Beware of Bias Risk in Performance Management

In February 21, 2019

Performance reviews offer goals and feedback that encourage employees to improve on their skills and to put them on the right career path. Performance reviews should ideally be fair and objective, but unfortunately there is no guideline or standard regarding what a “fair performance review” is.

Because of this, many bosses lean on intuition rather than applying regularly consistent expectations to employees. But even if you are convinced you are being completely fair-minded, it is highly possible that you will give feedback that is unfair or biased.

Negative feedback can adversely impact company culture as well as employee retention, according to studies. Preventing such biases from your reviews can help you to maintain a positive company culture, build mutual respect with employees (as well as retain them) and help you to maintain trust overall. Building bias awareness is key. Below are four patterns of bias to watch out for.

  1. People are considered to be less competent and are required to repeatedly prove themselves over and over. One example of this bias is attributing the success of one people group to luck and success of another group to skill.
  2. Some employees with children face different pressures in the workplace based on their role as a parent. Some of these groups impact parents and employees without children. An example of this kind of bias is when a company favors a father for a promotion or raise because he has a family.
  3. Some workers are confined to certain acceptable ranges of behavior within the workplace. This is another area where generalization of people groups appears. For example, when women are expected to behave with modestly while men are not, this is an example of what is called a tightrope bias.
  4. Another type of bias can occur that creates conflict for individuals in the same group, such as parents. Parents in one group of employees may look down their noses at other parents for spending too much time with their family or vice versa.

Learning to recognize these types of workplace biases can help you to give better feedback.

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