The 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Identifying Replacements

Posted by Melissa Tham on 24-Oct-2017 00:00:00
How will your organisation cope if there is a loss of one or two key personnel due to sudden death or perhaps striking lottery and leaving a gap in the organisational chart? Replacement planning is about implementing backups for all important positions in the organisation. As the saying goes, “The show must go on”, hence both short-term and long-term planning is crucial to ensure business continuity. Here are 5 common mistakes to avoid when identifying replacements: 
1. The “Like-me” fallacy

What it is: The “like-me” fallacy is the bias where we tend to choose people just like ourselves. For instance, men will choose men, women favour women, people from the same university will think better of those who graduated from the same institute. The more that someone matches you in terms of culture or background, the more likely that you are comfortable with him or her. This also implies that you may be swayed in your judgement because you feel that the person would be a good fit.

What’s the problem: The problem is that even if you are considered to be the most qualified individual for the current job role, this does not mean that the organisation will always need someone like you. Constant competitiveness in the market means that an ideal replacement for you could be someone who is totally the opposite of who you are and may well be someone whose personality clashes with yours! The main point here is that you have to overcome your personal bias and think for the organisation. Who will be the best candidate to be able to attain the business outcomes as required by the organisation when backup is really needed?

Solution: To avoid this mistake, employ more than one person when making your selection and promotion decisions. It can be a fellow colleague or someone who is in a management position. While it may not be easy to list down all the reasons why the other person is a better choice, it is important to remind yourself that you do not need another clone.

In addition, you could make the assessment process more  objective by using descriptors based on behaviours and competencies observed.

2. The “Like-us” fallacy

What it is: Some of us have been in interview panels and right after the potential candidate has left the room, we hear someone saying “He or she has good qualifications but I don’t think he or she will fit in here”. This is an example of the “like-us” fallacy where it is similar to the “like-me” fallacy, except that it is a problem at a group level.

What’s the problem: It is important that if you do hear statements like “He or she won’t fit in our organisation”, probe further. Take time to understand the reasons given and assess if it should be a valid statement. Sometimes, it is actually good to have fresh ideas and different approaches to “the way we  usually do things here”.

Solution: To avoid this mistake, ask what is the worst case scenario if the potential candidate is not able to fit in and consider too what are the benefits of having someone like that in your organisation. Challenge the assumption that it is always wiser to hire people who can “fit right in” with the organisation. It doesn’t mean that people who look alike or act like will get on well with one another at work. It is certainly not the most desirable outcome for any interviews.

 3. The “Halo” Effect

What it is: The “Halo” effect refers to the tendency to form an overall favourable impression based on one trait or an experience we have with an individual. This tendency tends to show up in many forms of assessments such as beauty pageants or decisions for replacements. For instance, those who have striking good looks and an attractive physical appearance may be crowned the winner even though they may not have the intellect to deal with complex issues.

What’s the problem: Generalisation of people tends to colour our opinions of others. This may influence our judgement and cloud our ability to make the right choice.

Solution: To avoid this mistake, get others involved in your decision making. When a decision is made by a group rather than determined by a solo effort, it shows that effort is made to counter the halo effect. Another way is to back up your feelings with data. While first impressions may not blow you away, try not to be critical and allow others a second chance to make things right.

 4. The “Devil” Effect

What it is: The “Devil” effect is the opposite of the “halo” effect. Instead of an overall positive impression, the “devil” effect refers to an overall negative view of an individual.

What’s the problem: Similar to the “halo” effect, the “devil” effect may affect our judgement and rate individuals based on criteria that do not predict their ability.

Solution: To avoid this mistake, draw up a list of criteria to determine how you would promote or decide on replacements. Be as job-specific or task-specific as possible. Rather than let your feelings or impression of someone determine if they are capable of the job, let data help you make a better decision.

 5. The Recency Effect

What it is: The recency effect is the tendency to be influenced by recent events. Most of us are tempted to form a good or unfavourable opinion of someone based on what has happened recently. For instance, if an employee has recently been praised by a client for his excellent presentation, the manager would most likely remember this incident than how the same employee forgot to bring his thumb drive for another presentation earlier in the year.

What’s the problem: When managers recall only the latest good or bad incidents of the employees, it can sway their overall opinion. This is especially crucial during period of performance appraisals. When managers remember only the most recent events, this can adversely affect how they rate their employees and may not be an accurate assessment of their work performance.

Solution: To avoid this mistake, take steps to look at the overall performance over a period of time. View recent events in perspective. One major mistake or outstanding performance does not necessarily make that individual a good or bad worker.


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Topics: People Development (Part 2)

Written by Melissa Tham