Blog > diversity management

From Feedback to Fairness: Tips for Using Non-discriminatory Language in Performance Evaluations

From Feedback to Fairness: Tips for Using Non-discriminatory Language in Performance Evaluations

Performance evaluations are an important tool for assessing the work of employees and providing feedback to help them improve. However, they can also unintentionally perpetuate discrimination if not written with care. Using non-discriminatory language in performance evaluations can help promote fairness and create a more inclusive workplace. Here are some tips for using non-discriminatory language in performance evaluations.

  1. Avoid using gendered language.

Gendered language can be exclusive and create bias. Instead of using words like "he" or "she," use gender-neutral terms like "they" or "the employee." Similarly, avoid using gendered terms like "manpower" or "mankind" and opt for inclusive alternatives like "workforce" or "humanity."

  1. Focus on performance, not personal characteristics.

Avoid making assumptions or generalizations about an employee's personal characteristics or background. Instead, focus on specific examples of their work performance and accomplishments. For instance, instead of writing "she is so organized for a woman," write "she consistently demonstrates excellent organizational skills."

  1. Use objective criteria

When evaluating employees, use objective criteria such as job requirements, goals, and outcomes. Avoid subjective judgments that could be influenced by personal biases. For example, instead of saying "he's a great communicator," write "he consistently meets or exceeds communication goals."

  1. Avoid stereotypes

Stereotypes can lead to bias and discrimination. Avoid using words or phrases that reinforce stereotypes about gender, race, ethnicity, age, disability, or any other characteristic. For instance, instead of writing "she's so articulate for a black woman," write "she consistently demonstrates strong communication skills."

  1. Avoid negative language

Negative language can be demotivating and discouraging for employees. Instead of using negative language like "needs improvement," use constructive feedback that focuses on specific areas for growth. For example, instead of writing "poor time management skills," write "could benefit from additional time management training."

  1. Seek input from others

Getting input from others can help reduce the potential for bias in performance evaluations. Consider seeking feedback from multiple sources, including colleagues, supervisors, and the employee being evaluated. This can provide a more well-rounded perspective and help ensure that evaluations are fair and unbiased.

  1. Use inclusive language

Inclusive language acknowledges and respects diversity and avoids excluding or marginalizing any group. For instance, instead of using words like "normal" or "typical," which may be interpreted as excluding people who are different, use terms like "average" or "common." Also, avoid using words or phrases that imply a particular culture or background, such as "Americanized" or "ethnic."

  1. Avoid overly emotional language

Emotional language can be subjective and may reflect personal biases. Avoid using overly emotional language, such as "disgusting" or "fantastic," and use more neutral language that focuses on specific behaviors or outcomes. For instance, instead of writing "he's always so enthusiastic," write "he consistently demonstrates a positive attitude."

  1. Provide specific and actionable feedback

Specific and actionable feedback is more helpful than general comments that are difficult to act upon. For instance, instead of writing "needs to be more productive," write "could benefit from time-management training to better prioritize tasks and meet deadlines." Similarly, instead of writing "needs to communicate better," write "could benefit from additional training in active listening and giving effective feedback."

  1. Focus on behaviors, not personality traits

It is important to evaluate behaviors, not personality traits or characteristics that may be irrelevant to job performance. For instance, instead of writing "he's a shy person," write "could benefit from additional training in public speaking and presentation skills." Similarly, instead of writing "she's not a team player," write "could benefit from more opportunities to collaborate with colleagues."

By using non-discriminatory language in performance evaluations, you can help create a fair and inclusive workplace where employees feel valued and supported. Remember to focus on specific behaviors and outcomes, use objective criteria, seek input from multiple sources, and avoid stereotypes and negative language. With these tips, you can provide valuable feedback that promotes growth and development for all employees.