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Challenges of a Performance Appraisal

Challenges of a Performance Appraisal
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One of the reasons performance appraisals are so difficult and challenging is because they’re fraught with cognitive biases on both sides, the appraiser and the appraisee. And the purpose of this conversation is to introduce some of these biases and understand how to overcome them. So we’ll talk about three key cognitive biases. The fundamental attribution error, the illusion of transparency, and the self-fulfilling prophecy. The fundamental attribution error helps us understand the asymmetry, and how we attribute successes and failures, for ourselves versus others. When I think of myself any my successes, I tend to make predominantly internal attributions. I did well because I’m capable, I’m skilled, I’m motivated, I’m hardworking. But when I fail, I more likely to make external attributions.
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I didn’t have the right boss. My teammates sucked. I didn’t have the right support from the organization, the right resources from the organization. What happens is this attribution flips when we think of others. When I think of others, their successes, they have a great boss. They have a great team. They had all the support they needed from the organization. When they fail, it’s all them. They’re lazy. They’re incompetent. Just think of how much asymmetry and perception the fundamental attribution error creates. When you’re just approaching a performance appraisal.
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In this case, awareness of the attribution error helps greatly, when you approach a performance conversation. In the second course we’ll also talk about ways to systematically collect objective data to make sure that you infuse, More objectivity into performance appraisal conversation.
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Now, the second bias that is very prevalent in performance appraisals, is so called illusion of transparency. What that means is that we believe we’re more transparent than we’re really are. So let me give you an example. One of the wonderful illustrations of this bias was done by Elizabeth Newton in her doctoral dissertation when she was still at Stanford. She designed an experiment where she asked a group of people to tap out a familiar tune. Such as a song, Happy Birthday to You, or an american anthem, and the second group of participants was supposed to guess that song. Now when she asked the tappers as to how many listeners, what percentage of the listeners, would actually guess the song correctly.
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They said about 50%. In reality, less than 2.5% guess the song correctly. And that’s a great example of illusion of transparency. Sometimes also referred to as the curse of knowledge. Were as a tapper, I hear the song in my head. I hear the lyrics. I hear the music, and it is very difficult for me to envision the mindset of the audience. That doesn’t hear that music, that doesn’t hear the lyrics. We find this problem quite often when experts communicate expert knowledge to a non-expert audience. There’s often a massive comprehension gap, simply because the experts cannot always envision and embrace mindset of the non-expert audience.
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In performance appraisals, I may believe that the goals, the expectations, the feedback I communicate you is abundantly clear. But you walk away from this discussion guessing as to what exactly I meant.
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In this video, count the number of times Miranda engages in the illusion of transparency. To give you some context, Miranda is one of the movers and shakers in the fashion industry and she just hired Andy as her assistant. Andy is an aspiring journalist and knows very little about the fashion industry. Take a look. » That’s not what I asked you. I couldn’t have been clearer. There you are, Emily, how many times do I have to scream your name? » Actually it’s Andy.
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My name is Andy, Andrea, but everybody calls me Andy. » [LAUGH] I need 10 or 15 skirts from Calvin Klein. » Okay, what kind of skirts do you » Please bore someone else with your questions. And make sure we have Pier 59 at 8 AM tomorrow and remind Jocelyn I need to see a few of those Satchels that Marc is doing in the Pony. And then tell Simone that I’ll take Jackie if Maggie isn’t available. Did Demarchelier confirm? » The Demarchelier? » Demarchelier, did he, get him on the phone. » Okay. And Emily. » Yes?
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That’s all. It’s just the cavalier disregard. » You can see there are multiple examples of illusion of transparency in this short segment. Miranda believes that Andy is supposed to know what skirt she is asking for. That Andy is suppose to know the names of the famous fashion photographers, such as Demarchelier. And she believes that her long stares are sufficient to communicate to Andy that her dress style and her shoes are not acceptable for someone working in the fashion industry.
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So again, we need to recognize that a lot of us fall prey to this illusion of transparency bias. And when you communicate feedback, goals, expectations, it’s really important to understand that people are on the same page. One of the most effective ways to do so, is continuously ask questions, to make sure that people understand what you’re saying. It’s also a very good idea to ask people to restate back to you what you just told them, especially when it comes to critical goals and expectations. And the final challenge in performance appraisal I would like for us to talk about It’s called the self-fulfilling prophecy.
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It was first discovered by Rosenthal and Jacobson, who went into schools, approached teachers, and said, these 20% of students, based on our tests, show unusual potential for academic and intellectual growth.
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They give the names of those students to the teachers. Now, at the end of the year, the students labeled as intelligent registered a statistically significant gains in their IQ, much more so than the other students in the class. Now, what’s the catch? The catch is that these students who were labeled as intelligent were chosen at random. They were not at all different from the rest of the class. And the idea here is that our expectations can become self fulfilling. If I believe you are capable, you’re skilled, I’m much more likely to trust you with developmental opportunities. To make external attributions when you fail.
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To forgive your transgressions and much more likely to devote more energy, time attention to train and develop you. The opposite is true if I don’t believe you’re capable, I’m less likely to trust you with developmental opportunities, and I’m certainly less likely to spend time and energy on you, in terms of your future development.
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Now, this effect was subsequently replicated in a variety of professional settings with airmen, pressers, welders, mechanics, and so on, where people were randomly assigned to this high aptitude group. Who was in this high aptitude group was very well known to the supervisors. And at the end of the training sessions, the high aptitude pressers, welders, mechanics, airmen rated considerably higher in terms of objective performance scores. They received high ratings from their supervisors and even their peers. They were less likely to leave the organization. I really like this quote from a famous american 19th century poet and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. He said treat a man as he is, he will remain so.
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Treat a man the way he can be and ought to be, he will become as he can be and should be.
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Approach people with an open mind. Focus on their strengths and unique skills, develop those skills. By the same token, reserve your negative judgement and negative evaluation, especially early on when you’re just beginning to work with someone. This is because in those circumstances your judgement is particularly likely to be erroneous, you don’t have enough data points to reach a valid conclusion. Always keep in mind that your expectations of others can become self-fulfilling.
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