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Consider 360º evaluations to catch supervisor-Bias problems

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Sometimes, it’s hard to see what’s actually going on down at the frontline supervisor level. A rogue manager may be spouting all sorts of garbage and getting away with it—until he fires someone who ultimately sues. Then, it may be too late to save the company from a costly jury verdict.

One way to spot potential problems is with a simple HR evaluation technique—the so-called 360-degree evaluation. Basically, the process calls for looking at supervisors from all perspectives, including those of subordinates. While you may not weigh all the input equally, learning what subordinates really think—especially anonymously—can clue you in to potential attitude problems.

For example, if subordinates report that their supervisor seems to have a problem with women, look into the matter before the supervisor causes expensive and possibly irreparable harm. Consider whether the company in the following case might have been able to do something to rein in the supervisor.

Recent case: When her employer laid off Jama Vincent, the only female crew leader on a pipeline installation project, she attributed it to her boss’s attitude toward women. At various times, employees heard the man say female employees should stick to directing traffic, that women should not head up projects because they were “not leaders” and that women made the company look bad. He also took to calling women “sweetheart” and “cupcake.”

Although the company claimed it had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for terminating Vincent, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said the biased comments attributed to the supervisor cast doubt on those reasons. It ordered a trial. (Vincent v. Brewer Company, No. 06-4138, 6th Cir., 2007)

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