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Playing favorites: How to avoid unintended partiality in decisions, reviews

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Office Communication,Performance Reviews,Workplace Communication

Do you “play favorites” with certain employees? Most managers would probably say “no,” but people often harbor unconscious perceptions that can influence day-to-day decision-making and job reviews of the employees they manage.

Studies on performance reviews show that several factors unrelated to employee performance can impact evaluations conducted by managers.

Such favoritism—or even perceived favoritism—can lower employee morale and lead to discrimination lawsuits. That’s one reason it’s important for managers to recognize nonperformance-related perceptions that can unintentionally impact evaluations—for better or worse.

Keep it legal. Keep it fair. FEEDBACK: How to Give It, How to Get It

Advice: When giving feedback to employees and doing performance reviews, be aware of these three nonperformance factors that often come into play:

1. Hiring choice. Managers often give better reviews to employees they hire or at least had a hand in choosing. Subconsciously, managers tend to make a greater emotional and professional investment in the success of employees they are responsible for bringing aboard.

2. The mirror. Like the general population, some managers tend to unintentionally identify with people of their own gender, race and socioeconomic class. Such identification may subtly influence judgments about which employees perform better.

3. Personal relationship. Managers may give better job reviews to employees they like, for whatever reasons. For example, personable employees with good communication skills can ingratiate themselves with managers and improve the perception of their actual performance.

It's your responsibility to approach your employees objectively. If you are playing favorites and treating people unequally, you open yourself up to legal accusations of all sorts. And you might not even notice you're doing it! Learn how to give even-handed feedback at those crucial moments when it matters the most. Get our handy guide booklet on giving feedback for managers.

Bottom line: Objectively follow performance evaluation criteria. Challenge your job evaluations, asking yourself whether they are based solely on performance. Don’t depend entirely on memory for facts and examples in reviews. Keep a performance log during the year on each worker, making objective notes on performance and leaving out unrelated observations.

  • You spend more time supervising certain employees and thinking about ways to enhance their careers.
  • You enjoy talking to some employees more than others.
  • You dread conducting certain evaluations but look forward to handling others.
  • You relax when talking to some employees but feel tense when communicating with others, even those who perform well.
Could poor feedback practices lead you into a costly lawsuit?

Yes. But to help you avoid that scenario we've published this handy booklet on giving feedback. At just $10 — shipping included — it's worth every penny you'll save by avoiding an unnecessary lawsuit. Get this important pocket reference today!

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