Managers in the US were rating employees higher. Is that fair?

Posted by Julie • March 25, 2014 (Last modified July 29, 2018) • 2 min read

A customer recently observed that in their organization, US-based managers rated employees higher (high rater bias) than counterpart managers in another location…let’s say, Asia.


What does this mean and what can you do if you discover a discrepancy in rating styles between your locations? It’s not uncommon!

Two ideas to address high rater bias

Idea #1: BARS. Remember BARS (Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales) from your PHR/SHPR training?  See things more clearly (particularly across cultures) with behaviorally-anchored rating scales. In other words, make sure the rating levels in your appraisal system describe desirable and undesirable behavior at each level.


It is possible to develop BARS for different jobs. For example, communication for a receptionist may require that he/she greet visitors in a friendly manner, and communication for a technical engineer might require the ability to adapt his/her style to a less-technical audience.


The BARS method will *help* solve the bias issue, but it takes some crafty wording and perhaps a team effort to determine the behaviorally anchored levels for each competency.


FYI: Some Appraisal systems include BARS by default, so this may be done already. It might simply take pointing out the descriptions to managers so they take the time to read the leveled descriptions.


2. Idea #2: Forced Distribution. Ask managers to rank employees using an evenly distributed bell curve. Rankings can be done and assessed for high/low bias prior to sharing the finalized appraisals with employees. This method allows managers to adjust ratings before finalizing an appraisal.


This method, however, may have results based on an arbitrary middle point. It’s possible that over time, the perceived middle point may shift for managers (therefore, it’s nice to have the BARS in place to help visualize an accurate middle point to be able to rate above/below the middle consistently.)


Good luck!

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