Human Resources

Tips for supervisors

  1. Schedule goal/development reviews about 30 days in advance.
  2. Focus the review on an employee’s goals, not the job description. The job description is the minimum we expect.
  3. Ask employees to self-evaluate. Feedback from employees on their own performance provides their perspective and a starting point for the discussion.
  4. Make sure the review incorporates the entire year. Consider maintaining a log throughout the year to track accomplishments and challenges.
  5. Be balanced in your review, noting both strengths and areas for improvement. Everyone has areas for improvement. Note at least one significant area for improvement in every review.
  6. Be honest. Do not understate an area of improvement in an effort to protect the employee. In fact, minimizing an area for improvement has the opposite effect. Employees wish to have your honest assessment of their performance so that they can respond.
  7. Be specific in your evaluation. Consider replacing adjectives such as good or excellent with verbs, e.g. completed, demonstrated, led. Provide specific examples.
  8. Provide the employee with your draft written review the day before your discussion.
  9. During your discussion, you or your employee may decide to change something in the written review that the two of you have drafted. Don’t consider your written review complete until after the discussion.
  10. Spend more time discussing future goals than past performance.

Mistakes to avoid

  1. Don’t wing the review. Spend about 30 minutes preparing for each review.
  2. Don’t use second-hand feedback. If you hear of your employee’s poor behavior, make it a point to observe that behavior first-hand. 
  3. Don’t do all the talking. The review should be a dialogue. Ask good questions and be a good listener.
  4. Don’t assume that long tenure equals good performance.
  5. Don’t assume that likeability equals good performance.
  6. Don’t refer to medical events, e.g. “Even though you were out on FMLA for three months, you still had an excellent year.”
  7. Never save up feedback for the annual discussion. Give feedback in a timely manner. Foster an environment where feedback, both positive and constructive is normal and expected.

Common biases

  1. Recency Effect – The tendency to rate someone based on their most recent contribution, rather than their performance over the whole review period.
  2. Central Tendency – The tendency to avoid rating at the high and low extremes and instead cluster all employees in the center. This is sometimes motivated by a supervisor’s desire to be equitable.
  3. Leniency – The tendency to use a less stringent set of standards. Interestingly, often supervisors are more lenient with employees whose performance is low.
  4. Halo Effect – The tendency to base an employee’s entire review on evaluation of a single performance objective, either positive or negative, such as meeting one's fundraising goals.