Studies by Maurice Schweitzer of Wharton and Karen Chinander of Florida Atlantic describe the hazards of what they call the “Input Bias”—a strong tendency of managers (as well as everybody else) to judge an effort’s output not on its own merits but on the effort or expense that was put into that effort. Does the manager believe that a great deal of time and effort was put into a proposal? Then the proposal will be given much more credibility than it would otherwise. Apart from the quality of your work, if you made it look too easy, you may not be appreciated, but if you let them see you sweat you’re more than halfway home. Schweitzer writes: “What we found was that the preparation time we gave participants
significantly influenced their quality assessments. Participants exposed to the long preparation time rated the quality of the same presentation higher than participants exposed to the short preparation time.” Thus, a significant “input bias.” Schweitzer wonders, “Can I as a manager make sure I am rewarding the right employees and applying judgments that reflect my underlying goals rather than psychological processes that bias my judgment?” His answer: probably not. “For many biases, just the mere knowledge of them isn’t good enough. Most people in our experiment knew the input information was irrelevant, but they still used this information when judging quality. You have to design measures and put processes in place so that you can carefully assess exactly what the outcomes are that you need. It is often up to senior management to formalize the processes necessary to make important decisions, such as by using blind reviews of outcome measures. Doing this can be difficult, slow and expensive.” Nobody promised decision-makers a rose garden.
Knowledge@Wharton 10 Sep 2003