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Diversity and Inclusion

3 steps to de-bias your feedback

🙅 Biased feedback gets in the way of fair career progression

You’re probably already well aware of the power of feedback. Constructive feedback gives people the guidance they need to improve and do their best work, setting them up to thrive.

But unfortunately, our unconscious bias seeps in here, both in the feedback message itself and who we take time to give the feedback to – and who we don’t.

Steps to de-bias your feedback

🏁 Start by getting clear on the criteria you’re using to critique performance. Appropriate criteria will help you steer clear of personality judgments, and ensure you’re comparing apples to apples when assessing different people in the same role.

Remember that personality judgment is problematic because they’re prone to bias and because it’s rare that subjective attributes like “good sense of humor” and “approachable” translate into high performance.

Ask yourself: what are the key competencies for this role? If you have feedback in mind on someone’s attributes or style, can you draw a direct link between it and their performance using specific examples? If not, you’re at risk of bias seeping in.

✍ Include in your feedback message how, specifically, your colleague can do things differently next time to get the outcome you’re after.

Again, research shows that women and people of color are less likely to receive guidance on how to act on the feedback they receive. So, don’t leave it to your people to guess what they need to do to be successful – break it down for them.

📺 Watch this (2 mins)

In this video, Kim Scott (famous for popularizing the concept of radical candor) points out a few critical things to keep in mind when delivering feedback:

🔎 Vet your feedback message before giving it to make sure it’s fair:

Test if it’s objective: would you be happy to give this feedback message to literally anyone in your business?
Test if it’s based on clear criteria: how does this relate to the job your colleague is doing and what they’re supposed to deliver? Did you share competencies/criteria to set expectations when they took on this role?
Test if you’re giving it evenly: analyze how much feedback you’re giving to different members of your team. Is it even?
If in doubt, chat through with a trusted colleague beforehand and ask for their honest opinion

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The bottom line:

Biased feedback gets in the way of inclusive career progression. It’s important to know how to give it, how to receive it, and be conscientious of who you’re giving feedback to.

Inclusion Works by Hive Learning

Inclusion Works from Hive Learning is a group-based peer learning program designed to create large-scale impactful & inclusive change across your organization. We give people the tools to make small changes to their daily behaviors and help them rapidly learn, relearn, and respond to the changing world around them.

Fiyona Young Image 1 Fiona Young (she/her)

Having previously led Learning and Development for 3,000 people at Europe’s leading venture builder, Blenheim Chalcot, Fiona knows a thing or two about how to build high performance culture. As Content Director at Hive Learning, Fiona pioneered the organisation's leading guided content programmes which are designed to turn learning into action. Most recently, Fiona led the inception, development and delivery of Inclusion Works by Hive Learning - the world’s first diversity and inclusion programme focused on turning unconscious bias into conscious action - created from over 1,000 leading sources.