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Employee performance appraisal is one of the most critical functions of a leader/manager and is a basic expectation of any one in a supervisory role. For Ohio State University Extension, the purpose of employee performance appraisal is to provide a systematic evaluation of the employee’s contribution to the organization.
There are several reasons to do performance appraisals. Among them are:
- to provide feedback to the employee
- to clarify job expections
- to determine training needs
- to diagnose performance problems
- merit pay or salary adjustments
Other reasons for performance appraisal include providing feedback to the supervisor and providing input to administrative decisions (i.e. promotion, tenure, future employment).
Who should do performance appraisal? In Ohio State University Extension, both the employee and the supervisor are involved. The employee is asked to provide a self appraisal to the supervisor, who then uses the employee input while completing his/her performance appraisal.
The performance appraisal itself should focus on behaviors and outcomes as related to job responsibilities. These are factors that can be changed with effort. Effort must be made to avoid making judgments related to traits. Traits are basic elements of personality and are not easily changed through supervision.
Barriers to Effective Appraisals
- Personality Conflict – Personality conflict between the employee and the supervisor cause the leader to make an inaccurate assessment of the employee’s contribution.
- Halo or Horn Effect – An assumption on the part of the supervisor that because the employee was good at one thing, they will be good at another, or vice versa.
- Tendency Error – There are two kinds of tendency errors. Central tendency is when the supervisor tends to see everything as average, such as a 3 on a 5-point scale. Leniency is another tendency error where the supervisor tends to see the employee only in a positive light.
- Similar to Me Effect – Occurs when there are non-job factors in common between the supervisor and the employee such as social or religious similarities.
- Contrast Effect – Occurs when comparing the skill of the employee with the skill of another employee, which results in an unfair judgment of the first employee.
- First Impression – Performance appraisal is made without observation over time. This can be both positive and negative based on impression that is created.
- Political Error – Factors other than performance affect the performance appraisal.
- Opportunity Bias – Occurs when an unusual event allows or causes inaccurate performance appraisal.
Providing Effective Feedback
Giving effective feedback is one of the most important functions a leader/manager can perform. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most neglected. Without accurate feedback, it is virtually impossible for the employee to know if he/she is meeting job expectations. In the absence of feedback, employees will makeup their own and it often is not accurate. Incompetent employees may think they are doing a great job if their supervisor never says anything about their performance. Even more commonly, capable employees will have doubts about their own performance because their supervisor has not given them any positive feedback.
When providing feedback about an employee’s performance, supervisors need to:
- Give feedback directly. Talk directly to the employee rather than relaying messages through others. The message is less likely to be distorted when you are direct.
- Deliver feedback immediately. To be effective, feedback should be given as soon after the event or situation as possible. Don’t save it up for the annual performance review.
- Be specific. It is hard to improve performance based on generalized statements. “You’re doing a great job!” helps individuals feel good but it doesn’t tell them on what specific strength you want them to build. Likewise, “You missed the boat on that one!” doesn’t provide them with sufficient information to make constructive changes to the future.
- Share positive and negative feedback equally. Some employees receive no feedback at all until they so something wrong. When that happens, they automatically think that every time they see the supervisor, the news will be bad.
- Make sure the feedback is clear. Delivering feedback that the employee doesn’t understand only leads to increased confusion. Practice active listening skills and ask the employee for their understanding of the feedback. Clarifying the information will ensure that accurate information has been provided and received.