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5 Review Bias and How to Avoid Them

Preparation is essential before a feedback session. To begin with, there is the physical preparation of evaluation papers and job descriptions to complete. In addition, there is mental preparation to consider. In order to foster constructive feedback, you must eliminate the Review Biases.

It may be a communication 101 rule to go into every conversation with an open mind and no preconceived notions, but that's not always how it works in practice. This is not to say that anyone is biased on purpose. Rather it is very human nature to learn patterns and save them in their memory. For an effective feedback culture, it is essential to break free of those biases in order to have constructive feedback and a successful work relationship.

Why feedback is important

According to kununu engage, 3 out of every 4 employees want input from their managers, while only 25% actually get it. That is a gap that needs to be closed. Especially with growing insecurities on the job market, employees might feel pushed into new employment if they don’t get the treatment they expect from you. 

Giving feedback to your employees is a chance to evaluate the progress so far, make adaptions where needed, and let your employees know whether they are on a good track. They may put in extra hours to get your attention, sacrificing their family in the process. Putting their efforts in the wrong direction would be the worst-case situation. It's only a matter of time before you lose interest in your job.

The Beginner´s Mind

In our daily work, we are confronted with a lot of tasks and issues we have seen before, one way or the other. Thus, we see ourselves as experts in our field. While this approach is not wrong per se, it has its limitations, because thinking out of the box becomes harder. A mindset that is implemented from Zen Buddhism into modern leadership is called „Beginner’s Mind“. Basically, under this attitude, you let go of any knowledge you've accumulated over the years and open yourself to a beginner's perspective, which means you're ready to learn and lack prejudices.

Or, to put it in Zen master terms: “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few.” ― Shunryu Suzuki 

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5 Review Biases that will Sabotage Your Feedback Culture

1. Halo effect and horn effect: In order for you to be well prepared for your next feedback talk, we have summed up common cognitive biases that occur in work environments.

It´s the inclination we have to perceive someone who has given a positive impression in one area, as an overall good person/positive in other areas. This happens often in fast-growing startups and this bias could affect your ability to view an employee impartially if you’ve only had favorable experiences with them. That is to say, this effect might make it hard to recognize when they have done something wrong, because, in your mind they’re “perfect”. 

The horn effect is the inverse. When someone gives a bad first impression in one area and now you expect only negative results from that person.

2. The ‘Similar-to-Me Bias’

It refers to the tendency to connect and feel partial towards people that have qualities or beliefs similar to your own. This bias has an impact on every aspect of a role including, hiring, promotions, and even feedback and performance reviews. Managers influenced by this bias might not recognize the achievements of employees simply because they are ‘different.’

3. Idiosyncratic Rater Bias 

It's a way for us to compare how trustworthy or trustworthy other people are. Often, it's a mirror of our own personality rather than that of the other person. In the workplace, idiosyncratic bias occurs when a feedback giver focuses on their own skills rather than the receiver's. As a result, you may end up giving a person a lot of negative criticism.

4. Confirmation Bias 

It´s the psychological tendency to seek out and pinpoint the information that confirms your current opinion or view on something. This bias can make it difficult to drop judgment on someone and give them room to grow. During a feedback meeting, it’s critical to actively listen in order to not hear only what you want to hear.

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5. The Bias Blind Spot 

It basically means that you are well aware of your Counterparts Review Biases but not of your own. Like with many things in life, change comes from acknowledgment. If you think like everyone in the world is bias but you, that will not get you very far.

How can you avoid Review Biases in a Feedback Session?

By being aware of the 5 cognitive biases discussed above you are on a good way to avoid them. Before any feedback  take a moment to ask yourself the following questions:  

  • Do I have positive/negative opinions about this person?

  • Do I identify with the person in a way, that I don’t with others?

  • What are their strengths and skill-sets objectively speaking?

  • Are there any other biases that might affect my ability to deliver reliable feedback?

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Taking the time to reflect on the possible Cognitive Review Biases and effects that might arise will help you to give better feedback to your colleagues, employees, and even your manager. Practicing self-awareness, keeping a beginner’s mind, and actively listening during each feedback talk are essentials to creating a positive feedback culture.    

Have any other tips to help create the culture of feedback? Or did you already read our Blog Post about the OKRs?

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