No employee should ever discriminate against another employee on the basis of gender or consciously change performance reviews to suit men or women. Even without conscious discrimination, men and women may read and respond to performance reviews differently, no matter how objective those reviews are. Understanding the power of gender in performance evaluations can help companies avoid discrimination and develop strong male and female performers in the workplace.

Does Your Company Differentiate Between Men and Women in Performance Reviews?

Most companies don’t purposefully discriminate against a gender in the workplace. Doing so is illegal and can lead to costly lawsuits and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) involvement. However, unconscious actions may subtly influence your performance reviews and reveal a pattern of discrimination against one gender or another.

Look at past performance reviews and employee performance logs to determine if your company treats a certain gender differently. Look for comments that contrast between males and females, and if you recognize any apparent patterns, take action to reduce those discrepancies. For example:

  • Your organization or a manager may describe a woman who is straightforward as abrasive or catty, whereas someone may regard the same attributes in a male as impatience. The language you use to describe an individual’s behaviors can shift the meaning. Abrasive is much more negative than the term impatient and that attitude may affect how two employees of equal skill are viewed.
  • Your organization tends to criticize women in reviews more than men. In data from Fortune magazine, more women across all sized companies receive critical or negative feedback than men The results overwhelmingly indicate a discrepancy between men and women’s reviews, and yet many women and men experience the same differentiation in multiple industries and companies today. Having an awareness of the problem can help your company prevent it in the future.
  • You focus on different criteria in reviews. While there may be some benefit to using a different set of metrics for different job descriptions, make sure your company uses the same general information to evaluate employee performance. While you may need to appeal more to certain strengths for each employee, using the same standards in your performance review template will ensure your company is not discriminating against one gender.
  • You focus more on the person than on key behaviors and activities. Performance reviews aren’t about shifting a person’s personality, but modifying certain behaviors and increasing or decreasing activities to improve overall performance. Instead of focusing on the person, many companies can effectively avoid gender discrimination by keeping the focus of the review on real-world examples.
  • You fail to recognize achievements. Instead of using the performance review to point out only negative behaviors, use an even balance of recognition and constructive feedback during the process.

Correcting small instances of gender inequality can improve workplace morale and productivity. How you say something is equally as important as what you say. Find out if your performance reviews are helping or hurting your company by downloading the Effective Performance Reviews eBook today.