Performance Review Bias: How To Use 360-Degree Feedback To Eliminate it!

Performance Review biases

The art of conducting a performance review is a dialogue that has been circulating on the internet for years. When it comes to conducting the perfect performance review, there is a method to the madness. That method, as stated before, has been analyzed and discussed in countless ways. What we want to focus on with this article, is not the method of conducting performance reviews but the elimination of the greatest hurdle that stands in the way of conducting the perfect one: Performance Review Bias.

The core reason for the existence of a review is the desire to collect useful information to aid in both the betterment of the individual and the company itself. So what is it that stands in the way of this? Bias. Bias in performance reviews negates the data collection process ineffective to an extremely detrimental degree and every manager worth their salt knows there is no place for it.

It is, however, undeniably and inherently human. What makes us unique and creative, what gives us our sharp tastes and pallets, also results in our ability and tendency to form biases. Whether we are actively or involuntarily forming them, the formation of biases is extremely natural, yet still detrimental.

That being said, the question then evolves into: “What do we do about it?”. How do we get in the way of performance review bias? How do we eliminate bias? We here at Teamflect, believe that the answer to this question has been right under everyone’s noses all along. 360-Degree Feedback.

Without beating around the bush any further, let’s dive in!

 person writing on a desk
Analyzing different types of performance review biases is key in stopping them from affecting your performance reviews.

Types Of Performance Review Biases

Since we are all incredibly complex individuals, with countless different factors forming our respective identities, it is perfectly normal that our biases are equally complex. They are separated into multiple different sub-categories. The amount and quality of literature on different types of biases that may have an adverse effect on reviews is simply breathtaking. M.S.G. has a wonderful piece on the matter of performance review biases that we would highly recommend.

Before going deeper into how the use of 360-Degree Feedback can assist in their elimination, we wanted to list some of them to offer a better scope of the issue at hand. Research through the literature on the subject, including the M.SG. guide, reveals that the five types of biases listed below are the greatest offenders when it comes to sabotaging the results of performance reviews:

Recency Bias

Recency bias is favoring recent events over older ones.

Think about a moment when you left a movie theater after a particular movie and immediately thought, “This is my new favorite!”. Have you ever gone back to that moment after a while and thought “What was I ever thinking?”. It wasn’t your fault. That was recency bias. And it’s perfectly normal.

Recency bias is our tendency to favor events that have occurred closer in the timeline to us, over those further away in the past. An employee who has had a rough couple of weeks going into the performance review, yet had some amazing accomplishments a couple of months before is at a terrible disadvantage.

Halo / Horns Bias

Halo / Horns bias is A cognitive bias that causes one to focus on one good or bad trait, instead of the whole.

These two biases as their names suggest are the opposites of each other. Halo Bias occurs when we tend to focus on the one positive aspect of a thing, situation, or person, instead of the multiple negatives. Horns Bias is the exact opposite. It is focusing on a singular negative attribute of an otherwise, completely positive individual.

Focusing on singular negative or positive attributes and shaping the performance review accordingly might sound far-fetched but it is an incredibly common form of bias that can be eliminated by gaining a complete perspective of one’s employees.

four person hands wrap around shoulders while looking at sunset
Group size is another factor in performance review biases.

The Law Of Small Numbers Bias

The law of small numbers bias is The unfair assumption that a small sample is representative of the majority population.

The law of small numbers bias is the focus grouping of biases. Focus grouping is well on its way to changing the world of entertainment for the worse. Don’t let it harm your performance reviews. A performance review bias through which one assumes that a small, select group has the same properties as the entire population, can be extremely detrimental.

Idiosyncratic Rater Bias

Idiosyncratic rater bias is the type of bias that happens when the rater uses their own skillset as a judging criterion.

This might be the type that comes the most naturally. No matter what the circumstances are, it is incredibly hard for one to not use themselves as a part of the judging criteria.

A manager, coming from a sales background could have a much higher bar for success in sales. Meanwhile, their lack of experience in event management could result in that person being extremely easy to impress with mediocre event management skills. The rater’s own strengths and weaknesses skew the entire playing field, resulting in some involuntary performance review bias

Leniency Bias

Leniency bias is giving positive notes, even though there is a glaring room for the person reviewed to improve.

Perhaps the most common out of all of these offenders, leniency bias takes effect when the person conducting the review is simply too busy to assess them.

This may sound silly but isn’t the case of someone drowning in paperwork and giving positive reviews to everyone just to be done, extremely relatable? In certain situations, procrastination might end up evolving into a performance review bias.

How Can 360-Degree Feedback Help Prevent Performance Review Bias?

A 360-degree feedback and review system, as opposed to conventional reviews, takes into account not only the feedback of one’s managers but the feedback of peers and fellow staff members as well. This is a far more holistic approach that gives a far more complete view into the employee, through an incredibly well-rounded perspective.

At its core, a 360-degree review presents insight into not just the employee’s performance, but how said employee has affected the performances of those around them.

A con to conducting 360-degree reviews might be their complexity. They are not as easy to conduct as conventional performance reviews. Using software with a built-in template for 360-degree feedback takes the hassle out of it.

While the utilization of intuitive performance management software or effective templates takes care of leniency bias, the complete picture that a 360-degree review provides takes care of the other four. As we discussed earlier, the forming of biases is natural in individuals. Working on eliminating our individual biases is a noble undertaking. In that process, using 360-degree feedback to factor in the views of the larger team in performance reviews, is a great way to make sure performance review biases don’t factor in.

Written by Emre Ok

Emre is a content writer at Teamflect who aims to share fun and unique insight into the world of performance management.

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