Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether audit professionals exhibit greater performance evaluation bias compared to non‐accounting professionals. Design/methodology/approach – Both audit and non‐accounting professional subjects read a case study and evaluated the performance of a hypothetical subordinate. Two factors were manipulated the subordinate's work performance history and the subordinate's current performance relative to a budget. Findings – It was found that reputation bias and hindsight bias are prevalent in both professional groups. The groups exhibit no difference with respect to reputation bias; however, it was found that public accountants exhibit significantly greater hindsight bias relative to non‐accounting professionals. Practical implications – The paper provides evidence that accountants are relatively harsh critics of subordinate performance. Importantly, the paper investigates accountant vs non‐accountant comparisons where subordinates' ex ante decisions are consistent with superiors' ex ante guidance (i.e. ex post performance being either favorable vs unfavorable is purely outcome‐effect driven). If the findings are robust, this study provides a fundamental reason why employee retention in public accounting is relatively low. Originality/value – This paper is the first to make direct comparisons of performance evaluation bias effects between auditors and similarly experienced working professions.
Managerial Auditing Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 28, 2008
Keywords: Bias; Performance appraisal; Auditors; Accountants