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Your Performance Reviews Are (Probably) Biased

We’re all biased. It’s how our brains are wired. If we want to make the most of our careers and employees, we need to learn how to counter these unconscious biases.

Rob Jardine

A PERFORMANCE review is one of the most significant conversations you can have in your career, whether you’re the receiver or giver of feedback. The outcomes can have far-reaching effects on the individual regarding career advance and development. Depending on the effectiveness of the conversation, business outcomes can be significantly affected to improve or hinder overall performance. One would hope that, of all things you could be in a performance conversation, you are not biased.

When we hear the term bias we often think of prejudice and discrimination (overt acts of bias) and most of us like to claim that we are anything but biased. However, by the sheer virtue of having an efficiency-driven brain, we are biased. It’s a scientific fact. Biases are mental shortcuts that help us make sense of information in a way that drives efficiency, helps us go faster and feels good. The challenge is that biases are unconscious and often at the root of overt acts such as prejudice and discrimination.

The Biology of Bias

Neuroscience tells us that our brains are actually hardwired to be biased — a result of mental shortcuts our brain takes, so it can avoid being overwhelmed. These shortcuts help us make decisions quickly and with less effort so the brain doesn’t waste its limited capacity to make decisions. For example, if we are hijacked at a particular intersection, then our Experience Bias will lead us to make an unconscious decision to avoid that area. This Experience Bias proves useful here as it protects us. But this bias can also serve us negatively; for instance, if someone performs poorly at work, our Experience Bias will cause us to think that this person is most likely not to perform in the future, even if it only happened once.

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December 2018

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