Bias in performance management

KingConsulting - HR Consultants Sydney

Does bias cloud performance management in your work place?

Bias is also known as our perception (or point of view). It is part of who we are and how we form different opinions and views on things. However, it can also cloud our ability to actually perceive others intention truly. In Human Resources Management it is very important to be mindful of our bias. We need to be impartial, fact based and balanced in our opinions.

Unfortunately, our bias often interferes in business. In can effect our ability to manage our employees fairly and productively. If you hold an opinion about a person you employ, it could make it difficult for you to see them any other way. That is why during an investigation an independent HR consultant is often sought. They will remain impartial and look at the whole picture. They will look at all the facts  based on evidence rather than forming an opinion based on hearsay.

It is quite natural to form opinions. We have to practice impartiality and form evidence based conclusions. If you have ever watched a ‘who done it’ show, you will see this type of evidence based analysis occurring before a conclusion is reached.

Be careful to make sure your performance management measures are specific, measurable, achievable and realistic. Take a look at this article on Key Performance Indicators.

An example of bias in performance management:

Sally is a logistics manager and has two people as direct reports. She also has 6 other people who ask her for guidance because she is considered the company expert. This is due to her accumulated experience and knowledge over the years.

The Director of the company, Peter,  is frustrated with her. He  does not understand why she is not doing some of the things he has asked her to. Especially as he hired support staff for her.

Peter,  has formed the opinion, that she thinks she knows better than him because of her years of experience and knowledge in the industry. He thinks she is not following his instructions, because “she thinks she knows more than him”. This is Peter’s bias. It limits his ability to understand Sally’s response when he asks, why she is not doing what he asks.

Sally believes Peter wants to get rid of her and has hired a new person to replace her. This is Sally’s bias, which limits her ability to really understand what Peter is asking her to do and why.

Neither Sally or Peter are actually communicating clearly with each other because of their biases.

Become mindful of potential bias:

It is possible for Sally and Peter to actually communicate without bias! If they are mindful of listening to the other person’s words. Asking for clarification of meaning. Instead of tuning in to their own internal bias in their heads. That is sometimes, hard to do, because they might not realise they have formed a bias.

It takes a bit of practice, but it is possible to tune in to your own thoughts during a discussion. Ask yourself if there is; any true grounds for those thoughts. It is also possible to articulate those thoughts to the other person. Do it in a structured and considered manner. Put emotions to one side. This will enable the other person to truly hear what you are saying.

Repeating what you believe you have heard with statements such as: “What I am hearing you say is…., am I hearing you correctly? By stating what you are hearing in this way, helps to clarify for the other person how you are receiving the information. This enables them to correct it if necessary.

Creating the right culture in your business is pivotal to having a good understanding and an enjoyable work place. Read this article on establish the right culture.

Other Possible solutions to overcoming potential bias:

Seek independent council. Someone who will listen to both parties. Choose an unbiased, skilled professional who is without prejudice. Allow them to interact with you and to observe your interactions with your employee.  During a debrief be open to answering questions and receiving feedback about your bias and ways to move forward.

Ask yourself what is it you actually want to achieve? Do you want Sally to be more productive? Do you want Peter to understand you are doing your best, but find your time is taken up training new people and you are feeling threatened?

Take a look at this article on employee engagement for some tips on how to improve it and gain productivity.

The challenge with bias:

It is human nature to form opinions about things in our lives and the people in it. Thereby, avoiding repeating the same mistakes. However, we often allow these opinions to cloud our perspective. We become less open to other possibilities. Read about four unconscious biases that distort performance reviews.

Becoming more mindful of potential bias playing a part in our interactions, allows us to have greater clarity in our communication with others. For example, it allows us to understand what another person might be thinking when/if we are accused of intending something we did not. Thereby, enabling us to ask meaningful questions rather than taking offence.

Instances of going over the same ground with someone where nothing seems to be changed or achieved, could be due to bias on either side. Consequently, taking a step back and looking objectively at the situation will provide some clarity on what might be causing the disconnection.

Understanding our triggers and those of others is part of emotional intelligence. There are tips, tools and techniques to improve our emotional intelligence. If you would like to know more about this topic and managing your own perceptions read the article on emotional intelligence. If you would like to learn more about the effect it can have on performance management read the article on Key Performance Indicators.

King Consulting HR use applied positive psychology and objectivity to  assist our clients and their employees through performance management issues. Thereby creating productive working relationships that drive high performance.

If you have an issue at your work place, read this article. Other articles you might enjoy can be found on our blog. If would like independent consulting to support you in resolving the issue  please contact us to see how we can support you.

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