HR Management & Compliance

Performance Appraisals and the Halo Effect

In yesterday’s Advisor we heard from Steffen Maier, Cofounder of Impraise on how unconscious bias plays a role during performance appraisals, and how to overcome those biases. Today we have more tips.

Negativity Bias

With more frequent reviews, you also want to make sure that your employees are getting the most out of the information they receive. When employees are used to getting feedback, they’re more likely to know how to analyze and use it effectively, but some people have to learn this skill. People have a natural bias toward negative situations. This is a natural defence mechanism that helps us remember and avoid dangerous situations. However, negativity bias can also get in the way of our professional development. Instead of learning from constructive feedback, it can instead induce fear or anger.

How to overcome:

Help your employees develop an open mind-set to feedback by giving it continuously throughout the year and coaching them on how they can analyze the information they receive, create a development plan, and stay on top of goals. Read more about how to help your employees overcome their fear and open themselves up to feedback.

Halo Effect, Confirmatory, and Similarity Bias

These types of biases are based on our perceptions of others. The halo effect occurs when managers have an overly positive view of a particular employee. This can impact the objectivity of reviews, with managers consistently giving him or her high ratings and failing to recognize areas for improvement.

Whether positive or negative, we also have a natural tendency to confirm our preconceived beliefs about people in the way we interpret or recall performance—known as confirmatory bias. For example, a manager may have a preconception that his or her male report is more assertive. This could cause the manager to more easily recall instances in which the employee asserted his position during a meeting. On the other hand, the manager may perceive his or her female report to be less assertive, predisposing him or her to forget when she suggested an effective strategy or was successful in a tough negotiation.

The halo effect is often a consequence of someone’s having a similarity bias for certain types of people. We naturally tend to favor and trust people who are similar to us. Whether it’s people who also have a penchant for golf or people who remind us of a younger version of ourselves, favoritism that results from a similarity bias can give certain employees an unfair advantage over others. This can impact a team to the point where those employees may receive more coaching, better reviews, and, as a result, more opportunities for advancement.

How to overcome:

Basing performance on one person’s perception makes biased reviews much more likely. Instead, 360-degree reviews allow each employee’s performance to be assessed from multiple sources, including managers, colleagues, and reports. Reviews based on multiple perspectives can help to factor bias out of the equation.

Steffen Maier is the co-founder of Impraise, a people-enablement platform. Impraise’s belief is simple: Grow your people—grow your business. It helps unleash people’s potential, doing more than just performance reviews, which means accelerating performance, fostering career development, and seizing all the moments that happen in between.