Racist reviews: Can HR prevent them?

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The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will overhaul its employee performance management system after it was revealed that minority employees were more likely to be ranked lower than Caucasian employees.

Last week the American Banker revealed the agency’s own data for 2013 showed white employees were twice as likely to receive a top rating than African-American or Hispanic employees. The CFPB has around 1300 employees, but its labour organization submitted 115 grievances since August 2013.

A CFPB report to Congress last year showed 47% of staff were women, and 34% self-identified as minorities – slightly more than the average federal agency. Fewer than half of the bureau’s employees reported satisfaction with senior leaders or agreed that promotions and pay raises were based on merit. Unlike 98% of executive agencies, the CFPB does not participate in the Office of Personnel Management’s standard employee viewpoint survey for federal workers.

HRM recommends these measures to identify and address unconscious bias in your performance reviews: 

Record a selection of performance review meetings By observing interactions between managers and minority staff, and comparing those interactions with those between managers and staff members of the same race, you will be able to identify any changes in behavior or language. Be mindful of privacy considerations if you’re recording employees.

Don’t avoid talking about race A recent Tufts University study showed white people who avoided talking about race in a game to match a photograph to an individual were perceived as prejudiced. “The findings suggest that when race is clearly relevant, whites who think that it is a wise social strategy to avoid talking about race should think again,” explains lead researcher Evan Apfelbaum. “Bending over backward to avoid even mentioning race sometimes creates more interpersonal problems than it solves.”

Educate employees on their rights It shouldn't be the job of a minority worker to educate their manager and peers, however, educating all employees on the performance review process can ensure they have an opportunity to speak up if something seems unfair. Make the evaluation guidelines clear, give employees a draft of their evaluation to look over before making them sign the final appraisal and have a formal process for employees to query their evaluations.
 

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