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Objective Vs. Subjective Performance Evaluations

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Conducting a job evaluation is a challenging task for most bosses. You have to fight the employee's tendency to believe that the evaluation is subjective rather than based on his actual results. Following an established system for measuring and interpreting employee performance is the best strategy. If each employee knows what to expect, and you follow the system, there should be fewer questions about your objectivity.

Sticking to Now

Evaluators begin to lose objectivity if they let different rating tendencies affect the ratings they assign to employees. For example, they might give employees inflated ratings based on past performance or overly poor ratings because of personal prejudices against that person. To avoid unnecessary biases, compare an individual's performance to each assigned performance objective. An objective might be for an employee to submit a resolution log showing the outcome of all client contacts for the week by Friday close of business. Or, an objective might be to sell 120 new subscriptions for cable service each month. An employee will perform some aspects of the job better than others, so give individual ratings on different objectives to get a more complete view of his performance.

Ratings and Scales

Many bosses think if they are using a systematic method, such as rating an employee on a scale of one to five on a list of tasks or characteristics, they are giving a more objective evaluation. However, in each rating you make -- one through five -- you could be letting your personal biases affect the score. Look for ways to measure employee performance that are not subjective, such as the average number of assigned tasks completed per day, or the amount of new business the employee generated during the evaluation period. In many databases, reporting tools help you measure the productivity and accuracy of employees. As long as you are choosing measures relevant to an employee's objectives, these kinds of measures will help you evaluate with more objectivity.

Relevance and Consistency

The evaluation process is only useful if measures data relevant to the specific employee, so make sure it includes the employee's daily responsibilities and goals. Also, make sure individual managers use similar performance criteria to ensure consistency and objectivity across the organization. If everyone uses the same model, human resources can train managers how to deliver consistent ratings. HR can also audit a percentage of performance evaluations to see if managers are using objective measurements.

Making Comments

Some performance appraisals call for writing descriptive comments about employee performance, including what she's done very well, at a satisfactory level and below expectations. For example, you might have to explain why an employee should get personal development opportunities, including coaching and training, to improve weak areas. Keep notes throughout the year about strengths and weaknesses so you can write detailed comments specific to certain areas of the employee's performance. Without notes and examples to back up your comments, you will have to rely on your own perceptions when evaluating the employee, which makes it more likely that subjective measures will creep in.


Audra Bianca has been writing professionally since 2007, with her work covering a variety of subjects and appearing on various websites. Her favorite audiences to write for are small-business owners and job searchers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and a Master of Public Administration from a Florida public university.

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