Performance evaluation of employees is a routine procedure in any organization. Team leads and managers use this process to determine how well their employees performed in each period. The employees who meet goals that benefit the organization in the employer’s eyes are generally promoted to higher positions of responsibility or given a salary raise.
Whenever you make judgments, such as evaluating others’ performance, biases are likely to happen. No matter how objective you try to be, unconscious biases always stem from past experiences and beliefs. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the remote work culture has grown significantly since last year. This has made it further difficult to evaluate the performance of employees objectively.
8 Biases That Can Affect Remote Team’s Performance Evaluation
Since you do not meet remote employees in person, you may not have a clear view of their work and challenges. At times, this might cause a lack of trust. To decide fairly, you need to eliminate the following biases during the remote team’s performance evaluation.
- Similarity Bias
We, as humans, often tend to be biased towards someone who resembles us or shares similar traits. For instance, bosses may give higher ratings to someone who has a similar pattern of remote work. If you prefer working till late nights, while your team member starts early, biases are bound to happen.
If someone is not following your work style, it doesn’t mean that they are an underperformer. You need to evaluate their performance purely based on the quality and quantity of their tasks.
- Recency Vias
This type of bias happens when you emphasize the recent tasks of an employee rather than evaluating the overall performance over a year. An employee might perform well in a quarter and lag somehow in the next quarter. Reasons can be personal or professional, which can be addressed through regular communication with your remote employees.
If, as a manager, you start keeping track of every remote employee’s performance over a period, the recency bias can be avoided successfully.
- Leniency Bias
As a manager, you might rate your team members higher, assuming that this may boost their performance. In some cases, managers rate their team higher to show that how well they are performing together. This type of leniency bias can often discourage your team and create an impression that mediocrity is acceptable.
- Distance Bias
This bias results from the tendency to prefer people or things within our sight or closer to us. Your evaluation of an in-office employee would differ from that of an employee located far away. Despite the remote workers doing their job well, they would be at a disadvantage when managers select suitable candidates for promotion or a monetary raise.
In another case, you might rate a remote employee with whom you worked closely together over a project better than other remote workers. However, it would help if you kept in mind that even though you did not meet your remote employees in person, you connected virtually with them often for work.
- Criticism Bias
As individuals work remotely, bosses fear that giving higher ratings will decrease their productivity. Thinking that remote hires could be distracted and lower ratings will boost their efforts to deliver more is not true.
There are areas of improvement for anyone working in an organization. But your unfair criticism can be harsh on the employee. When remote employees do not get due credit for their hard work, it demotivates them. This will instead have a negative impact on their performance.
- Primacy Bias
This bias may develop based on previous experience with your employees. If the employees worked in office premises before shifting to working remotely, you already know their work style.
But old experience should not be the basis for the present rating. Just because someone was less productive in the office, it does not mean that the individual cannot improve while working from home. Also, if someone performed well in the office, it cannot be concluded that they will not be distracted at home.
The overall idea is that every individual is different. Some may perform well remotely, while others may take time to adapt. So, evaluation should be based only on the performance during remote work.
- Contrast Bias
Contrast bias occurs when an employer compares the performance of one individual with another rather than abiding by the set performance standard.
The idea of performance evaluation is not to compare an individual’s performance to that of others. The evaluation should be solely based on how well an individual did his work and aligned the goals with the standards set by the company.
Contrast bias often happens in the case of remote employees whose performance is compared with in-house employees. Just because someone is not commuting to work every day doesn’t mean his/her commitment towards work is less.
- Central Tendency Bias
In this bias, employers try to be not too harsh or too lenient. They are reluctant to give an extreme rating to anyone. When evaluating remote workers, they feel that they do not know the individual well enough. So, instead of doing a fair evaluation, the bosses will settle somewhere in between while rating most key parameters.
This is detrimental to the growth of employees. They will not know what to do next. If you see that an employee was excellent at their job, do not hesitate to give them a good rating and assign deliverables of higher importance later. If someone was not up to the mark, let them know and find ways like training them in areas facing challenges.
Cognitive Biases That Can Affect Your Remote Teams’ Performance
These were the biases that often affect the behavior of bosses during the performance evaluation of remote teams. Certain cognitive biases might affect the performance of your remote teams and impact their productivity. Let’s read about them.
- The Bandwagon Effect
This tends to agree with certain ideas just because every other person in the team believes the same. No one wants to share their opinion and break the status quo.
However, bosses need to encourage their remote employees to share their views and feedback and appreciate them for being vocal during virtual meetings.
- The Pygmalion Effect
The Pygmalion Effect is based on the principle that the other person is likely to step up if you expect more from someone. Bosses can benefit from this effect by setting achievable performance standards for every team member and encourage them to perform up to their potential.
- The Singularity Effect
If you are arranging regular brainstorming sessions and lunch outings with your in-office employees, your remote teams are likely to feel left out. This doesn’t mean that you should not interact with your in-office team.
However, it is important to arrange virtual activities a few times a week where all your employees can participate and feel involved.
- Hostile Attribution Bias
An employee who is working remotely might create an assumption about your expectations as a supervisor based on your emails. For instance, just an OK from your side means that you are not convinced of the idea.
To overcome this bias, you should make it a practice to connect with your remote employees over a call every day to discuss their tasks and upcoming assignments. This will help in setting the right expectation.
- Law of the Instrument
Law of the Instrument says that “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
For instance, communicating everything with your remote teams over email. As a result, everyone feels trapped in long email threads. Instead, connect with them via phone calls, video calls, and personalized communication apps. The personalized approach will encourage remote teams to perform beyond your expectations.
Bosses are humans at the end of the day. They cannot get rid of their biases entirely, especially when they do not even realize they exist. Hence, a better idea is to use an employee performance system. It can track the performance of employees consistently and measurably. The system automatically evaluates employees based on the data it receives without any preconceived notions.
This reduces the workload of employers and ensures that no employee feels that they were treated unfairly. For onsite employees, too, this is a good option. There is no resentment that might otherwise exist due to a biased evaluation.
In the long run, this helps in creating a healthy relationship between employees and employers. There are additional benefits of efficient teamwork and higher retention rates. No one can claim that their senior was biased due to a past disagreement or that another employee was favored over them.