In an interview with Trier Bryant, discussing her book Just Work, Kim Scott talks about the pitfalls of biases in offices. When bias and prejudice seep into how employers recruit for organizational roles, it could lead to broken teams and low cooperation. In the long-term, this can cause poor organizational outcomes, despite having a highly skilled team.
Much of our communication and decisions are based on perceptions, which can be easily colored by our own biases. Given the prevalence of hybrid workplaces nowadays, let’s see how some of these biases might affect our interactions with our remote and in-office team members, especially during appraisals.
Unboxing common workplace biases
- Manager Mark sees Aimee pop into the office at 10 AM daily. He misses noticing that Sam, another team member, logs in promptly at the same time every day – but from home. During appraisals, Aimee is singularly lauded for her punctuality.
This is an example of proximity bias and, according to one research, 64% of managers are prone to this.
- Patrick, one of the few autonomous and remote workers in his team, loves to participate in brainstorming sessions but is often ignored during hybrid meetings. His manager subconsciously feels that if Patrick really wanted to contribute, he would take the effort to come to the office along with his colleagues.
This is an example of halo/horn effect bias, wherein a single act or behavior overshadows other negative or positive traits.
- Rebecca and James are in-office employees – extroverted and social, but prone to distractions, which affect their TAT for deliverables. Andrea is a high-performing, self-organizing, remote employee, hitting her targets on time. During appraisals, they all receive similar scores.
This is an example of leniency bias, wherein we give favorable ratings to individuals where there is plenty of room for improvement.
Weeding out biases
Employees and managers can begin with understanding and analyzing how they experience cognitive biases. Managers may even look inward: they could proactively review their evaluation structures and find ways to fairly and objectively appraise remote and in-person workers. For example, daily attendance may be a KPI for in-person workers. For remote workers, on the other hand, the KPI could be reframed into ‘punctuality for online meetings’, which can hold weight within their appraisals.
Collaborating with the team to develop innovative appraisal toolkits is a great starting point. For one, it gives managers a better picture of new ways in which employees are learning and performing. It also shows employees that their leaders are keen on learning and growing, and improving their own workplace skills.
Making appraisals inclusive and fair to all workers
Here are some tips to get started:
- Tap into research data – either internal or from expert sources – to come up with the most effective and fruitful performance evaluation methods for your team. Review this model periodically, as continuous testing only serves to refine the appraisal process.
- Involve everyone and get 360-degree feedback. Managers could even consider enabling employees to grade themselves, their peers, and their managers. This can be a useful way to discover innovative and fun rating mechanisms.
- Learn more about one’s own biases through This can help sensitize managers and colleagues to their own biases and spur better ways of collaborating, hiring, and evaluating performances.
It isn’t hard to imagine that soon, employees may choose companies based on their policies and processes around hybrid work models. Some of the best workplaces may be where managers nurture creative, safe, and productive workplaces for remote as well as in-office careers.