Performance Appraisals and Biases
Posted on April 23, 2012 by Gail Danneman
A manager must complete a performance appraisal for an employee that they have hired a few months ago. The employee has struggled on the job, but the manager believes it is part of the normal training. Because the manager hired this employee, the manager may be subject to biases when evaluating the employee.
The manager that has hired the new employee may be suffering from a number of heuristics/biases in judgment and decision making. Because the manager hired the employee themselves, they may feel more responsible for the success or failure of the employee’s performance. The manager in this case will likely look for ways to indicate that they made the right decision and that the employee is not a failure, regardless of whether or not this is actually the case.
It is possible that the manager is subject to the confirmation bias. Rather than admitting that he or she may have made an error in judgment, the manager may confirm that the employee was proceeding through the learning process and that the employee’s performance confirmed that the process was still occurring. The manager should look for information about the employee that both confirms and disconfirms his views toward the performance of that individual employee. If the manager only looks for information that confirms that the employee is still in the learning process, the manager fails to see the true performance of the employee. The manager may look at a calendar and give excuses to why the employee is still in the learning process.
Secondly, the manager may be overconfident in his or her hiring decision. The manager may feel very strongly that they made the best hiring decision and that the employee is a good employee regardless of evidence showing otherwise. The manager may be overconfident because they have been hiring employees for years and have a gut instinct as to which job candidates are the best and those that will not succeed on the job. Regardless, the overconfidence may hold the manger back from the big picture.
The problem with overconfidence in this situation is that the manager may be convinced that he or she is extremely experienced in selecting candidates that will be good employees. What the manager may not be considering is that the ways in which job candidates are evaluated may not be accurate or appropriate to use in hiring decisions. As we have learned, experience and expertise together make for more accurate hiring decisions. Experience alone does not make a manager a good decision maker in the context of hiring new employees. Expertise allows knowledge to be transferred and taught rather than telling a new employee, “I just know a good candidate when I see one.”
Lastly, the manager may ignore the fact the employee’s performance is below expectations. Instead, the manager may recall a time recently that the employee performed well at their job. In this case, the manager would be subject to the availability heuristic. The danger in the availability heuristic is that the manager’s judgment is clouded with what he or she most recently observed regardless of whether or not it provides a true picture of the employee’s overall performance.
To avoid the risk of the availability heuristic, more frequent feedback should be provided to employees. The manager may not recall a time when the employee failed on a task because it happened months ago. The manager should provide feedback shortly after negative behavior or a negative outcome occurs.