What is Performance Bias and How Do You Spot It?

Earlier this week, we celebrated International Women’s Day. And this year, the focus is on #BreakTheBias. Because whether or not it’s done deliberately or unconsciously, bias is happening to women in the workplace. It hinders them from being hired, from being promoted; it even impacts them on their day-to-day experiences at work.

Maybe you’ve gone through bias in some way; either you’ve experienced it yourself, you know somebody who has, maybe you’ve questioned whether or not you’ve witnessed bias. But you thought, “Am I over-exaggerating? Am I seeing the truth, and if I am, do I say something? What do I do, do I go tell someone?” You’re not alone, so let’s continue this conversation. One of the areas is called performance bias, and this is where we make assumptions about men and women’s abilities.

We tend to underestimate women’s performance, and overestimate men’s performance.

You may have seen this when it comes time for performance reviews, or when there’s a committee, a group getting together to talk about potential promotions. Be on the lookout for patterns, where you see that the same theme, that same pattern, is being said about women versus not about men.

When you see these patterns, ask questions; ask for supporting evidence. You yourself might have your own supporting evidence to counteract what these assumptions are. It might be performance reviews from team members, or feedback that you received in gathering that information. As often as possible, question and provide data.

The more standardized performance metrics that we can use, the more often we can start to eliminate bias.

So as you are going through, thinking about assumptions around people’s abilities, whether or not that means you ask them to serve on a committee, take part in a particular project, or whether or not they are able to be promoted, question whether or not there is some bias, some assumptions there based on performance, and use standardized metrics and results as often as possible.

If you’re interested in continuing this conversation and going deeper, either about performance bias or additional types of bias, I am here for you. I’m going to post a link in the comments below, so you can book a call directly on my calendar.

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