Could Your Personal Gender Bias Be Playing A Role In How You Evaluate People On Your IT Team?

Is it possible that your bias could impact how you evaluate your team?
Is it possible that your bias could impact how you evaluate your team?
Image Credit:
Chris JL

If I asked you if you had any bias, I’m pretty sure that you’d think for a moment and then say that no, to the best of your knowledge you are basically an unbiased person. This is good news, but unfortunately you are probably incorrect. It turns out that despite all of our IT manager skills we all have some bias in us and it seems to show up when we are conducting our annual evaluation of our IT team. Is there anything that we can do about this?

Say Hello To Bias

So what’s up with this bias stuff? Don’t we all try to be nice people most of the time? Researchers have been taking a close look at how we provide feedback to the people who work on our IT team and what they’ve discovered is that we have been evaluating men and women differently. As you may well imagine, this is not good news.

What the research is showing is that we have a tenancy to critique our female team members for coming on too strong in the workplace and we are far too likely to attribute their accomplishments to being the result of the team, rather than their own actions. Doesn’t sound very fair does it? None of our IT manager training has prepared us to deal with this situation. What makes this even worse is the fact that it does not matter if the IT manager is male or female – we all show the same tendencies.

So now we need to deal with the big question: why are we being harder on the women that we evaluate than the men? Once again, the researchers think that they have the answers for us. The reason that we are not giving women enough credit for their accomplishments is because of our unconscious bias. These are our hidden beliefs about women’s capabilities that can influence the important workplace decisions that we make about them. These beliefs are why all too often women may be shunted into support roles rather than leadership roles where they could show their true skills.

What You Can Do About Your Bias

In all honesty, researchers don’t fully understand why we show such bias in our evaluation of our IT team members. Therefore, they don’t have a sure-fire way for us to prevent us from being bias. They do believe that one of the reasons is that companies encourage IT managers to use vague criteria instead of specific measures to evaluate team member performance.

Many companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Google are trying to find ways to make their staff aware of their unconscious bias via training programs. At some firms, prior to an IT manager writing up evaluations of team members the HR team will send out a one-page email to remind them about gender bias and to list out potentially loaded phrases that they should stay away from.

What the researchers have discovered is that when IT managers are reviewing their team, women are 2.5 times as likely to get feedback on their aggressive behavior as men are. The studies have also shown that we describe women as being “helpful”, “collaborative”, and “supportive” twice as often as men are. Women’s reviews also have twice as many references to team accomplishments as men’s do. Clearly, if we’re not careful we will show a bias when we are evaluating our IT members.

What All Of This Means For You

As an IT manager, it is your responsibility to evaluate the performance of your IT team members each year. In order to make sure that you provide the best guidance to your team, you’d like to provide them with feedback that they can use in order to improve their performance. However, researchers have taken a look at how we do our evaluations and what they’ve discovered is that we have a lot of bias in how we do these things..

The bias shows up in our written evaluation of the people who work for us. An IT manager has the responsibility to provide feedback to everyone who reports to them. When we create this feedback, researchers have shown us that we are 2.5 times as likely to admonish our female staff for aggressive behavior. We are also twice as likely to assume that accomplishments by our female staff are due to teams instead of individuals. The solution to this problem seems to be to make sure that we are reminded that we can be bias before we start to create our evaluations.

I don’t think that any of us want to evaluate our IT team members differently based on their gender. It appears that if we’re not careful, we will accidentally do this. In order to prevent this from happening we need to create a reminder for ourselves before we start to do evaluations so that we’ll realize that we have a bias and we’ll actively work to counter it so that we can get back to doing some IT team building.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What do you think would be the best way to remind yourself that you may have a gender bias before you start to do evaluations?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you are at the office, how do you interact with people? I suspect that in your office there are smart people, dumb people, nice people, and not so nice people. You probably grin and bear it – you try to treat everyone the same way and you try to be nice to everyone. What if you didn’t have to do this? At some companies, a radical way of how people interact is being tried out: honesty.