Who should do Appraising?

Traditionally, the person’s direct supervisor appraises his or her performance. However, other options are certainly available and are increasingly used. We’ll look at the main ones.

The immediate Supervisor: Supervisor’s ratings are the heart of most appraisals. This makes sense: The supervisor should be and usually is in the best position to observe and evaluate the subordinate’s performance, and is responsible for that person’s performance.

Peer Appraisals: with more firms using self managing teams, peer or team appraisals – the appraisal of an employee by his or her peers are becoming more popular. For example, an employee chooses an appraisal chairperson each year. That person in turn selects one supervisor and three other peers to evaluate the employee’s work.

Peer appraisals can predict future management success. In one study of military officers, peer ratings were quite accurate in predicting which officers would be promoted and which would not. Peer ratings have other benefits. One study involved placing undergraduates into self managing work groups. The researchers found that peer appraisals had a immediate positive impact on improving perception of open communication, task motivation, social loafing, group viability, cohesion and satisfaction. However, log rolling that is when several peers collude to rate each other highly can be a problem.

Rating Committees: Many employers use rating committees. These committees usually contain the employee’s immediate supervisor and three or four other supervisors.

Using multiple raters makes sense. While there may be a discrepancy among ratings by individual supervisors, the composite ratings tend to be more reliable, fair, and valid. Such ratings have higher inter-rater reliability or consistency than do ratings obtained from several peers. Several raters can also help cancel out problems like bias and halo effects. Furthermore, when there are differences in ratings they usually stem from the fact that raters at different levels observe different facets of an employee’s performance; and the appraisal ought to reflect these differences. Even when a committee is not used, it is customary to have the manager immediately above the one who makes the appraisal review it.

Self Ratings: Should employees appraise themselves? The basic problem, of course, is that employees usually rate themselves higher than they are rated by supervisors or peers. In one study, it was found that when asked to rate their own job performance, 40% of the employees in jobs of all types placed themselves in the top 10% (one of the best) while virtually all remaining employees rated themselves either in the top 25% (well above average), or at least in the top 50% (above average). Usually no more than 1% or 2% will place themselves in below average category, and then almost invariably in the top below average category. One study concludes that individuals do not necessarily always have such positive illusions about their own performance, although in rating the performance of their group, group members did consistently give the group unrealistically high performance ratings.

Supervisors requesting self appraisals to accompany their own should therefore know that doing so may accentuate differences and rigidify positions, rather than aid the process. Furthermore, even if you don’t ask for a self-appraisal your employee will almost certainly enter the performance reviews with his or her own self appraisal in mind and this will usually be higher than your ratings. Therefore come prepared for a dialogue, with specific incidents to make your point.

Appraisal by Subordinates: More firms today let subordinates anonymously rate their supervisor’s performances a process some call upward feedback. The process helps top managers diagnose management styles, identify potential people problems and take corrective action with individual managers as required. Subordinate ratings are especially valuable when used for development rather than evaluative purposes. Managers who receive feedback from subordinates who identify themselves view the upward appraisal process more positively than do managers who receive anonymous feedback. However, subordinates (not surprisingly) are more comfortable giving anonymous responses, and those who have to identify themselves tend to provide inflated ratings. Sample upwards feedback items include: I can tell my manager what I think; my manager tells me what is expected; and my manager listens to my concerns.

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