Here's a little good news from the gender wars: In a study from Quinnipiac Univ., gender had no impact on the ratings students gave each other on group projects.
However, the study also adds fuel to the gender wars. Females earned higher teamwork ratings overall than males regardless of the gender of the rater.
That first finding was reassuring. It discounts one of the concerns raised about schemes in which team members have a say on each others' performance ratings. I believe 360-degree assessments are a far fairer way of evaluating performance than relying on one person. If nothing else, other sets of biases can balance out the supervisor's set (we all have them, after all). At least one source I'm aware of found zero correlation between supervisor ratings and 360s of the same individuals. The phenomenon of "crowd-sourcing" suggests the value of multiple perspectives, and plenty of studies show that over time, decisions made by a group are better than those by a single person. Or a married person. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Reassuring, too, to read that in this context people were able to overlook whatever issues they have with people of the opposite sex and rate folks based on their behaviors. The researchers, Accounting Professor Janice Ammons and Marketing & Advertising Department Chair Charles Brooks, suggest that their study's method might have had something to do with that:
The composition of the teams did not change over the semester… and the data was drawn from the third set of evaluations. By this point, students were more familiar with group expectations, characteristics of team members and their contributions, as well as the evaluation process itself… Some have suggested that reliability in scoring increases when evaluations take place at multiple stages.
A lesson here is that having only one peer-assessment per year, and constantly fiddling with the content or format year-to-year, are poor practices. I've long advocated for multiple evaluations within the year in companies that insist on having formal appraisals, for reasons that ought to be obvious but apparently are not given how many companies ignore them. If you only evaluate once a year:
Some of you won't like that word "punishing." Like it or not, most employees who get lower ratings will consider it punishment, especially if performance ratings are tied to salary. Or maybe you don't care whether people who aren't "stars" feel punished. But the reality is that every company relies on a significant number of non-stars (see "Are You Supporting Your B Players?"). Ammons and Brooks suggest another reason, that having multiple evaluations may reduce the impact stereotypes will play in people's ratings.
I'm scared to wade into the other finding, but I guess I have to. Females received higher ratings from both genders in two ways. Every team member was given 100 points per person to divide among all the members, including themselves. That is, if the student had four teammates, she was given 500 points to distribute. "If everyone contributed equally and did his/her fair share of the work, then each member of the team should receive 100 points," the evaluation cover sheet explained. Someone who did less should have been given fewer than 100.
The average score for females was 100.44, and for males 98.83, which was a "statistically significant" difference (greater than mere chance would suggest). As you would probably guess, the average person rated themselves above average. The mean for all self-ratings was 103.52. Males and females did not differ in those self-ratings, defying popular concerns about the self-esteem of female students.
The professors also requested ratings for a set of individual behaviors, and females came out on top in each of the six behaviors:
The students had the option to add comments. Females were both more likely to comment and more likely to give positive comments, which I consider two more signs of good teamwork. Again, these figures were not affected by gender differences between the commenter and the commented-upon.
I am too cowardly to comment on why the females were better team players. I will point out that these numbers were averages, meaning there would have been some excellent male team players and some terrible female team players.
Focus instead on the list of behaviors. Ammons and Brooks drew them from interviews with students in previous classes, and the list certainly fits both the research literature and my team-coaching experience. Because they are behaviors, each of you can ignore the gender issue and use them to improve your personal teamwork. Discipline yourself to get to team meetings on time. Give worst-case estimates for deadlines, and then come up with a system to make sure you beat them. Make yourself take at least one team task per month that you do not really want to do. Keep a list of team action items and use simple math to see if you are doing your part: eight items divided by four team members means two items for you. Try to keep your comments close to that ratio of 5.6 positive ones to each negative one that Jack Zenger talked about in my previous post.
Behaviors, not gender, make the difference. Anyone can do those things, be they male, female, or some combination thereof.
Action Item: Choose one behavior from the next-to-last paragraph to improve on in the next month.