Gender divide in performance ratings

Recent research shows men and women rating performance differently – showing a need for more objective performance evaluation

Major differences in the ways in which men and women judge performances at work reveal a systematic gender bias which highlights the need for objective performance measures, according to new research.

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Women tend to be more critical of their own performance than men and are more likely to be generous when it comes to rating that of others.

The findings are from an analysis by Psychological Consultancy Limited of data from more than 4,000 workers involved in 360-degree appraisals – with individuals rated for potential, rating their own performance and receiving ratings from clients and colleagues.

The results were presented to delegates on the opening day of the Division of Occupational Psychology’s annual conference, organised by the British Psychological Society, on Wednesday.

They reveal that women are twice as likely as men to sell themselves short when it comes to rating their performance at work, rating themselves lower than the ratings given them by others in 10 out of 24 competencies. In contrast, men rate themselves lower than the ratings from others in just five out of 24 competencies.

When it comes to assessing the work of colleagues and others, female workers tend to give more positive performance ratings – giving higher ratings than males for 20 of the 24 competencies measured when rating others.

The performance of men at work is rated more or less equally by males and females – while the performance of women is rated lower by males than by females.

Women rated other women significantly higher than men on project management, developing others, interpersonal skills and planning & organising. 

Men rated women significantly lower on leadership potential, persuasive communication, customer focus and being creative.

However, potential scores based on personality metrics showed no significant differences – with men and women equally competent in all areas, according to the research.

Geoff Trickey, managing director, Psychological Consultancy Ltd, said: “Our results suggest there is systematic bias in the way men and women rate their colleagues’ performance. While women tend to give more favourable ratings to both genders, they are particularly favourable towards other women. Men, in general, tend to be harsher critics.”

While 360 degree assessments help significantly reduce bias in employee performance appraisals by asking specific, structured questions, they are “not a silver bullet.”

Mr Trickey added: “To make appraisals as fair as possible, organisations should be aware of rater gender and consider asking an equal balance of men and women to rate performance using a 360 tool. Gathering hard performance measures such as sales data or client satisfaction scores adds even more weight to the process and helps to create a more level playing field.”


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