Biases in Performance Appraisals - Part 1

Biases in Performance Appraisals- Part1

Biases in Performance Appraisal Meetings

A bias is defined as an inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.

A good manager should be objective about the performance of their employees and it goes without saying that employees expect their performance appraisals to be fair and free of biases.
Here in this 2 part series we are going to discuss some of the common biases the appraising managers should be aware of, to ensure their assessment is accurate.
We would start with two of the trickier forms of biases that may interfere with an effective performance appraisal:

1. Recency effect

It is a type of cognitive bias where a person most easily remembers something that has happened recently, compared to remembering something that may have occurred a while back.
For performance appraisals, the effect of recency bias would be that some managers would overly focus on the most recent events as the basis for analyzing the entire year’s performance.
So, if you made a mistake recently and it ends up being the primary focus of your performance appraisal even if you’ve done a great job the rest of the year, you’ve become a victim of the recency effect.
This can go the other way too, where a poor performer does something terrific recently and their past performance is forgotten.

2. Primacy effect or first impression

This is the opposite of recency effect. Managers would form an overall impression about the employee on the basis of some particular characteristics of the employee identified by them. Here the initial impression influences the decision on the year end appraisal irrespective of whether the employee has been able to keep up the initial impression or not. The bias could be either positive or negative.
An example of this would be a new employee messing up their first project but performing exceedingly well in all projects afterwards.

To avoid these cognitive biases arising due to serial position effect don’t rely on a single point of contact, such as the annual performance review, as the only time you engage with your employees. Be sure to implement a system (like that allows you to frequently check-in with your employees, so you can better connect with your employees and keep a clear line of communication open constantly throughout the year.

In the next part we would look at some more biases which can influence employee performance appraisals in incredibly negative ways.

The second part of the article is now available at the link below:
Biases in Performance Appraisals – Part 2 (Halo & Horn effect and Stereotyping)

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts and other tips on avoiding these cognitive biases… share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

Vijay is the Co-founder at HappyOffice and has a vision of shaping a world where everyone is truly happy at their work.


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