentations, and be mindful of your own biases.

Share this article