Strengthening Trait Rating

The deficiencies of trait rating have come to be recognized, a number of changes and additions have been introduced. Some are aimed at making the traits more comprehensible to raters. In a rating form used by a well-known business corporation, a person’s “judgment” is defined as his or her capability to recognize the significant from the less significant in arriving at sound conclusions. Likewise, attempts are made to give meanings to various grades under each category.

Often, trait and work-quality forms are supplemented by open-ended evaluation in which, without specific guidance, appraisers are asked to supply whatever evidence on performance they feel is pertinent. Sometimes, also, this approach is used for the entire appraisal.

Appraisers may be given a broad outline to guide them; for example, they may be asked for comments under such categories as operations, organization, personnel, and finance, and they may be asked specifically to consider things as quality, quantity, and time required to complete work, customer relations, and subordinate employee morale. Although these categories are helpful, experience has shown that they do not greatly improve the quality of ratings.

Attempts have also been made to improve the effectiveness of the rating process. In some systems, subordinates are required to rate themselves, and superiors must compare their own ratings with those made by subordinates.

In other instances, the superior’s superior is asked to rate the formers subordinate or at least to carefully review the evaluation made by the immediate superior. Sometimes, a rater is forced by an appraisal system to rank subordinates from the best to the least able. In still other cases, rating has been done though the use of critical incidents that are assumed to give meaning to the grades given.

These incidents are important events or decisions critical for effective performance in a particular job. Such incidents may represent outstanding or unsatisfactory performance.

These and other devices have been used to offset the disadvantages of trait rating. They have helped, but they cannot overcome the fact that traits and work qualities are subjective and are not correlated with what a manager’s job really is.