26 Nov

Proximity bias, an often-overlooked factor in the workplace, can significantly influence performance reviews, particularly in organizations that rely on performance ratings. This bias refers to the tendency to favor employees who are physically closer or more present in the same environment as their supervisors, often overshadowing the actual performance of remote or less visible employees. Learn more about proximity bias, also known in the social science world as propinquity. 

In the hybrid and remote work era, proximity bias has gained more attention, posing a unique challenge in ensuring fair and equitable performance evaluations. Employees who work remotely or have less face-to-face interaction with their managers may be inadvertently underrated compared to their on-site counterparts. This discrepancy arises because managers may have more opportunities to observe and interact with physically present employees, leading to a better understanding of their work and contributions. 

The implications of proximity bias are significant. It can lead to a skewed perception of an employee's performance, affecting career progression, morale, and overall job satisfaction. This bias can also impact the organization's ability to retain top talent, especially those who prefer or require flexible working arrangements. 

Organizations need to adopt a structured and transparent review process to combat proximity bias. This process should include standardized criteria for evaluating performance, ensuring assessments are based on measurable outcomes and achievements rather than visibility or presence. Regular calibration meetings between leaders are essential to discuss and align on performance ratings, providing a platform to identify and address any inconsistencies or biases. 

Leaders should be trained to recognize and mitigate proximity bias. They need to be aware of their tendencies to favor those they interact with more frequently and understand the importance of evaluating performance based on established criteria rather than personal interactions. 

Furthermore, organizations should encourage a culture of regular feedback, where achievements and challenges are discussed consistently, irrespective of the employee's physical location. This approach ensures that all team members have equal opportunities to showcase their contributions and receive recognition regardless of their working arrangements. 

Acknowledging and addressing proximity bias is crucial for fair and effective performance reviews. By implementing a structured review process, conducting calibration meetings, and fostering a culture of regular feedback, organizations can ensure that performance evaluations are equitable and based on merit, benefiting both the employees and the organization. 

The Deep End team is here to review your process and even facilitate calibration sessions. Contact us today at hello@deependstrategies.com.