Say you manage Kevin, a 55-year-old employee whose productivity drops over the year. Instead of citing specific, measurable examples of this decline in his performance review, you note that "Kevin doesn't seem to have the energy level anymore to truly succeed in this department." Still, you rate Kevin's work as "average," the same as last year.
That example highlights two of the more common—and legally dangerous—pitfalls in writing performance reviews:
1. Evaluating attitude, not performance. Vague statements that attack an employee's demeanor could be interpreted as some kind of illegal age, race, gender or disability discrimination. Instead, supervisors should use concrete, job-based examples to illustrate any criticism.
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In the example above, referring to Kevin's "energy level" could give him reason to complain about age discrimination. Instead, the review should have cited examples such as, "Kevin has completed three of the five major projects late this quarter and has not contributed one new product idea in six months."
For this reason, the word "attitude" should never appear in a review. Employment lawyers and courts often see that as a code word for discrimination.
2. Evaluation inflation. Supervisors too often rate mediocre employees as competent, competent employees as above average and above-average employees as superior. The problem comes when an employee is fired for poor performance yet his history of reviews tells a different story. The employee, then, has a supposed proof that the real reason for the firing was something else, maybe something illegal.
You think you're being gentle, but you could be doing more harm than good. A mere 30% of workers say their evaluations help them improve performance. Only 3 out of 10! Beat this statistic. Order your copy of The Complete Performance Appraisal Kit here.
Here are the main causes of evaluation inflation. Do any sound familiar to you?
- Misinterpreting a rating scale or instructions. Example: Using a review with a 0-4 rating scale, a supervisor gives an employee a "2" in attendance and fires her. She sues, arguing that a "2" is average and acceptable, and wins. The supervisor wrongly believed that anything less than a "4" rating was unacceptable.
- Fear of confronting employees. Example: A worker has acceptable work quality but hurts morale because of poor teamwork and pushiness. To avoid an angry confrontation, the boss rates the employee as average in soft skills.
- Giving positive areas too much weight over negative ones. Example: You rate a factory worker on quality, quantity, dependability, teamwork and safety. Quality is poor, but you rate it average because of the "glow" from the other categories, all rated above average.
Final tip: To determine if you inflate reviews, ask yourself the following questions: Who are my worst performers? Knowing what I know about them, would I hire them again? Do their reviews reflect their true performance?
When we say "complete,” we mean it. Order the kit now and you'll receive:
- A 147-page manual that explains the step-by-step process of a successful appraisal system. You'll get expert advice and practical tools to correctly plan, conduct and follow up on performance reviews.
- A companion CD with the complete manual plus bonus content, including dozens of sample phrases to use in performance improvement plans. That way your managers don't have to start from scratch when determining criteria for everything from adaptability to initiative to teamwork.
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- Also on the CD, a library of 27 customizable documents you can save to your hard drive and edit to suit your exact needs. Including a sample Performance Appraisal Policy, model Performance Appraisal Form, sample self-audit and dozens of other helpful documents.
- Ignore female-on-male harassment at your peril
- Failing to investigate nebulous charges isn't a federal case--and it's not retaliation
- Be prepared to explain why hiring criteria favor experience more than education
- Appearances do count: Check for hidden bias in terminations
- Back RIF decisions with sound fiscal reasons--and prepare to explain them in court