Impartiality: The Importance of Avoiding Bias in Performance Reviews

Impartiality seems like a tall order, but performance reviews should always be aiming for as little bias as possible. At the minimum, partiality in a performance review means some employees aren’t getting the feedback they need. More extreme forms of favoritism can ruin a company.

The “halo and horns” effect is really two sides of the same coin. The halo effect occurs when an employee’s proficiency in one or two areas generalizes all others, even if he or she is average or poor in certain categories. This effect can be the result of an impressionistic management, or it can be incidental. With the horns effect, the generalization involves a lack of skill but is otherwise the same.

Cleaning Your Rose-tinted Glasses

Avoiding these prejudices involves careful training, learning that biases exist, and accounting for them. The manager is trained to see a worker’s performance in isolation. Whether each graded area is good or bad, the reviewer must take care to separate the perceived proficiency or shortcoming from other areas.

The Secret Life of Bias

The relationship between the assessor and reviewee may lead to a person being judged more or less favorably, and unconscious stereotypes may affect the rating a person receives. People also tend to give weight to first impressions and recent events. Whether these are positive or negative, the scales are shifted in a direction that can be hard to readjust fairly in the future. A reviewer should learn what his or her personal biases are and take care to avoid showing partiality. Here are a couple best-practices essential to impartial reviews:

  • Maintain good records. A reviewer must judge actions equally, regardless of when they took place or how important they were. Good performance records allow the reviewer to see the employee’s successes and failures as they occurred. This cuts down on making assumptions or broad claims based on a few memorable or recent actions.
  • Employ unique processes. Sometimes bias isn’t caused by the reviewer’s actions; it’s encoded into the process. If the entire company uses the same forms for different jobs and skill sets, the review may make one kind of employee look good while not acknowledging the accomplishments of another.

For instance, essential skills for a sales position are different than those for R&D or manufacturing. If the form was designed to assess the skills required for a sales position, the performance reviews for other parts of the company aren’t going to be accurate. Avoiding this requires an entire policy change rather than observation training. Make sure your managers are looking at the specific output and unique roles of each position.

The Benefits of Impartial Evaluation

Keeping biases out of performance reviews is a difficult but worthwhile endeavor. When all employees are measured fairly, good laborers are easier to keep and struggling ones can get the help they need. This makes your job easier, and it’ll help the entire company perform better moving forward. Get started on the path to accurate, fair reviews by checking out one of our eBooks today.

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