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Dealing With Rater Over-Confidence In Employee Performance Reviews

Mar 10, 2008
With good performance review processes, you have the employee complete a self rating before you meet.

Generally many employees rate themselves quite hard, or on par with your views of their performance. But what do you do if the person has rated themselves as exceptional on many areas and you think they are borderline competent (at best)?

This is much trickier to deal with than the person who is too hard on themselves.

Before you meet first double check your facts - are you 100% confident that your assessment is accurate. Have you been too hard on them with your assessment.

When you meet ask them to explain why they believe they deserve that rating. Dig a bit to see if there are complexities in their job you were not aware of, or if there is any justification for their assessment. Assume they are right with their assessment until proven otherwise.

So - what if you do that and there is still a significant difference in your views?

Start by commenting that you and your employee have significantly different ratings. Ask the person why they think that may be the case (and be willing to accept some hard personal feedback if necessary).

Then move onto the ratings and why you believe they are an accurate reflection of their current competence level. Be prepared with your strategies to deal with push back and tears - this is generally when you will get an emotional response in a performance review.

Focus on observed behaviour not the person. Give concrete examples of where the behaviour and outcomes were less than exceptional.

If you are still convinced your rating is correct after talking it through, then leave your rating and stands and invite the employee to add their clarifying comments to the review.

These situations are where a 360 review really come into their own. One person highlighting a difference of opinion is easy to dismiss - 10 people all saying the same thing is harder to ignore.

Finally, know that where this happens in most cases the employee won't "get" your rating. They will generally gossip about it with their peers and family talking about how unfair you were. In many cases they will look for another job down the track. Be prepared to manage the fall-out.

So does this mean you shouldn't be 100% honest about your views? No! Be honest - speak your views and hold firm if you genuinely believe you are are right in the face of all evidence before you.

It is more important as a manager to remain in your integrity and be honest with all of your employees, than it is to lie just to keep the peace.

I have lost count of the number of unfair dismissal cases I have seen before the Industrial Courts where a manager tried to keep the peace over the years and gave in to the ratings, before finally snapping and sacking the person - or a new manager coming in and being honest.

If all of the evidence on file (your performance reviews) says the person was a good performer and you sack them for poor performance - then you can kiss your case good-bye. In the long run you will be better off telling the person the truth.
About the Author
Ingrid Cliff is a Freelance Copywriter, Business Development and Human Resources Consultant to Small Businesses with her business Heart Harmony. Ingrid writes a free weekly small business newsletter and Small Business Ideas blog for small businesses.www.heartharmony.com.au
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