BambooHR Blog

Finding Gender Gaps in Performance Reviews

performance reviews

Men are from Mars, Women from Venus—yes, we’ve all heard. We’ve accepted men and women differ in many ways. Those differences don’t end when we walk through the office doors every morning (or log in for those of us who work remotely). That’s part of what makes us complimentary on teams and why it’s important to strike a good balance of men and women, but it can also play a part in disagreements as well.

Men and women perceive things very differently. Let’s look at how our views differ with “performance reviews”—the focus of our latest study we conducted at BambooHR. In May, we surveyed 1,933 employees over the age of 21 about their thoughts on performance reviews (a hot work topic lately) and then cross-tabulated by gender to learn of any gender differences. Surely you remember the controversy over women being labeled as “abrasive” in their performance reviews. We found some similarly interesting differences from our study:

Who sees the value of performance reviews?
Interestingly, more men find value in performance reviews than women. More men feel that performance reviews are “very valuable” (57 percent of men compared to 46 percent of women). In addition, more men than women find them “effective” as well.

Do you hear what I’m saying?
This amount of value and effectiveness could be the result of men feeling their input is heard. More men than women feel they are heard “very well” during their performance reviews (38 percent of men compared to 27 percent of women). More women felt they are only “somewhat heard” or “not heard very well.”

Can I be honest here?
Along a similar vein, men are considerably more comfortable being honest in performance reviews (57 percent of men compared to 42 percent of women). This is a somewhat troubling statistic. Why don’t women feel comfortable being honest? Perhaps this is exactly WHY women don’t find them as valuable or effective as men do. When employees aren’t being honest with their manager, then it won’t be effective.

Can we keep this between us?
A staggering amount of men (73 percent) trust their companies to keep their “honest” feedback anonymous, while only 53 percent of women do. Herein lies the problem: If not as many women trust their companies to keep their feedback anonymous, it makes sense they won’t feel they can be honest. They’re worried about the repercussions they might face for laying it all out there and who may be upset about it.

What can I expect to happen?
Another reason men find performance reviews to be more valuable and effective is that more of them are seeing changes occur from the feedback they give during performance reviews. 48 percent of men claim they “always” or “often” see changes occur, while only 32 percent of women claim the same. When you don’t see results, then people begin to lose trust in the system (remember, a startling 42 percent of companies aren’t doing performance reviews at all!)

Do you value me?
More men (26 percent) find that performance reviews reflect “very well” how much value they bring to their companies; only 18 percent of women felt this way. All employees want to know their value to their companies. When they feel that others (and especially managers) don’t notice their value, it’s disheartening and demotivating.

About my coworker…
Another interesting finding shows that when it comes to evaluating coworkers’ performance, men tend to judge coworkers more harshly to make themselves look better (10 percent of men admitted to doing this, while only 5 percent of women did). More women, on the other hand, stated they tend to rank coworkers more easily “to give them a break” or stated they “don’t give criticism” at all.

You want my thoughts?
More men also felt that management and HR wanted their suggestions for improving performance reviews (73 percent) while fewer women (59 percent) felt their suggestions for improvement mattered. Part of feeling valued is feeling our managers want our opinions and look to us for our input in how to improve.

In conclusion, the study results show that more women find performance reviews to lack value due to them not feeling heard or being fairly valued during them. Men feel more confident being able to go into their performance reviews and being truly honest and open, then see positive results come from their feedback. This gap between men and women and how they feel about performance reviews is a problem.

Let’s level the playing field. Performance management should be a place where everyone can be open and honest. These interviews (or surveys) should be a common area where companies can help ALL employees learn and grow. And with meaningful feedback from employees and a focus on developing employees, performance management will help companies to grow as well.

If you’d like to dig deeper into the results of the study and see our coordinating infographic, download them here.

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