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De-Bias Performance Management

Learn how to minimize the effect of unconscious bias in your performance management process.

Brief Summary

Despite their best intent, many organizations struggle to build fair performance management processes that recognize and advance talent from various demographic segments  proportionately to their representation within different departments or levels. Without intentionality, unconcsious bias in systems, processes, and people decisions can show up in patterns that favor employees similar to the organization’s dominant leadership demographic profiles.


Research shows that white men tend to be judged on their potential while “prove-it-again groups'' (women, people of color, individuals with disabilities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, older employees, and first-generation professionals) are judged (or scrutinized) on their performance. A study of performance evaluations in tech also found that 66% of women’s performance reviews contained at least one negative personality criticism (“You come off as abrasive”) whereas only 1% of men’s reviews did. Data proves that unconscious bias still has huge impact on intentionally objective performance management.


Assess and build performance management processes that have equitable outcomes by addressing these questions:

  • Are the distribution of scores different for different demographic groups?
  • To what degree does your assessment process rely on subjective evidence?
  • Do your criteria consider both the what (factors connected to current business outcomes) and the how (inclusive competencies and behaviors)?
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Proposed Actions

Valued Guidance

Implementation Plan

Foundational Actions

  • Don’t ask employees to self-rate; use objective criteria (360 feedback) as input; analyze demographic patterns.
  • Train managers to provide constructive feedback to all employees.
  • Ensure a leadership framework with clear descriptions of expected behaviors and an evidence-based assessment.
  • Analyze results of annual review distribution for demographic bias and challenge if statistical anomalies surface.

Growing Actions

  • Review behavioral descriptions of individual employees for bias (e.g., choice of words, stereotype references, subjective statements).
  • Review competences for bias; get clarity on what behaviors are actually rewarded and why; identify any unintended consequences.
  • Reward people based on ‘how’ they deliver as well as ‘what’ they deliver.
  • Ensure processes to support employees whose behaviors do not meet standards and be clear on the consequences (e.g., exit, move out of leadership) for those that don’t improve.

Leading Actions

  • All actions to mitigate and de-bias performance management should be embedded in the leadership framework and people processes.
  • Provide leadership training for managers at all levels on fair, objective appraisal (e.g. unconscious bias, tough conversations, constructive feedback, proactive support).
  • Distinguish the tough but fair leaders from biased and weak leaders; demonstrate willingness to remove leaders not in alignment.

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Download the PDF version of this DEI Initiative

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