Halo Effect: A Constant Error in the Workplace

By Elif Çalışkan

Halo effect refers to the widespread human tendency that if a person possesses some positive or negative impression about the qualities of something or someone, his attributions will also be positive or negative (Cherney, 2019). The tendency is useful because it helps us to make quick decisions based on our past experiences or limited information but it can also lead to unfair treatments. Therefore, it’s important to realize halo effect and the impact it may have in the workplace (Miller, 2018). We will recommend some tips to eliminate the halo effect on underperformance, assigning tasks, acceptance of bad attitudes, and the recruitment process in the workplace.

Setting Goals and Expectations

Setting clear goals and expectations is a successful way of providing developmental needs and eliminating halo effect. Also, it is very important to reduce biases. Referring to goals before completing evaluations gives a more objective perspective in the workplace than open-ended questions. For instance, “how did this person perform?” Reviewing performance against goals more generally allows people to make progress more effectively while reducing the impact of recency biases. A study from MIT shows that the best performing teams usually have clear and ambitious goals (Holstein, 2019).

Giving an Opportunity to Shine

Everybody should have the chance to shine at work, no matter what your personal opinion of them is. Even you have experienced a conflict with your colleagues before, or maybe you have witnessed their failures you can focus on their positive sides rather than their weaknesses and negative sides. Keeping an eye on the work and evaluating someone’s task performance can break the halo effect. It can also be effective in keeping your opinions independent and objective. Furthermore, it provides more efficiency in the workplace (Admin, 2019).

Providing a Transition for Employees to a New Role 

For lots of companies, sometimes it is necessary for employees their transition outs but sometimes they are allowed to stay. Then, most employees can be confused when poor performance is overlooked. The acceptance of underperformance typically results from positive past experiences with someone. Due to the past success or positive experiences, people give a pass on present failures. It is a “halo effect.” However, transition employees to a new role provide better performance for them in the company. To sum up, as an organization grows and changes, it requires to be changed their roles for some individuals (Rundhaug, 2018).

Providing a Structured Hiring Process

Halo effect shows itself also in the hiring process. Any positive or negative assessment we make about gender, race, ethnicity, height, looks, hair colour, accent, hobbies, values, behaviours or attitudes can cause make the wrong choices and missing out on the best candidate or even ending up with a real problem. So, it is very important to provide a structured hiring process for any candidate (Half, 2017).

The process can include:

  • Screening and testing process rigorous by ignoring some stereotypes about a specific gender, race, ethnicity, height, looks, hair colour, accent, hobbies, values, etc. regarding key performance indicators.
  • Preferring structured interviews rather than unstructured interviews.
  • Conducting several interviews with candidates.
  • Making sure that different people handle different levels of the selection process. (for example, one team can screen the resumes and another team can conduct the interviews)
  • Structuring your process based on performance, not perception.

“If you select companies on the basis of outcomes—whether success or failure—and then gather data that are biased by those outcomes, you’ll never know what drives performance. You’ll only know how high performers or low performers are described.”

― Philip M. Rosenzweig



Cherney, K. (2019, April 1). What Is the Halo Effect?.

Half, R. (2017, February 17). Hiring and the halo-effect trap.

Holstein, D. (2019, April 8). 4 Ways to Reduce Bias in Performance Reviews.

Miller, B. (2018, October 2). How the Halo Effect Impacts Your Workplace.

Rundhaug, D. (2018, August 2). The Halo Effect: How to eliminate the acceptance of underperformance.