Performance Evaluation Traps

This time of year, many organizations begin implementing a year-end performance evaluation process for employees.  Supervisors should understand that this is a critical responsibility, and they should be careful to avoid the following common traps that have the potential to taint their  evaluations of subordinates.

    1. Using stereotypes rather than first-hand observations (e.g., rating male employees higher than female employees in leadership skills based on gender alone).
    2. Letting personal feelings influence the assessment (e.g., rating employees favorably because they are friendly with the manager outside of work; rating employees poorly because they’ve previously butted heads with the manager).

    3. Rating all employees as average.  Taking the easy way out will ultimately drive top performers away and encourage poor performers to stay at their same low performance level.

    4. Inflating the ratings of poor performers.  Some managers assume an inflated rating will motivate employees to improve their behavior. But most do so to avoid having a confrontation or because they don’t know how to correct their employee’s problem behavior.  Remind managers that ignoring employee problems only allows the problems to grow.

    5. Relying only on recent performance.  The review should cover the entire review period (usually 12 months) and should address the employee’s growth (or lack thereof) over that period.

    6. Equating long tenure with positive performance. An assumption that an employee has been with the company for a long time because he/she is a good worker can be erroneous.  Managers should be on the lookout for veteran employees who are actually stuck in a rut and may be content to simply “get by” instead of consciously trying to excel.

    7. Basing employee ratings on the manager’s own ratings. Some managers assume that their status alone makes them the hands-down top performer in their department. So if they receive an average overall rating, they will not let their employees’ ratings exceed average.

    8. Putting too much emphasis on how employees stack up against other employees rather than on how they fare against objective performance standards and expectations. Using forced rankings or ranking on a bell curve can result in good performers being unfairly rated as poor.

    9. Failing to explain reasons for the ratings. An appraisal form with no comment fields completed is unacceptable. So, too, are comments that aren’t specific. Managers should always provide concrete examples that back up their ratings.

    10. Making backhanded compliments, e.g., “You did a great job on the Tucker account, Jill, especially for your age.”

    11. Focusing on personal characteristics and not on behaviors. Remind managers that they are not supposed to be judging employees as human beings; they are to evaluate employees’ job performance and workplace behaviors.  Areas to focus on: time management skills, teamwork, professionalism, organizational skills, communication, judgment, job knowledge, initiative, and dependability.

    12. Interpreting motives behind behavior, instead of just stating the behavior, e.g., “Shane isn’t committed to the job. That’s why he was late to work 21 times.” Stick with objective facts