This psychological phenomenon will make or break your performance review, and the salary increase, bonus, and RSU grants that follow. What is this phenomenon? And what psychology hacks can make it work for you? In this article, we’re going to take a look at this topic point-wise.
What psychological phenomenon is a play?
Obviously, you’re wondering, what is the psychology at play? So, let’s start by demonstrating psychology with a completely non-work-related example. What are the five movies that you watched? Take a moment to list them. You can write them down, think of them through in your head, jot them down on your phone, or whatever works for you.
Now, ask yourself another question. Are these your favorite movies? Are these the movies you watched in your childhood or a list of the most awful movies you’ve ever seen? Chances are, it’s none of the above.
In fact, I can almost guarantee that the first movie that you listed was the last movie that you’ve seen. Why this can be said so confidently? It’s because of RECENCY BIAS. This is a cognitive bias that is summarized by Wikipedia and gives greater importance to the most recent event.
You can see how this might come into play. During performance appraisals/evaluations, your manager is likely to overweight your recent accomplishments when they’re doing your performance review. If you think about your past performance reviews, you probably notice how your manager referred to recent examples and recent scenarios in your performance discussion instead of work and especially accomplishments that occurred earlier in the year or earlier in the performance cycle.
This does not doom you to a mediocre performance rating and a meager salary increase if your big wins were months ago. Because there are psychological hacks and a few strategies you can leverage to make recency bias work for you.
Three strategies to use it to your advantage
The first thing that you can do to take advantage of recency bias in your performance review is in the six to eight weeks leading up to the performance evaluation cycle. Do your best to make a high strategic impact. Because the best way to use recency bias is to feed it. This doesn’t mean that you need to embark on a complicated and time-consuming strategic high-impact project and hope to get it done just in the nick of time to wow your boss.
In fact, you must identify the fastest and highest impact wins. It’s not as challenging as it sounds, simply look at your unique awesomeness quotient, i.e, your UAQ, and find the nexus of where it meets your boss’s priorities. That’s where they’re paying attention.
On the other hand, if you had a major accomplishment or a really big win earlier in the year, you can boost it now to capitalize on your former success. Is there a way to expand that when can you build on top of it and operationalize the process to amplify the impact of finding the anecdote of its continued payoff. This will essentially refresh that accomplishment, bring it into the current time and allow you to take advantage of recency bias. Those methods are going to be the most effective during a performance review.
However, you might be scrambling if you’re too close and you don’t have time to do this before your performance review cycle starts. There’s a very strategy that you can use to take advantage of recency bias. In fact, even if you did the last two things, you should still do this anyway.
Send your boss a list of your biggest accomplishments and milestones. A lot of professionals react as soon as they’re told to “brag about themselves”. This is helping your boss out while using recency bias.
One thing you need to understand is how time-consuming performance evaluations are for managers. It takes so much time and so much work because your manager, in an effort to provide a thorough and fair performance review where each member of their team is trying to create lists of those accomplishments and contributions. They’re digging through, their notes, system metrics, etc.
When you can just tell them, you can send them an email and say something to the fact of, “I know performance evaluations are about to kick off, since I keep a log of my biggest accomplishments I thought it might make your life easier if I shared it with you”.
Don’t share your weekly wins for the last 52 weeks in this email. Because that’s going to be a little bit too much. Instead, provide a curated bullet list of your top moments and then click send. You can also include your allies and advocates in this process.
Now is the time for the best client that you have to send a note to your manager, talking all about the positive impact that you’ve made, and praising you for maintaining that really crucial business relationship. If you happen to receive or have received one of these directly, now is the time to pass it on.
I also highly suggest building up that karma. Send some of those praise notes to managers of people that you work with who are doing a great job and smashing it out of the park. Who knows, some of them might come back to you. Reciprocity is another psychological hack and it does mean that some of them might come back to you. But don’t do it for that reason.
The cognitive bias that will boost your rating
Beyond recency bias. There’s another cognitive bias that we can use, especially when you’re popping that email to your boss before they write your performance evaluation. PRIMACY BIAS. This is the bias where information that was given first is given more emphasis, which is why if you find yourself in a situation where you need to communicate both good news and bad news, you must lead with the good news.
Of course, this should come into factor at all times in all conversations, especially when you’ve made a mistake, have a problem, or are communicating a win. The first part of what you say is going to be what gets emphasized. And way too many professionals are tampering down and disqualifying their wins. This isn’t a big deal but I just closed a major account hits much differently than, I just closed a major account, it might not be a big deal.
During your performance review period, you want to maximize your primacy bias when you send that recap email, when you do your self-evaluation, when you’re communicating progress, accomplishments, or milestones to your boss. And as we mentioned, in general.
Why you shouldn’t be too honest on your self-evaluation
There’s another psychological hack that we can use to either leverage or negate recency bias. ANCHORING. Anchoring is the tendency to use a first impression as a reference point or an anchor for future decision-making. During the performance review process, your managers are probably going to look at your self-evaluation. In fact, they may look at how you rated yourself to determine how they are going to rate you.
This is where anchoring bias comes into play. According to HBR, men rate themselves 33% higher than equally performing women. Setting the anchor lower for women during the performance review process. We can’t have that.
Therefore, this is where you need to channel your inner chad energy. Your self-evaluation is a designed opportunity for you to promote your potential, your accomplishments, etc. unstage yourself for a phenomenal performance review and salary increase, instead of diminishing yourself and your opportunity for career advancement and devaluing yourself in your contributions along with your pay increase.