Humans are, by our very nature, prone to bias. There is simply no escaping it. Hard as we try to deny our prejudices and treat everyone fairly, our brains are wired to find mental shortcuts that make processing the world around us easier.
These repeated patterns of thinking often lead to inaccurate conclusions.
Think about this: if a top performing employee shows up late for a meeting, you might be likely to excuse their tardiness due to something out of their control, such as an unexpected traffic delay.
But if an employee with mediocre performance arrives late, your might assume they overslept or exercised poor time management. You subconsciously make quick judgments based on previous experiences and act accordingly.
While bias may be a part of being human, it can have damaging effects in the workplace. It's especially important for managers to consider how bias might impact employee performance reviews. These four steps will help you check yourself and reduce personal bias at work.
Acknowledge that you are biologically incapable of being completely objective. This admission makes you more open to recognizing biases when they arise and more mindful of your thoughts and actions. There are a number of free assessments you can take online to identify your unconscious biases. Take one to become aware of how biases may be affecting you.
If you rely on annual or semi-annual performance conversations, recency bias will take over and you won’t have a comprehensive, accurate view of employee performance. Continuously interacting and staying up to date with employees paints a clearer picture that tells the whole story.
We recommend conducting frequent (monthly or even weekly) 1-on-1 meetings with employees. Not only will you build a trusting relationship and ensure alignment, but you’ll also get continual updates on employee goals, perceptions, roadblocks, successes, and more. These ongoing conversations help combat recency bias and inject objectivity into your performance appraisals.
Check yourself before jumping into evaluation mode. At this point, you likely have set opinions about employees (i.e. lazy, productive, collaborative, or unmotivated). But people are constantly changing, and your perceptions need to evolve at the same speed. Continually review progress on goals, source feedback from other team members, and consider the progress the employee has shown since your last 1-on-1.
Busy managers don’t interact with employees as often as their coworkers do, and these voices can provide valuable insight when evaluating employees. Sourcing feedback from other team members (or customers, if applicable) gives more context and helps eliminate the Halo Effect and similarity bias.
Following these steps won’t erase your biases, but they can reduce them. In order to create a workplace that fosters trust and mutual respect, you need to proactively try to bury your biases and approach employee performance with an open mind.
To learn more tips on reducing bias in your next employee performance review, download our free ebook.