June 25, 2006
Evaluating Employee Performance: Tips and Pitfalls
by Jennifer Brown Shaw
Many employers evaluate their employees’
performance at some point during the employment relationship, such as annually or
at the conclusion of an introductory period.
Often, however, these employers conduct
performance reviews as a matter of course
without knowing why it is important to do
so. Some supervisors and managers also are
unaware of legal issues associated with conducting performance evaluations thoroughly
Why Are Performance Evaluations
Improving employees’ performance is the
primary reason for conducting performance
evaluations. Most employees want ...view middle of the document...
Employers should consider creating a written “checklist” for evaluators to ensure each
of these elements is covered.
Practical Tips for Employers
In addition to the general guidelines discussed above, employers should consider
the following tips to ensure a successful
performance evaluation process.
Use evaluations to motivate and develop
employees. Encouraging employees and
praising good performance is a good way
to motivate people and can be much more
effective than frequent criticism.
Of course, constructive criticism is an
important part of an employee’s evaluation.
However, to avoid the unpleasantness that
may be associated with providing constructive feedback, some employers have a tendency to “inflate” performance evaluations.
While this is understandable, it can
For instance, in defending a wrongful termination lawsuit on the grounds the termination was for good cause, e.g., poor performance, the employer may have a difficult
time convincing the jury to render a verdict
in its favor if the employee has received “exceeds expectations” evaluations for the past
10 years. To avoid this problem, employers
should be objective, honest, and accurate
when preparing evaluations and during the
evaluation meeting with the employee.
Be timely. Evaluations should be conducted
in accordance with the time period set by
the employer. Employers who are late in
conducting evaluations may be perceived
as inattentive to employees’ needs and
not interested in employees’ professional
Use evaluations to improve performance.
Because productivity and good performance
are the primary goals of any business operation, performance evaluations should be
used to encourage employees to improve
their work product.
Engage in regular performance feedback.
Even if employers conduct formal, written evaluations only on an annual basis,
employees should be given opportunities
throughout the review period to correct performance problems and should be praised
for good work.
What about self-evaluations and 180 degree
evaluations? An effective performance evaluation process should be a two-way street.
Employees who are encouraged to evaluate
their supervisors’ and managers’ performance are more likely to take the process
seriously and participate in a more meaningful way.
Employers also should consider implementing a “self-evaluation” process to obtain
feedback regarding employees’ perceptions
of their performance. Thorough an interactive evaluation process, employers may re-
ceive valuable feedback on training, benefits,
and other issues important for employee
Be consistent. Each performance evaluation
should be considered part of a continuing
appraisal of an employee’s...