How Personal Perceptions Influence Human Resource Management Decisions

Length: 2597 words

???No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking (Benedict, 1934)??? It frequently happens that we form our personal perceptions and tend to categorize the world because it serves our need for cognitive efficiency in that it saves processing time, satisfies our need to understand, and predicts our social world. In our lives these things are omnipresent even though we may not be conscious of it.

Within an organization, when Human Resource (HR) managers engage themselves in the responsibilities of their position (i. e. , employee selection, training, and evaluation), it becomes easy for them to succumb to their personal perceptions and thus make wrongful decisions. In this essay, we will discuss three aspects of HR management activities, namely employee selection, performance appraisals and employees promotions, and give examples of how discriminations are at times driven by an HR individual???s subconscious perceptions.

Organizations, out of necessity, make decisions through the employee selection process as to whom will be chosen to fill particular job openings. In this process, there are many factors that influence an employer???s decision. One important factor is to consider the

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personal perceptions of the individuals performing the selection process. These unconscious perceptions come into play and affect the entire process, which inevitably includes the screening of applications, the interviews, and eventually the selection of the final candidates.

Stereotyping is generally not a conscious decision in an HR environment. Nonetheless, it is commonly found within the concept of perceptual error. It is the tendency to judge someone unknowingly yet solely on the basis of the perception of a group to which that person belongs (Kreitner, Kinicki, Cole & Digby, 2010, p. 29). It is illegal to require certain particulars of personal information on an employment application, such as sex, ethnicity and age; however, the name of an applicant can still reveal their sex and sometimes even their ethnicity.

Quite predictably, there can be an innate reaction by the HR participant to an applicant???s name and/or accent which may preclude favorable judgments of the individual???s substantiated attributes (Sharon L. , 2006). An applicant with an ethnic name may be viewed less positively by recruiters than applicants with non-ethnic names. Stereotypically, Asian applicants may not be capable of communicating efficiently; therefore, some HR management teams may weed out those applications during the screening process, even though their resumes communicate compelling talents and qualifications.

The eye-opening article ???right resume, wrong name??? from the Globe and Mail newspaper, asserts that the recent immigrants from Asia are having a difficult time finding gainful employment within their specialty and probably due to this stereotyping. Applicants with surnames which have an ethnic sound will experience a dramatically decreased chance of obtaining even an interview (Jimenez, 2009).

Another article ???why do skilled immigrants struggle in the labor market? states that even those second generation immigrants, fluent in English and with a Canadian education, also have a difficult time finding employment for the same reasons. According to the study and the conclusions of Dr. Oreopolous (2009): Applicants with English-sounding names and a Canadian education and experience received callbacks 40 percent more often than did applicants with Chinese, Indian, or Pakistani names. It is duly noted, however, that conditional on listing four to six years??? Canadian experience, being foreign educated (whether at a highly ranked school or not) did not affect callback rates substantially.

Adding more language credentials, additional Canadian education, or extracurricular activities had little impact on the end results. Overall, the results suggest considerable employer discrimination against ethnic Canadians and immigrants. ??? Despite the Human Rights law that bans discrimination based on ethnicity, these practices occur in the preliminary screening and so it is much more subtle and usually undetectable, and thus, it is very difficult or to almost impossible to enforce the legislation.

These companies, probably to their own detriment, are undoubtedly bypassing some exceptionally bright and eager talent. It is impossible to leave personal perception at the door of the interview room. For instance, a common misleading perceptual error is identified as the ???Halo??? effect. It is a phenomenon in which ???a rater forms an overall impression and then uses that impression to bias ratings about the object???. It is the tendency to draw a general impression about an individual based on a single characteristic and then paint that person with a broad brush.

As you can imagine, the way a person perceives a job applicant during an interview can affect their decision. Interviewers may like one aspect of the interviewee, and then pursuant to the halo effect, assume the interviewee is entirely a good fit with the company because of that one characteristic. It has been alleged that a lengthy interview with an interviewee tends to reveal the interviewee???s true personality, which may contribute to the fairness of the interview process. Similar-to-me effect bias and prototype bias also exists in the interview process.

Interviewers may learn they have only one thing in common with the interviewee and project that they are similar to the interviewee in every way, making that person a good fit for the organization. A group panel interview tends to eliminate this particular personal bias. When it comes to the final critical step ??? that is, the decision to hire a specific applicant, stereotypically males may be considered more capable than women in their logical and analytical capabilities. HR managers may prefer women more than males in technical jobs. This phenomenon is also called sex-job role congruence.

According to an argument in a journal article, ???significantly more females than males were recommended for hiring as an editorial assistant, while significantly more males were recommended for the personnel technician job (Cohen, 1975). ??? As we learned in HR Management, this is sexual discrimination which is against Canadian human rights. Similarly, with the perception that old people have more social experience and are better able to handle complicated situations, employers may prefer selecting an older applicant for a high-status job, and will follow suit by selecting a younger applicant for a low-status job.

This is age discrimination in the workplace. From what we have discussed, it is proven that an HR manager???s personal perception is a big factor that influences decision-making in the selection of an employee. Personal perceptions also affect the fairness in the process of performance appraisals. Performance appraisal is a method by which the job performance of an employee is evaluated. It is the process of obtaining, analyzing, and recording information about the relative worth of an employee to the organization.

There are several kinds of errors in performance appraisal arising due to various biases while rating an employee???s performance. These common errors are: similar-to-me error, contrast error, and rater bias. It is no doubt that these errors are considerably influenced by the personal perceptions and beliefs of the Human Resource Management. After the discussion about these errors, we also need to discuss how age and gender discrimination influence performance appraisal. First of all, the ???similar-to-me??? error has a strong effect on the performance measurement.

It is a tendency of the rater or evaluator who favourably judges an employee perceived as similar (to them) in terms of attitude, values, interests, backgrounds or beliefs. People will generally perceive themselves as effective and trustworthy, so when they see someone similar to them in some ways, they will tend to expect that someone to be as effective as they are (Schreiner, n. d). Hence, the higher evaluations will be given to the ???similar-to-me??? candidates almost as a self-approval rating.

If managers respond favourably to employees in this way, they have let their personal perceptions influence the performance appraisal process. Another error is the ???Contrast error???. It is, however, not judged by the manager???s similarity beliefs. ???Contrast??? occurs when a rater evaluates people only in comparison with other individuals, rather than against the standards for the job (Rivera, n. d). Suppose that an employee follows all the job requirements exactly and actively contributes to his organization, but he???s not in the top-employees list. In his organization there are still many workers considered outstanding.

They may push sales higher every month; give excellent ideas re company products, etc. Then if the evaluator rates that employee lower than other exceptional workers instead of giving judgments based on the performance appraisal standards, this is when contrast error occurs. This is also more likely to occur when using forced rating systems, where each team is required to have an equal number of high, middle and low performers. In a high performing team those rated as low performers may be better than the middle and high performers in a poor performing team.

Even with forced rating, it is necessary to ensure the possibility that bottom performers are still good performers, or that top performers may still not be good performers. Some measurement systems eliminate the use of performance standards and deliberately compare all employees doing the same task, which results in some employees being above average and other being below average. These measurement systems tend to compare all employees across all teams who complete the same tasks. Rater bias is another common problem in performance measurement.

It includes two effects: halo and horn. First, halo effect occurs when a rater attaches too much significance to a single factor of performance and gives similar ratings on other performance elements. Thus overall evaluation is significantly influenced by a single factor. Such a perception undermines the importance of other elements and leads to an unbalanced performance assessment of the individual (Rivera, n. d). For example, a manager rates a worker very high on quality because of her immaculate attention to details and lack of defects in her work.

Then assuming the individual to be an overall high performer based on the quality of her work output, the manager rates her very high on efficiency, responsibility, punctuality, etc. without taking an objective look at her performance in these areas. In contrast, horn effect is an opposition to halo effect. If a rater perceives negativity in a particular area of an individual???s performance, everything may appear negative and the rating may then be deemed lower, but only due to the one factor (Rivera, n. d).

To avoid this horn effect, when completing a job performance appraisal, the rater or evaluator should collect sufficient data to make realistic judgements in all areas of the employee???s performance, attend to differences across performance factors, and develop a very clear idea of the nature of each performance factor and the kind of behaviour it describes. The important idea is to focus on differences, not similarities. When an individual is particularly impressive or disappointing in any one area, avoid the tendency to categorize other performance areas similarly.

Now, let???s talk about how age and gender discrimination, another kind of personal perception, might influence performance appraisal. Age discrimination is a common problem in the world of performance evaluation. It can be tempting for some employers to structure evaluation forms to gauge an employee’s fitness level, mental capacity or job based on their age, but this is illegal and can lead to successful discriminatory policies. Gender discrimination is another performance issue, in part because it is connected to an attitude more than precise evaluation questions.

These discriminations are always associated with rewards, promotion, and termination. Total rewards mean a comprehensive approach to compensating and rewarding employees. HR managers play an important role in making the decisions which set payments within a pay range. Discrimination usually happens when evaluations affect this pay range level. For example, in most industries, males and females are in different pay levels.

An analysis of recently released census data, women make only 80 cents for every dollar that men earn, compared to the wage ratio 75. percent between 2002 and 2003, according to a new release by the U. S. Census Bureau. (Gender Wage Gap Statistics, 2012) Although the workplace pay gap between men and women has been narrowed, and these wage ratios do not take into account differences in education, job title and responsibility, regional labor markets, work experience, occupation, and time in the workforce, the 20 percent pay gap still exists. This different treatment of wages on the base of their sex is considered gender discrimination.

Gender discrimination also shows a huge difference in the proportion of women in management positions. In January 2012, women comprised 35. 4% of all management positions and 22. 9% of all senior management positions. An examination of EEO-1 data provides insights into the status of women as officials and managers in the private sector. In 2008 the sex distribution was 32 percent women and 68 percent men. In 2001 the distribution was 26 percent women and 74 percent men (The Swedish Occupational Register with statistics, 2010). The following graph shows the sex distribution among managers 2001-2008.

With comparisons over time we can see the percentage rise six (6) percent, but it is still more than two times that of male managers over female managers. This gender discrimination may be caused by some traditional points of view, i. e. , females are less ambitious than males; or females are less flexible than males. These are unfair general assumptions when making promotion decisions. Additionally, when a company is operating in a period of restructure or lack of work or lack of capital, the company may then decide to layoff.

When faced with these kinds of events, managers will compare different elements in order to make decisions, such as gender, age, position, and so forth. In the following case, age might be considered a main element to determine which employees may be laid off. On January 27, 2009, there were a total of 1,213 employees (or 6. 3%) notified that they would be laid off. There was an average age of 49. 5 years and 60% of them were 50 years old or older (2009). This case shows that IBM???s employees were terminated based on age discrimination. Both older and younger employees have their advantages and disadvantages.

Older employees might have reduced speed and strength compared to young employees, but they have more experience than young employees. However, this should not be the main criteria in making layoff decisions in this case. Furthermore, personal perceptions influence the promotions of employees. For example, marital status may cause problems, because employers may unfairly make different assumptions about men and women. Common stereotypes about women have been that a married woman is less flexible or more likely to get pregnant than a single woman.

In contrast, it may be assumed that a married man is more stable and committed to his work (Steen, 2009). With these perceptions, employers will prefer to promote men more often than women. This is a differential treatment based on sexual and marital status discrimination. To understand how profoundly these perceptions affect our system of employment, we need to know how they have come into being. We all know that different people have different backgrounds. From the moment of one???s birth the society into which he is born shapes his experiences and his behaviors.

By the time he can talk, he is a little creature of his culture, and by the time he is grown and able to take part in his culture???s activities, things around him are the elements by which his characteristics and his own perceptions were formed. Through the demonstrations above, we???ve proven that a manager???s personal perceptions are a big factor that influences their actions. In other words, their perceptions affect the manager???s activities, which ultimately are employee selections, performance appraisals and employee promotions.

References

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/right-rsum-wrong-name/article4274218

http://womensissues.about.com/od/GenderDiscrimination/a/Gender-Wage-Gap-Statistics-Facts-Reveal-Women-Earn-Less-Than-Men.htm

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