As People Managers it is important to stop, think and challenge ourselves on a regular basis about our preconceived opinions about people, especially as we prepare for performance management discussions. If we do not, we run the risk of making adverse judgments and/or being influenced by our ‘opinions’ before we examine the facts of someone’s performance.
Five psychological factors that every people manager should consider include:
1. Being overly influenced by first impressions, be they either the ‘Halo effect’ where initial favourable impressions lead to an on-going favourable light on anything that person does, or the ‘Devil effect’ where the opposite is true and a negative impression leads to a more negative perception of everything they do. As managers we need to be careful that our thinking is more about challenging our impressions than attempting to confirm our initial impressions.
2. Allowing for natural leniency tendencies, wherein we tend to inflate and be favourable towards others’ performance while also looking to proactively avoid confrontation.
3. Separating emotional reactions from an objective assessment of performance, which is harder done than said, but core to a manager’s role is recognising our emotionally based reactions from the objective facts of a situation.
4. Succumbing to ‘Similar to Me’ tolerances, we tend to give higher ratings to people of similar style / behaviour to ourselves because we can relate to them and their motivators. We rate ourselves, so we rate them of course!
5. Crediting effort levels over performance results, so that evaluation is unduly influenced by perceived causes of performance. Research suggests that managers typically give higher ratings to those whom they perceive as putting in more effort, even if someone else was to receive the same end result but with less effort …but is this truly fair?
Being aware of these psychological factors can help reduce their influence, so as a prompt remember to:
Test your views regularly via objective observations
Work hard at first forming a positive impression of someone …and then try to observe their on-going performance as if for the first time
And finally, make more and more distinctions between people, not fewer. This makes it difficult to attach labels and stereotypes to others and frees the mind toward more objective views and reasoning.