HOW TO EVALUATE
In dealing with an employee evaluation, the employer becomes involved
with two conflicting yet complementary processes -- criticism
and praise. Seldom are we faced with the "model"
employee or with the polar opposite -- the total failure.
Even though most managers admit to the benefits of employee evaluations,
they often resist becoming involved in the process. They view the
task as bothersome and time consuming. Reasons for these negative
feelings vary but some common ones follow.
a. The roles of "judge" and "counselor"
are often viewed as incompatible when attempts are made to fulfill
b. Lack of formal training in personnel administration may make
it difficult for a manager to understand fully how performance
appraisal fits into an organizational system.
c. Negative appraisals may serve to alienate employees and cause
tension between employees and managers.
The supervisor should be particularly aware of the 10 typical rating
a. Halo Effect
This term refers to a rater's tendency to rate all aspects of
performance based on the observance of one trait.
b. Horn Effect
The tendency to let one poor rating influence all other ratings.
c. Error of Central Tendency
This is both the most common and most serious type of error. The
tendency of an appraiser to cluster appraisals around a central
point -- usually an "average" or "middle"
point on a scale. This can result from the fear of rating too
high or too low.
d. Latest Behavior
The tendency to forget about past problems or past accomplishments
and to focus, instead, on what's been happening recently.
e. Leniency or Generosity Error
This involves high ratings for most employees, perhaps because
of reluctance to "rock the boat" by seeming too critical.
The opposite of leniency; this is the tendency to be overly harsh
when rating employee.
g. Stereotyping or Initial Impressions
This may be either conscious or subconscious -- often we may be
unfairly biased toward an employee without actually being aware
of the bias.
h. Projection or Similarity Error
We tend to like people who are like us and to dislike people who
are unlike us. This can become a problem in the rating process
when we give high scores to employees because they either consciously
"remind me of myself when I was just starting out,"
or low scores to other employees who "just don't have the
ambition that I have."
i. Spill-over Errors
Allowing past evaluations to reflect -- either positively or negatively
-- on the current rating.
j. Inter-individual Errors
Basing each employee's evaluation on a comparison with other employees.
This can be especially unfair since one employee may have received
very high marks because of favorable circumstances rather than
Steps to Error-Free Evaluations
Before conducting an evaluation or appraisal, consider several
• Be prepared
• Clarify standards among raters.
• Identify desired behaviors in observable, rather than
• Keep a running log of employee performance.
• Be aware of your own personal biases and work to overcome
• Try using more than one assessor and comparing results
to determine possible bias.
• Don't assume that excellence in one area implies excellence
in all areas.
• Base judgments on demonstrated performance, not anticipated
• Base judgments on written, observable standards, not
on a comparison with other employees.
• Always conclude the review with a summary and a plan
for the future.
Performance appraisals are used as the basis for many critical
organizational decisions -- including promotions, layoffs, terminations,
transfers and salary increases. The success of the performance appraisal
depends primarily on the evaluator.
The opportunity for error and misunderstanding is great. A simple
awareness of the possible errors that can occur is the first step
toward effective employee evaluations.