Are performance appraisals biased?
To judge someone is a very difficult task. Even God who is almighty fixed a criterion for judging people, i.e. good deeds and bad deeds for reward and punishment. As their mind developed, humans too accepted its value for better control and they adopted it happily. When organizations came into being, its application increased further because of its acceptance as the best way to manage people, and performance appraisal was the outcome. The modern performance appraisals systems go beyond rewarding the good deeds, i.e. good work, performance or efficiency and effectiveness of employees through money and use it also for the development of employees. In addition to direct fixed compensation and bonuses, employees get rewards of promotion and career paths. The punishment side comprises of withholding of increment, warning letter or even termination.
Blue Eyes And Bad books
Performance appraisals are not only one of the most critical management processes but also the most controversial. Judging and rewarding people being a sensitive matter no one can deny its importance. It is difficult to find an employee who thinks or admits that his/her work performance was bad or not up to the mark. Although new methods are being continuously explored and implemented, but there is always a feeling of justice not being done according to most of the employees who don’t get expected outcome from their performance appraisals. As the manager/supervisor of an employee has the most important role in the performance appraisal, he mostly has to bear the brunt of criticism. The most common complaint has been that of personal bias, both positive and negative, i.e. favoritism or dislike. For some employees good appraisal indicates that the appraised is a blue- eyed employee while the employee who does not get good ranking in the appraisal is in the bad books of the appraiser.
Halo And Horn Effects
Halo and horn effects describe types of bias. Halo effect is a kind of love at first sight. The first positive impression of some person creates a lasting effect on another person making him see the person always in a good light. In the horn effect, the first impression or perception is negative that stays as a permanent impression affecting the objectivity of the person.
Human Resource Department
Human resource departments continued to work to develop a system that will remove personal bias and introduced methods like measuring performance through Key Performance Indicators, Management By Objectives, making Self-appraisal part of the system, 360-degree feedback method, the critical incidence method, Behaviorally Anchored method and much more, the search continues.
There has been a consensus among the HR thinkers and experts that instead of denying the bias, it is proper to look for ways to decrease it to the utmost extent. The best way is to introduce a method that gets the view of more people about the personal bias of the appraiser. These then are put together to reach definite conclusions about its existence or otherwise. In case the conclusion points out towards personal bias a well-defined intervention be undertaken to remove the effects of the bias from the appraisal’s result. The 360-degree method stipulates soliciting the opinion about the work of an employee from different people, it’s better to extend its scope to include their opinion about bias and its extent if found present. An average of all the above reports should decide about its extent. The Human Resource Department on regular basis collect evidence and any indications or perceptions of personal bias and that must also be recorded and included when finally determining whether bias existed and its extent if found present. The intervention will consist of adjustment in the reward. If the conclusion determines that bias was 25% then the reward will decrease or increase by that percentage keeping in view positive or negative nature of bias.
A Word Of Caution
A biased performance appraisal can cause tremendous harm to the employee who is the victim of negative bias even threatening his job and career. On the other hand, a positive bias may result in derailing organizational systems, values, and culture. It is essential to properly train the appraisers and to put more effort in making the system more balanced by reminding the appraisers about the aftereffects of bias as indicated by Elizabeth Gaskell in her quote: “How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly!”.
It is time to carry out performance appraisal as a method of judging not only the one being appraised but also the appraiser.