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Evaluating Performance Evaluations

In the given scenario, an engineer was hired two years ago at a mid-sized manufacturing plant. The engineer is a bright, detail-oriented person and a hard worker who has suggested changes at the plant that resulted in considerable savings on manufacturing energy costs and eliminated a significant safety hazard that had been overlooked by the previous engineer. Even with all of this, some co-workers resent the engineer because of clashing personalities, and they often play practical jokes on the engineer.

It is time for the engineer’s second annual performance review. The plant manager is considering skipping this review because the first annual review ended with the engineer angrily exclaiming that, as the only trained engineer in the company, there was no one—including the manager—who was qualified to evaluate the engineer’s work. The engineer had little confidence in the company’s overall approach to performance evaluation and was particularly upset that most of the rating scales focused on personal characteristics and relationships with co-workers. After learning about the 360-degree evaluation method, the plant manager wonders if a 360-degree approach might be a good way to handle the engineer’s review.

Using the plant’s current performance evaluation form, the plant manager starts to make some tentative decisions on how to rate the engineer this year. The first item is friendliness. The manager gives a medium rating on that scale because the engineer seems standoffish with co-workers. The next item is neatness of workspace. The engineer’s desk is always cluttered and sometimes piled high with papers or memos, so a low-medium rating seems justified. It is more difficult for the manager to give a rating on attitude. The engineer always seems to complete important tasks as needed, and they are usually done well; however, the engineer frequently demonstrates a poor attitude toward co-workers and does not pay close attention when the manager is talking to the group. A low-medium rating seems warranted on this item also.

Based on the details given, there are numerous concerns regarding the current review form/process. While people should be able to get along in a business setting, rating someone based on “friendliness” is inappropriate because the rating is very hard to quantify. If you were rating a Customer Service Representative on how often they received complaints from customers that they were rude or gruff in the execution of their job, these would at least be quantifiable. Giving someone a rating based on completely subjective data (the engineer seems standoffish with co-workers), undermines the integrity of the Performance Evaluation. While personality traits will inevitably creep into any review, they should not be central themes within it.

A second area of concern is rating the engineer based “neatness of workspace”. Much like “friendliness”, this is not an area that should be a central theme on a review. Each individual in an organization will have varying amounts of data that is associated with their every-day jobs. In the course of executing his/her work, it is likely that the engineer needs a large amount of data available for review. While it is completely appropriate to ask that the engineer straighten his/her desk at the end of each day, it is not something that should be a central theme on their review and should only be brought up if they refuse to adhere to this request. If the engineer does refuse to adhere to this request, then it should be addressed well before the annual review. If the problem persists, then it should be on the review, but only as an “area of concern”, not as a central point.

The final area of the review that is concerning is rating the engineer based on “attitude”. Much like rating the engineer on “friendliness”, this area is highly subjective and is not able to truly be measured. Like the first two areas (friendliness...
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