When one employee is the ‘golden child’ it can have a negative effect on the rest of your workforce, and it needn’t just apply to individuals. So what is it and what can you do about it?
You may not have come across the term ‘halo effect’, but you’re bound to have heard the term ‘golden boy/girl’. This may have applied to another pupil when you were at school, or even to one of your siblings.
The halo effect is an unconscious judgment of a person, company or product which subsequently influences their thoughts and feelings about him/her or it. It explains how our overall impression of someone, or something, can colour our perceptions.
For example, at school, there may have been that one child who seemed to be the model student in reception class – never told off, lovely neat handwriting, well ahead on their reading. Or they may have looked like an angelic child who is always chosen for every opportunity – such as sports events or meeting important visitors – throughout their school life. As you got older, perhaps you realised that they weren’t necessarily the best sportsperson, or best public speaker – and started to question why they always got chosen.
It was the halo effect. The teachers, in our example, recognised a child who looked as if they were the ideal student at a young age and never gave them any trouble in the classroom; they perceived everything they did as being at the level of this mythical model student.
If you can remember how that made you and others in the classroom feel – maybe jealous, forgotten, even inferior – you can now take those feelings and transfer them to your adult members of staff.
We know from first-hand experience that this still happens, even in today’s world, and must make every effort, if it doesn’t come naturally, to make a conscientious effort to look past the obvious to find the many positives beneath the façade.
The Halo Effect at Work
The same thing can easily happen in a work situation. An employee makes a good impression when they join the firm – maybe they offer up a clever solution to a problem or get great feedback from a client. They may just be incredibly enthusiastic. Or it could even be something more personal – a hobby they share with a manager, or that they were referred for the job by a senior member of staff.
This creates an impression that remains with them as they work within the organisation. They may not do anything else of outstanding value but if everyone thinks they must be good because the firm’s owner recommended them, or because they appear to be enthused and positive about the work, they are automatically in an advantageous position, when compared with other staff members.
This bias afforded them will, naturally, mean that other staff will not be viewed so positively, even if they are doing a similar job to a similar standard. This can of course lead to resentment, especially if our ‘golden child’ is receiving opportunities and perks that the others aren’t getting.
Interestingly, the opposite is also true. The reverse of the halo effect is referred to as the ‘horns effect’ or the ‘devil’s horns effect’. This is where an initial negative characteristic during a first impression spurs negativity bias, the subsequent impact of any negatives are then greater as a result.
It’s Not Just About People
The halo effect can also apply to the service you are providing and/or your brand. As they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression and that equally applies in the care sector.
The client’s dealings with your organisation – even before a support worker or carer steps through their door – will also have an impact on their first impression. If they have received great customer service, and clear and transparent communication, they will be more likely to look upon that support worker favourably when they first meet them.
In addition to first impressions, the halo effect can be linked client satisfaction and fulfilment of their complex care needs. Often the quality of care is associated with factors such as cleanliness, maintenance, noise, and food.
What’s the Answer?
With respect to individuals in the workplace, the first thing is to train your senior staff and managers, so that they understand what the halo effect is, and how to recognise if anyone is receiving a positive bias. This often starts at the recruitment stage, with a bias leaning towards interviewees who have a common interest with a manager, or who excel in one particular interview test, which can encourage recruiters to gloss over other less-favourable traits.
This can also happen once the person is employed. If they, for instance, have great results in one area, there might be a tendency to overlook some of their less impressive performances – perhaps how they communicate with other members of staff or clients. HR needs to be aware of this so that they can be proactive when it comes to things such as disciplinary hearings and performance reviews.
In terms of your company and levels of service, do consider the following in respect of your client’s satisfaction:
- First Impressions – could your communications be improved? Think look and feel, tone of voice and presentation.
- Cleanliness – you’ve heard the expression that cleanliness is next to godliness? Never has a truer word been spoken in connection with care! Cleanliness should be always at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
- Maintenance – ensure tools and equipment are maintained, not only in terms of operation but cosmetically too.
- Noise – consider how your carers conduct themselves and where they spend time and communicate when on their breaks, including the volume of their voices and any mobile devices.
- Food – remember that, in your clients’ eyes, presentation and delivery are just as important as meeting their dietary needs.
You might be interested in this free ebook entitled: The 17 Proven Strategies to Improve Patient Satisfaction & Experience. Although predominantly aimed at hospital care, it may offer some useful insights.
If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.
T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.
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Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited provide a specialised HR service to the care sector, from recruitment through to exit.