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Language bias in performance feedback

Gender, age and racial bias in performance feedback

There are strong patterns of inequity in job performance feedback. Groups of people who are most underrepresented in business report receiving lower quality feedback, according to a survey by recruiting and performance management consultancy Textio

“Only 2% of the men received explicitly negative feedback compared to 76% of the women. This is particularly striking in light of the fact that all participants in the study were high performers”, the company writes in report “Language bias in performance feedback”. 

The survey comprised data analysis of performance reviews written for over 25,000 people.

“Consistent patterns of inequity show up by gender, race and age, and effects can compound for people from multiple underrepresented groups.”

Both men and women received feedback about the quality of their work. However, the women were also more likely to receive feedback about their personality. Language like abrasive, difficult, friendly, and helpful showed up in the majority of women’s reviews, but in very few of the men’s.

Read Also:  Feedback bias blocking promotion of women and other underrepresented

Key findings:

  • Compared to men, women are 7x more likely to report being described as “opinionated” and 11x more likely to report being described as “abrasive”.
  • Men are 3x more likely to report being described as “confident,” and 3.7x more likely to report being described as “ambitious”.
  • Women receive 22% more feedback about their personality than men do.
  • Women also receive 30% more exaggerated feedback than men.
  • Compared to younger white men, women over 40 receive more than 4x the amount of feedback that’s not actionable.
  • People under 40 report being described as “ambitious” 2.5x as often as people who are 40 and older.
  • People over 40 are far more likely to be called “responsible” and “unselfish” than younger workers.
  • Black men receive ⅓ less feedback than white women on average, as measured by word count.
  • Black women receive nearly 9x as much feedback that’s not actionable compared to white men under 40.
  • White men under 40 get the word “brilliant” in performance feedback 8.7x more than women over 40.

This matters because people with access to actionable feedback grow faster, earn more, and have more opportunities for leadership, writes Kieran Snyder, CEO and Co-Founder of Textio.

Read Also:  World Economic Forum guide to improve diversity

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