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Male managers: Don’t ‘lighten up’ on females’ reviews

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in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

It happens to top male managers with the best of intentions: You evaluate a poor-performing female employee and, instead of citing her problems straightforwardly, you unknowingly ignore or soft-pedal them.

This is a fairly common problem. Research indicates that male managers give female employees performance reviews that are not as forthright as those they give to men. Such softened appraisals can hurt the long-term performance of female employees.

Honest feedback from management is the No.1 aid to women's careers, ranking higher than flexible scheduling, strong mentoring, effective diversity programs and employee support groups.

To get the best work from female employees and head off performance problems, use these five tips to eliminate inadvertent gender bias in job evaluations:

1. Ask yourself these key questions: 

  • Do I feel protective of women who work hard but are about to receive unsatisfactory evaluations? 
  • Do I believe that female employees are more sensitive to negative reviews? 
  • Am I tempted to downplay bad news to avoid hurting feelings?

"Some male managers tend to evaluate poorly performing female employees like they deal with their wives or daughters," says Audra Bohanon, VP of Novations, a Boston-based HR consulting firm.

2. Don't soft-sell problems to spare feelings. Avoid saying something like, "Well, it's not that bad but you might want to keep working on this area over the next six months." Instead, say, "To move forward in this organization, you must improve in this area, and it needs work."

3. Don't expect women to respond emotionally to blunt reviews. Female employees actually find negative feedback to be more informative and give it equal weight to positive information.

4. Offer feedback on performance in key areas that aren't directly related to specific job tasks. Example: "You need to collaborate more with peers to build relationships." Male managers tend to avoid such topics with women.

5. Compare reviews to see whether a disproportionate number of male workers receive better assignments.

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