Common Pitfalls In Assessing Staff Performance

Halo or Horns Effect

  • Rating a person highly on all performance factors due to a global impression – e.g. marking someone up because they are popular, even though elements of their performance are weak
  • Rating a person low on all performance factors due to global impression – e.g. marking someone down on all counts because they are generally considered to be a poor performer, even though they may be satisfactory or excellent in some areas

This lack of objectivity can arise due to, for example: prejudices, personal judgements and subjective bias; memories of previous actions and standards; prior knowledge about the person rather than their actual performance; influence from other people.

The Central Line Trap

Avoiding extreme ratings, either good or bad, unless there are known complaints that cannot be ignored. This is neither transparent nor fair to ignore areas of excellence, or areas for improvement.

This pitfall can occur easily if:

  • The performance standards are not clearly defined – and managers feel it will be easier to take the middle ground rather than challenge the standards
  • There is a fear of being challenged – e.g. by the team member who may be unhappy that their achievements have not been recognised; or by the organisation in a standardisation exercise to compare standards reported in reviews made by all managers

Team members who have performed well but have only received an average or satisfactory rating will be demotivated and remember that feeling for a considerable period of time.

Inappropriate Influences

Not giving sufficient objective scrutiny to the details of the actual performance leading to unsafe assessment decisions.

  • Giving a member of a weak team a low rating – e.g. marking them down as an individual because of the low performance of the whole team, rather than because of their own failings within that team
  • Basing current performance ratings on past performance – e.g. looking at historical data rather than evaluating the current situation and achievements, which is potentially damaging to the individual, team and organisation because increases and decreases could be missed
  • Allowing recent ratings to mask overall performance – e.g. giving someone a high rating due to a couple of recent big sales, even though they were underachieving on their sales all year
  • If the manager is a perfectionist and works to their own standards instead of the organisation’s standards – e.g. marking everyone down even though they do not deserve a low rating

Performance assessments should be fair and transparent, based on actual data and objective measurements and, above all else, should aim to motivate the recipient to achieve greater output/productivity and motivation to their tasks.

Good Luck!

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