4 Common Performance Appraisal Biases (and Tips to Avoid Them)

Recognition is a top tier motivation among employees, and higher employee engagement can increase company profitability by as much as 22%. Amid the busy schedules and long to-do lists for HR teams, performance appraisals are a consistent opportunity for managers to recognize and engage their employees. 

Performance appraisals are meant to provide an unbiased, objective view of an employee’s performance, and serve as a feedback loop to help improve performance. Even with the best of intentions, performance appraisal biases can creep up if reviewers are not aware of what these biases are and how to spot them. 

Read on to learn more about common performance review biases and best practices to avoid them.

1. Recency Bias

Recency bias is the tendency to recall your most recent interaction with a person and focus on that over the other historical interactions you’ve had with them. 

For example, you may have a good rapport with an employee where they meet their deadlines and contribute to team meetings, but they dropped the ball on their most recent project and missed their deadline. Recency bias would be to recall the most recent project performance without taking into account their history of generally meeting deadlines and contributing to the team, and using this to inform your performance appraisal.

To avoid this performance appraisal bias it’s essential to provide yourself with tools to take a holistic view of their performance. When preparing your appraisal, take a look back at their deliverables and projects for the year, and reflect on each interaction to regain a well rounded view. 

You may also want to closely document your employees’ performance and development, and highlight their key wins. This can help mitigate future tendencies towards recency bias, and help you manage their performance fairly going forward.

2. Proximity Bias

In a world of increased remote and hybrid work environments, proximity bias is on the rise. The tendency to believe those you physically see and work with are working harder than employees that are off-site, proximity bias can greatly disadvantage and warp the perception of remote or hybrid employees’ contributions.

Despite having several years under our belts of remote and hybrid work, assessing employee performance with a lack of face-to-face interaction remains a challenge for many managers.

As such, you might unconsciously place more value on the work done by employees who have returned to the office, and conversely less value on work done by employees still on WFH arrangements; especially when you can’t see work being done with your own eyes.

To mitigate this, coaching and enabling yourself and your fellow managers on how to conduct performance reviews for employees in a remote or hybrid environment is highly recommended. 

To reduce the likelihood of this performance appraisal bias, conduct more frequent reviews on a quarterly basis, instead of yearly or biannually. Make use of collaboration platforms like Slack or Zoom to have more interactions with your employees and maintain a regular 1-on-1 check in schedule to build rapport with your off-site employees.

3. Idiosyncratic Rater Bias

Idiosyncratic rater bias occurs when a reviewer places more weight on skills that they themselves are not skilled at, and lower weight on skills that they are good at. An example of this would be a manager who knows a lot about social media management but little about SEO. The employee may have room to grow in their SEO skills, but excel at their social media management skills. Idiosyncratic rater bias would cause their manager to rate their SEO skills as excellent, but their social media skills as average.

Idiosyncratic rater is a performance appraisal bias that skews performance data because it often tells us more about the reviewer than it does the employee being reviewed. To avoid this bias, work on creating a consistent rating scale and asking objective, measurable questions to assess an employee’s performance. As a reviewer, ask yourself to support your feedback with quantitative examples to help bring objectivity to your review. A great way to build this into your review system is to implement SMART goals for performance reviews which provide measurable and quantifiable results to assess an employee’s performance.

4. Gender Bias

Gender bias has been a prevalent issue in the workplace since the workplace came into existence. Where men and masculine-presenting individuals tend to be judged on their behaviors and accomplishments, women and feminine-presenting individuals are more likely to be judged by their managers based on their personalities and attitudes. Further, the same behaviors between men and women are perceived differently under gender bias. For example, a man speaking up about his opinion in a meeting is perceived as “leadership behavior” and “assertive” whereas a woman doing the same is considered “bossy” or “unagreeable”.

To minimize the effect of gender performance appraisal bias, make use of structured feedback and formalized criteria to assess your employees. This can prevent you from the creep of assessing them through gender-based personality attributes, and focus more on their behaviors and accomplishments. Whatsmore, educate your leadership teams on gender bias, and be sure to include the bias against transgender and non-binary employees. While the bias may look slightly different for these individuals, maintaining a vigilant education around the issue can help even the playing field.

Minimize the Effect of Biases During Performance Reviews

Biases affect employees and their managers year-round, but are most prevalent during performance review cycles. 

To combat recency, proximity, idiosyncratic rater and gender bias as performance appraisal biases, take a more holistic view of your employees’ overall work history, check in regularly with your employees to see how they’re doing, utilize 360-degree feedback from their peers, and rely on structured feedback and formalized criteria to mitigate their effects. Like most biases, raising awareness and sharing educational materials help bring attention to our tendency for bias, thus reducing their frequency.

3 tips for avoiding performance appraisal bias

Improve Your Performance Review Cycles With Omni

Performance reviews are a busy time of year. Between scheduling, gathering data, screening for performance appraisal bias, and summarizing performance feedback, HR teams find themselves overwhelmed by paperwork and unsent reminders. With Omni, HR professionals and managers can digitize their performance review process to easily gather, analyze, and report data, send automatic reminders, and receive alerts when reviews have been completed. 

Join the modern teams leveraging technology to improve their business processes. Schedule a demo with our team today.

Get started today!

Get a 14-day free trial and see how Omni can work for your business.