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Role of Bias in the Employee Evaluation Decision Making Process

Are assessment tools immune to bias? Do assessors use their personal judgment to assess people? To understand assessment, we first need to examine the word bias.

The dictionary meaning of bias or prejudice is 'adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts'. How do people develop bias? Bias is a result of experiential learning. Sometimes bias acts on a subconscious level, while at other times bias is quite direct.

Every person undergoes mental and psychological development from the time of birth. Factors like the social background, the economic status, the value system, affect the psychological makeup on each person. Thus a person develops a unique set of beliefs, preferences, attitudes, which forms the subconscious layer. Then again, the experiential learning that a person undergoes in the process of life shapes individual beliefs and attitudes. All these factors play an important role in creating bias.

When we make judgments without knowledge of facts, we utilize our subconscious resources to understand a phenomenon. We are influenced by our social conditioning, life's experiences, and deep-rooted value systems. Such judgment is an outcome of past experience. However, bias also develops through limited exposure. For instance, a person of a conservative background with limited exposure would have rigid value systems. Likewise, a person with religious background would find it difficult to accept views that deny the existence of God.

The problem with bias is that it is not a standardized process for judgment. Each individual has a unique set of biases. In evaluation of employees, it is difficult and unreasonable to employ everybody's bias. Bias deviates from logic or common sense and hence inexplicable. When a person displays positive or negative bias towards others, he is usually not in a position to explain this bias. Very often, managers deny the role of bias in their judgment. In fact, in several job interviews, employees face 'persona bias' from employers who are influenced by personal attributes.

Bias is often described as 'gut feeling' by some managers. It is interesting to note that most successful managers often employ gut feeling to make strategic decisions. There is no explanation that can suitably explain the logic behind 'gut feeling'. This sort of intuitive reasoning comes out of years of experience in the same field. In such cases, bias can work like a miracle.

While we cannot deny the power of bias in decision making process, it is important to work with facts and knowledge. Employee evaluation must also be based on similar lines. Apply logic to information and arrive at a thought-out decision. Evaluate good and bad decisions to guide you in future decision making process. Evaluate employees on a common platform but use comparative measures to filter them. Fairness in evaluation results in fair judgment and healthy decision making.

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