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Performance Evaluations: Why Bother? Arguing the Case for Using Performance Evaluations

Updated on September 11, 2012
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

Performance Evaluations are important to employees.


Employee performance evaluations are the well known standard for formally documenting performance of employees in the workplace. Employees have grown accustomed to receiving them annually or on a regular basis. Supervisors are tasked with completing them with the intention of allowing an employee to correct performance issues that may need improvement. In addition, employees expect to receive credit deserved and recognition for being a team player and their overall contribution to the employer. These documents become part of the employee jacket or permanent personnel file that is kept as a record of the employee's work experience. For some organizations, the results of the evaluation may be tied to whether there is a raise in salary.

Performance evaluations are also recognized outside of the employee-supervisor relationship. Juries hearing cases of discrimination will regard these reviews as the norm for documenting employees and how they perform their jobs. Human Resources is tasked with reviewing them to ensure that they are done fairly, within the regulations of the laws that govern workplace practices. While the formats vary and the criteria may be unique to each organization, the standard for an evaluation is widely recognized and generally accepted in the American workplace.

What About the Critics?

While there is an accepted expectation of performance evaluations being a normal management tool in the workplace, there are many naysayers, both employees and managers, who really do not believe in the worth of an evaluation. Employees question their validity and their supervisor's ability to be fair and honest in the evaluation. The notion that a supervisor will give the "favorite" a better evaluation is not an uncommon opinion that many employees share.

For those "Doubting Thomas" supervisors who do not support performance evaluations, they are more likely to do a substandard review and not provide the honest feedback that is necessary to give an evaluation the credibility that it requires to be an effective management tool. Some, believe it or not, may choose to not do them at all. However, such neglect of duty should be noted on a supervisor's evaluation!

The bottom line for many critics of the performance evaluation is that they just do not meet the objective of the system, and therefore are viewed as a waste of time to complete.

Why Evaluations are Important.

While many expectations exist about the completion of such evaluations, organizations understand the benefits of an evaluation system. A thorough and detailed evaluation completed on an employee can be used effectively to communicate feedback on performance and provide direction for areas needed for performance improvement. Other benefits are as follows:

  • Consistency - Employees receiving an evaluation in a structured format will receive feedback in the same manner as his or her coworkers. In other words, employee performance can be measured with an evaluation tool in the same way that employees in similarly situated positions. Supervisory employees should receive an evaluation that measures such things as managerial style, leadership skills, etc. Non supervisory employees will be evaluated on other criteria such as attendance, interpersonal skills, teamwork, etc. Using performance evaluations will provide some consistency in how such valuable feedback is provided to employees.
  • Fairness - Employees should be evaluated on the job performance, not the personal traits of gender, ethnicity, age, etc. Evaluating an employee on any protected classification would not be following employment laws and thus not fair in the treatment of the employees who are being evaluated. Performance evaluations become permanent records of the employee's performance. Poorly written evaluations can be a liability to employers when done unfairly.
  • Communication Tool - Supervisors who sit down in a formal setting with the employee to go over the ratings of the evaluation are taking advantage of a good opportunity to discuss performance expectations and employee feedback about the position. It is certainly a good chance to discuss the future by going over goals and objectives. While supervisors give regular feedback about everyday incidents and work, a performance evaluation is geared toward communicating performance that has occurred over a period of time. Evaluations should be given the time for one-on-one communication to be sure that effective conversation is had by both the supervisor and the employee whose performance is being reviewed.
  • Documentation - As mentioned in some of my other hubs, it is always important to document. Performance evaluations are another way to document employee activity. Evaluations are a method for recording employee performance in the workplace.
  • Recognition of Accomplishments - Supervisors should take the completion of an evaluation as an opportunity to acknowledge accomplishments and achieved objectives by documenting them in such a format. Employees will appreciate the recognition and it becomes a part of their employee record. For promotion and transfer considerations, such documentation can be helpful to the employee.
  • Future Goals and Objectives - The formal, sit down meeting with the employee is a wonderful opportunity to set goals and objectives together. Allowing the employee to provide feedback and input about the organization will be a good way to establish trust and show appreciation for their ideas and contribution to making the workplace better for all. The meeting to go over the evaluation should be a shared conversation about much more than the document itself.

Final Thoughts

Getting the best out of employees is important for maintaining a productive work environment. Giving honest feedback in the form of an employee evaluation is important to employees. Employees have come to expect such communication as most employers conduct evaluations as a business practice. While the completing of such documents can be somewhat daunting for the supervisor, failing to do so is an opportunity lost in the employee to supervisor relationship. Employees will be more likely to participate in the evaluation process when the evaluations are are conducted timely, fairly and in an honest manner.

Do you believe performance evaluations are useful in the workplace?

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    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Performance evaluations are not only an important management tool, they also help the employee. Feedback, both positive and negative, are important for the growth of the employee in her/his position.

    • tipstoretireearly profile image

      tipstoretireearly 5 years ago from New York

      The performance evaluation is a great tool for setting future goals and objectives. Ideally, the manager and employee can agree on the goals ahead of time, and then periodically review the employee's progress towards meeting them throughout the year. The employee's job is to complete them; the manager's job is to make sure the employee meets them. Very useful hub for the many people who work in organizations that use performance evaluations!