BIASED LEVELS OF PERFORMANCE

" The human mind must think with the aid of categories.  Once formed, categories are the basis for normal prejudgement.  We cannot possibly avoid the process.  Orderly living depends on it." (Allport, The Nature Of Prejudice, p.20,1954)
 

  When you begin to discuss biased levels of performance and  discrimination, the first thing that you must do is find the mechanism that makes it possibles to categorize people into high or low on performance scales.  This is what  will create in-groups and out-groups.  The mechanism that is most responsible for that in the workplace is Appraisal.  There are two methods of appraisal that can be used in the workplace, and they are Objective Measures and Subjective Measures.

    Objective measures are used to do things such as count weekly sales or even average keystrokes per hour depending on your job.  Subjective measures are more often what is the cause of discrimination and these subjective measures usually take the form of interviews.  These evaluations are used by all types of institutions, such as schools and businesses.  They are used to evaluate the performance of their employees and to measure how effective they are on the job and to allocate raises in pay or even to see if they need to fire the employee.

    There are many reasons why errors in subjective appraisal can take place and lead to discrimination, some of the reasons are as follows.

  1) Avoidance of use of the entire scale in an interview, meaning that the rater is either very lenient, very strict or creates a central tendency in their evaluations which will make the use of a ranking scale ineffective for use in appraisal of employees.  This means that the enitre evaluation process was for nothing because the results are not indicative of the kind of work that the employee actually does.  Therefore no conclusions can be made from the data collected.

  2) A Halo Effect may also occur which is when stereotypes held by the rater will affect ratings of others.  This is clearly shown in how attributions used by in-group members in evaluating out-group member's behaviors may encourage the perception that in-group's are more favorable than out-groups.  Also people will be more forgiving of in-group members negative behaviors, leading to discrimination.  An example would be that a work situation in which Jon is an employee that comes in late from time to time and is repremanded for this, but he also knows that Eric comes in late as well and is not repremanded.  It seems that Jon is being unfairly discriminated against and it could be something as simple as Eric coming from the same college as his supervisor, so his supervisor has put Eric in his in-group because he thinks that all people that are from his school must be good.  Jon would be put in the out-group because he went somewhere else for college so his supervisor does not have that bond with him.  This is what makes the supervisor feel that Eric can get away with things like that but that Jon cannot.

  3) Primacy / Recency effects may also play a part in discrimination in that with primacy you will only remember the first impression that this person made on you and not how well this person works regularly.  The recency effect is involved in discrimination in that you will only remember the last thing that is in your mind that had to do with this person.   Both of these effects will result in you getting a distorted image of this person as a worker because you do not get a full picture to look at when evaluating them.  You may have only seen a certain portion of their behaviors in the workplace.  You could have possibly seen them last when they were having a bad day because their child is sick or were angry about something so they were unfriendly and not working as well because other things that were more improtant to them were on their mind.  This is obviously not how a person would act everyday so it is too arbitrary to judge someone's overall performance by looking at them just a few times a year.

    Lastly an error can be made in your judgements of others due to personal prejudice, and prejudice is a set of attitudes which causes, supports or justifies discrimination of others.  Any one of these things can cause your evaluation of an employee to be lower than it should be.  If you were prejudiced toward black people you would judge black people lower than whites and if you were prejudiced toward fat people you would judge them lower than skinny people.  These errors in subjective appraisal can lead to further problems in that poor evaluations can lead to a loss of motivation that the worker has.  This can lead to a lack of praise from superiors for a job well done which can cause performance to suffer.  Then this will only justify the bad evaluations and lead to further discrimination from others in the workplace.  Appraisal, it seems, is both inevitable and universal, people will tend to judge the work performance of others, naturally, informally and arbitrarily.

    Finally to illustrate this point more clearly, in most workplaces your evaluations are the basis for your income justification and this means that the lower your evaluations are, the lower your salary will be and the longer it will be until you are promoted.  It would be very difficult to move up in your field if your peers dont't feel that you do as good or better work than they do.  So if your low evaluations are due to discrimination and not due to your own incompetency action must be taken to keep it from happening again. 

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This tutorial was produced for Psy 324, Advanced Social Psychology, Spring 2000 at Miami University.  All graphics are from the public domain, used with permission, or were created by the authors.  Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA).   Last revised: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 23:55:31. This document has been accessed 1 times since 1 May 2000. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman