Chapter 4 Organizational Behavior

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Read the paragraphs first and define the similar-to-me effect. Explain how biases can influence perception without perceivers being aware of their influences. Briefly explain the harshness, leniency, and average tendencies. Answers should have at least three paragraphs and 15 sentences. Use complete sentences, avoid unexplained lists, and avoid slang. Use a professional writing style at all times.

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Similar-to-Me Effects

It is a fact of life that people tend to like others similar to themselves. In organizations, this “birds of a feather”/“like likes like” tendency can create problems because people tend (often uncon- sciously) to perceive those similar to themselves more positively than they perceive those who are dissimilar. During a performance appraisal, for example, supervisors may rate subordinates similar to them more positively than they deserve.73 Likewise, interviewers may evaluate potential candi- dates similar to themselves more positively than they rate candidates who are dissimilar. Similar- to-me effects can be particularly problematic for women and minority group members trying to climb the corporate ladder. For example, similar-to-me effects may lead male CEOs to groom as their successors men like themselves and thus not perceive a woman as a viable successor.

The similar-to-me bias is especially important to overcome today given the increasing diversity in organizational membership. In a workforce that includes many women, members of minority groups, and increasing numbers of people with disabilities, managers and subordinates have more frequent contact with people unlike themselves. When evaluating others who are different, people must try to be as objective as possible and avoid the similar-to-me trap.

Members of an organization also have to be on the lookout for the similar-to-me bias when interacting with people from other cultures. For example, when researchers from three global organizations—Siemens AG of Germany, Toshiba Corporation of Japan, and IBM—joined forces at IBM’s East Fishkill, New York, facility to work together to develop a revolutionary computer chip, the similar-to-me bias struck. Some of the researchers tried to interact primarily with people from their own cultures. Some of the Japanese researchers, for instance, tried to work mainly with other Japanese researchers, rather than with the German or American researchers, whom they perceived as “so different.”

Harshness, Leniency, and Average Tendency Biases

When rating a subordinate’s performance, some supervisors tend to be overly harsh, whereas some are overly lenient. Others tend to rate everyone as about average. Any of these tendencies is problematic for two reasons. First, the supervisor does not correctly perceive the variations in the performance of his or her subordinates. As a result, high performers do not receive appropri- ate recognition and rewards for their superior accomplishments, and low performers do not receive the constructive feedback they need to improve performance.

The second reason why these biases are problematic is that they make it difficult to evaluate and compare the performance of subordinates who have different supervisors. A sub- ordinate who has received relatively poor ratings from a harsh supervisor may be just as accomplished as a subordinate who has received average or high ratings from a lenient one. Evaluations biased in this manner can result in faulty decision making about pay raises and promotions. These biases can also operate in classroom settings. One professor, for example, gives mostly A’s in a course in which another professor maintains a C+ class average. Students in the first professor’s class may be content, but those in the other professor’s class are likely to feel they are not being fairly treated.

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