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Performance feedback serves as a crucial component of the employee experience, influencing motivation, engagement, and professional development. It plays a central role in shaping an individual’s career progression within an organization, offering insights into their performance, strengths, and areas for improvement. It can also be a check-the-box exercise using “template” feedback approaches. Either way, research shows biased or inadequate feedback has the potential to demotivate and disengage employees, leading to attrition.

Language bias in performance feedback reveals notable disparities:

  • Women are twice as likely to be labeled as helpful compared to men.
  • Hispanic individuals are twice as likely to be characterized as passionate compared to white individuals.
  • White individuals are twice as likely to be deemed easy to work with compared to Asian individuals.

This bias in language is evident in both performance evaluations and one-on-one meetings between managers and team members. While often unintentional and lacking malicious intent, these practices significantly impact and hinder company diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. To mitigate these risks, organizations should prioritize fair and unbiased performance evaluation processes, offer training to managers on delivering constructive feedback, and establish transparent criteria for assessing employee performance. Regularly reviewing and refining performance management practices contributes to cultivating a healthier and more equitable workplace. For guidance on how to create a meaningful training program that educates managers on performance evaluations, see our checklist Planning DEI Training.

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The Editor

Ngozi Okeh is an experienced leader with a history of driving efforts to conceptualize, define, assess and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as strategic business processes. Ngozi is currently the Director of DEI at a leading marketing technology company where she develops and executes enterprise-wide DEI initiatives through rigorous strategic planning efforts, community partnerships, leadership collaboration, strategy evaluation, and careful management of communication and buy-in as well as policies and procedures.  Previously, she worked at an independent mortgage bank, where… View Profile