January 7, 2020
When evaluating and providing feedback to employees from underrepresented backgrounds, how do you ensure you’re reviewing everyone fairly, especially when unfamiliarity could invite an extra layer of bias into the process?
Negative stereotypes tend to fill the gaps in our knowledge about other people—especially those from stigmatized backgrounds—even when we are not aware of it. As a result, performance reviews of those employees are likely to be more negative.
Some reports from people of color in the workplace show that bias can take the form of more stringent—albeit informal—performance reviews. For instance, people of color report that supervisors paid more attention to their mistakes than to those of majority-group colleagues, and cited arbitrary details like their tone and how they wear their hair as evidence of unprofessionalism.
On the other hand, negative stereotypes (like those regarding competence and ability), may lead an evaluator to conclude that the employee is unlikely to succeed, and therefore is not worth the time and attention required of a thorough review.
A soft performance review may seem at first to be a good thing for employees—no criticism of their work! But what it really means is that they miss out on insight into where they have room for growth. In turn, these employees miss out on opportunities to build their careers as valued employees and be fairly considered for the tougher, better assignments and advancement positions.
In addition, soft reviews send the message that the employee isn’t important enough or isn’t taken seriously enough to warrant a robust review, which can have a negative impact on an employee’s morale and performance.
When reviewing employees from marginalized groups, check for the tendency to fill in the blanks in your knowledge with negative stereotypes, especially given the common outcomes of high scrutiny and soft reviews. By self-correcting and helping your colleagues to do so as well, your employees will receive the kind of reviews that help them reach their full potential.
This post is part of a series addressed to HR and other hiring managers about integrating diversity competence into each step of the employment lifecycle, from recruitment and hiring, to creating an inclusive workplace, to evaluating and cultivating leaders who will take inclusive excellence at your enterprise to the next level.