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Supervisor Bias Negatively Impacts Performance Reviews

As organizations across the globe enter performance review season, the annual review process is under unprecedented scrutiny. A new survey of employees by Syndio, the world’s leading workplace equity analytics platform, reveals that this traditional approach is often a source of anxiety and frustration for both employees and management. More seriously, they believe it is fraught with issues of supervisor bias and a lack of transparency.  

The survey’s key findings can be found below.  

  • Supervisor bias prevails in performance reviews. A quarter (25%) of survey respondents disclose that their performance reviews were negatively affected by their supervisor’s personal biases.  
  • Bias has a disproportionate impact on minority groups. Asian employees face the highest impact of supervisor bias, reporting a 54% higher likelihood of negative influence on their performance reviews compared to white employees. LGBTQ+ employees were also significantly affected, with a 35% higher likelihood of bias-related negative impacts.  
  • Employees and leadership alike crave more transparency around promotions. Nearly half (43%) of non-management employees believe their organizations lack transparency in promotion decisions. Surprisingly, 36% of respondents in management and leadership roles agree with this perception, indicating a shared concern among employees and decision-makers. 
  • Employers are stuck in status quo annual feedback circles, especially among enterprise corporations. Despite these concerns, 60% of companies continue to rely on the status quo annual performance review process, with enterprise organizations most likely to stick to one-time annual reviews (73%).  
  • More frequent check-ins may combat fear. Two-thirds of employees feel uncomfortable being proactive in expressing interest in advancement, fearing bias and unfair treatment when expressing interest in a promotion. In the survey, more frequent performance check-ins (two or more times per year) are associated with lower concerns about supervisor bias and enhanced clarity regarding advancement opportunities. Of those surveyed, 38% of companies have shifted to more frequent reviews, with technology companies leading the way at 52%.  

“These findings reinforce what we already know: the old playbook for anti-bias training in isolation does not work,” says Katie Bardaro, labor economist and chief customer officer at Syndio. “Leaders and managers are human beings, and bias creeps into their decision making. To better combat that bias, companies need to pair training with data analytics to better understand what’s driving and stopping people movement. Leaders need to use data to empower changes within their organizations, from promoting more diverse talent to rooting out managers who cannot overcome their biases. This is another moment for HR leaders to seize the technological changes coming to their functions to drive meaningful change they know will create more diverse and better performing companies.”  

As part of Syndio’s workplace equity platform, companies can use OppEQ to instantly analyze hiring, promotions, performance scores, and retention rates by gender, rate, and more to identify the root causes of opportunity and pay gaps – and create action plans for improvement.  

According to Syndio’s 2024 Workplace Equity Trends Report, organizations that analyze more moments in the employee lifecycle than average are 51% more likely to effectively build diverse teams at each level. Leveraging the right technology makes more frequent analyses across more categories realistic, rather than arduous.  

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