Striving for fairness and objectivity is fundamental in performance reviews. Unfortunately, everyone has biases, and that includes managers.
Addressing unconscious bias is the first step to help you foster diversity and inclusion. Here’s a list of common biases, and how you can reduce their effect on your performance reviews.
Managers tend to focus on the most recent events and overlook events that happened earlier in the time period, which can hide important achievements and growth.
Try this: Use 1:1 meetings and other ongoing feedback mechanisms throughout the year, keeping a solid record that you can refer back to when writing your review.
A single positive or negative impression of an employee can influence the way managers view their overall performance. If a manager is particularly impressed by an employee’s performance in one instance, the manager may view that employee with a “halo” and assume that they also excel at unrelated tasks. The opposite effect occurs when a manager sees an employee struggle in one area and views them with “horns” and incompetence in other aspects of their job.
Try this: Evaluate performance in several defined aspects of work and have specific examples of behavior to back up praise or critique.
Managers who are inclined to give overly positive feedback leave employees unclear about how to improve, while highly negative managers can demotivate their team.
Try this: Do you tend to think of your team at a particular end of the traditional rating scale? Re-center your scale with a range of terms above and below your “go-to” rating.
Some managers are reluctant to rate at extremes. So they tend to put reports in the middle of the rating scale, leaving them without a clear takeaway of their strengths and weaknesses.
Try this: Even-number scales make a middle-rating literally impossible, but focusing on qualitative feedback instead of ratings is likely to be a more meaningful approach.
Managers can fall into the trap of finding new information that reaffirms their preexisting beliefs about an employees’ performance rather than truly examining all of the information.
Try this: Seek out feedback from others through a 360 feedback round, and pay special attention to anything that challenges your assessment.
When addressing a topic in a performance review, a manager can jump to the most obvious conclusion about what is important, as opposed to the less obvious but potentially more relevant ones.
Try this: Have team members share a self-review in advance to highlight key contributions that aren’t at the forefront of the managers’ mind.
Performance feedback given to women tends to reflect their workplace demeanor or attitudes, while men are more likely to receive feedback on past projects and accomplishments.
Try this: Plan to assess all employees on the same predetermined categories to avoid this unintentional disparity.
People are drawn to others who are similar to them, whether it be similarities in personality, behavior, skills, or background. When managers are more inclined to positively assess employees they relate to, this can leave little room for team diversity.
Try this: Review the criteria on which they are evaluating employees before entering a performance review.
The less structured a performance review is, the more room there will be for bias. Maintain consistency by outlining topics and criteria on which to assess every employee. Get feedback from multiple sources and really pay attention, especially if it goes against your initial perceptions.
Employees can only control their performance, not the bias in their review. It’s up to managers to recognize and actively fight their biases, and for HR to equip them with the knowledge and skills to do so.