What Is The False Attribution Bias? An Exceedingly Serious Employee Review Issue

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We have a tendency to attribute success or failure to individual effort and ability (at least in North America). So when someone does well, we give them credit, and when someone does less well, we suggest it's somehow their fault. While there is some truth in this, the reality is that performance is a function of both the individual and the system he or she works in. Often we misattribute success and failure and assume they are both under the complete control of the employee. If we do, we will never improve performance.

This is exceedingly important for both the company, managers and employees. So much of what is accomplished, and not accomplished in organizations is a result of multiple factors, many of them completely NOT under the control of individual employees.

For example, a raw material supplier is late on a shipment. As a result, the manufacturing employees make far fewer widgets, which require the raw material. The False Attribution Error would be operating if the employees were evaluated as less able, or less productive, even though the factors that cause lost productivity are not under their control.

That's why individual performance needs to be assessed in context, and considering many factors in the system within which the employee works.

 


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Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992 by consultant and book author, Robert Bacal. Robert's books on performance management and reviews have been published by McGraw-Hill. He is available for consultation, training and keynote speaking on performance and management at work.

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  • Performance management and appraisal MUST be a partnership between manager and employee where BOTH benefit.
  • Performance management can be the lever for improved employee engagement.
  • The review process is the LEAST important part of performance management
  • If managers aren't managing employee performance, why are they there?

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  • Casselman
  • Ontario
  • Canada, K0A 1M0