Humans are inclined to be biased by nature: there’s no way to avoid it. Our brains are hardwired to create conscious or unconscious biases for comprehending the world around us easily. This bias creeps into our daily lives even if we try our best to regard everyone fairly.
Try as we might, the basic fact is that human decisions heavily depend on biases, opinions, preconceptions, and intuition rather than facts or reasoning. This might typically lead to wrong assumptions.
This is one of the reasons why, even when they have the right intentions, people tend to bring bias into the performance evaluation process.
Bias is a type of inaccuracy in judgment that occurs when a person’s prejudices, whether conscious or unconscious, influence their assessment of another person. When it comes to performance evaluations, biases play a significant role.
Biases can cause employee ratings to inflate or deflate, which can have major consequences in scenarios where performance assessments are directly affected – promotions, remuneration, hiring, and decisions regarding employee termination.
Considering the significance of these assessments, performance reviews must be as impartial and fair as possible.
Therefore, what can you and your company do to ensure that performance reviews are as impartial and neutral as possible?
Bias blockers should be used at every stage of the process. Once you’re aware of your biases, you can employ numerous tactics (along with a healthy dose of self-awareness) to mitigate their impact.
How to reduce bias in performance appraisal and to avoid performance appraisal problems
1. Develop self-awareness
Absolute neutrality is challenging to achieve, if not impossible. However, realizing this aspect provides a thorough understanding of your ideas and behaviors. You also become receptive to recognizing biases as and when they develop.
You may find several free online assessments to help you detect your unconscious biases and learn how to avoid performance appraisal problems. There are also personality tests that can give you an idea of your strong and weak points when working with others.
You can attempt these tests to become more cognizant of your own biases or preconceptions and explore plausible areas for improvement.
2. Be vigilant and note opinions and data from other employees
Employers should engage with employees as frequently as possible, as their perspectives can be invaluable when appraising employees.
Communicating with your co-workers and gathering their insights provides depth and clarity and helps avoid bias. Negative feedback must be delivered appropriately and respectfully.
Here are some negative performance feedback examples. Note how they have been worded carefully and sensitively:
- For example, “You haven’t met your recent goals, but I know how hard you have been working. Are there any problems that I can help with?”
- “I noticed you appeared upset at the conference. Can we talk about how things are going?”
Having statistics to debunk your intuitions is one of the finest methods to battle bias. First, determine the key performance indicators for your team regarding cooperation, teamwork, employee engagement, productivity, and organizational citizenship behaviors. Then, instead of using biases or heuristics, use data to make decisions.
3. Create a foundation for awareness of your employees’ performance
You may have preconceived notions about employees (e.g., whether they are productive or not). But people might change their methods of working. At the same time, your perceptions of employee performance should also change accordingly.
Managers should become acquainted with their employees on a personal level. If you know your team’s deep underlying motives, strengths, and personal history, you are less likely to rely on surface-level traits that can generate biases.
Before you get into feedback and evaluation mode, take a step back and reframe. To reduce bias in performance appraisals, regularly review progress on goals and solicit comments from other team members.
4. Engage with employees regularly
Recency bias may set in if you rely on annual or semi-annual performance talks, as you may not have a complete picture of employee performance. Interacting with employees regularly and keeping them (and yourself) informed helps create a clearer image that tells the complete story.
We advocate having one-on-one meetings with staff regularly (monthly or even weekly). You’ll get timely updates on employee goals, perceptions, obstacles, triumphs, and more, in addition to building a trusting connection and ensuring alignment.
5. Halo effect bias
The halo/horns effect bias tends to allow one positive or negative attribute to overshadow others. An example of the halo effect in performance appraisal is allowing an employee’s pleasant demeanor to overshadow their poor communication abilities.
Those eccentricities and preferences can sometimes obscure our capacity to appraise people as a whole. This prejudice is one of the reasons why attractive people are more likely to be regarded as trustworthy.
At the same time, if or when attractive people fail to meet those greater expectations, they are penalized for failing to meet others’ expectations.
Bias in the halo effect: A certain manager, for example, may have a soft spot for proactive or good-looking people. Hence people who are more social or kind may also be seen as more likable, smart, and good at work irrespective of how they work. The halo effect makes it seem that one good quality will often overshadow the actual working capacity of the individual.
Bias is a major concern prevalent in performance reviews. Therefore while appraising performances, all the above biases should be painstakingly avoided. The first step is recognizing the bias and laying down measures to overcome it.
Next, it is crucial to set up systems, strong criteria, and relevant procedures that aid organizations in making better and neutral decisions and eliminate bias in performance appraisals.