Does bias cloud performance management in your work place?
Bias Performance Management is too easy to do:
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 perceive others true intentions or motivations. 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, however, bias often interferes in our perceptions of situations and Human Resources Practitioners are not immune. In can affect our ability to manage our employees fairly and productively. For example, if you hold an opinion about a person you employ, it could make it difficult for you to see them objectively. That is why during a workplace investigation an independent HR consultant should be involved and directing it. They will remain impartial and look at the whole picture. That is, 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 and it is an important part of human evolution. Learn more about Cognitive Bias in this video. To overcome our bias tendencies, we must practice impartiality and form evidence-based conclusions. If you have ever watched a ‘who done it’ type or detective show, such as one of my favourites, ‘Cold Case’ 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 (SMART). 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 Sally for guidance. She is known as: the company expert or ‘go to person’. Essentially, Sally has a lot of experience and many years of accumulated knowledge.
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 communicating clearly with each other because of their biases.
Become mindful of potential bias:
It is possible for Sally and Peter to 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. As you will see if you watch the video explanation in the link above, we are often unconsciously bias making it hard to change our views.
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 want to achieve? Using the example of Sally and Peter, does Peter think Sally could be more productive, hence hiring the inexperienced staff? Could Sally be doing her best but is caught up with training new people instead of just doing her job. Remember she is also feeling her job is under threat by the new hires? Perhaps Peter did not consult Sally before hiring new staff. Further, was this change in the team a collaborative event or just Peter’s?
Take a look at this article on employee engagement for some tips on how to improve it and gain productivity. As human’s we often do not like and fear change. We also like to believe our opinions are valued. Consequently, if changes are going to be made it is best done in consultation with the existing team with reassurances about their employment and position in the company.
The challenge with bias:
We need to form opinions about things in our lives and the people in it to learn and therefore, avoid repeating the same mistakes. We often allow these opinions to cloud our perspective making us less open to other possibilities.
Become more mindful of potential bias playing a part in preventing progress. Have you ever had the experience where someone else thinks your actions are because of an intention which was not correct? If you have, and most of us have at least once, it is due to the other person’s perspective or bias.
Bias performance management with poor communication may be the reason for nothing improving with in a work situation.
Be honest with yourself and ask if you have formed an opinion about someone in your work place. Is it based on fact or opinion?
If you would like to learn more tips and strategies about managing your employees read: