One of the most revered tasks in management is the annual performance review (PR). The intent of the review is to give employees an evaluation of their performance for the year, and to assist them by giving them a list of their strengths, and identify opportunities to improve. Sometimes the PR is tied to promotion or bonuses. Most people who work in medium to large size companies have experienced the PR.
I’ve been thinking about performance reviews recently, as I go through the annual ritual of marking final exams and research papers. I’m currently marking a batch of final papers that were, to put it mildly, not well done. Typically I expect a normal distribution, about 10% As; 40% Bs; 40% Cs and 10% Ds & Fs. This time around, the distribution of the papers appears to be on the low side, many more Cs, Ds and Fs than I would like.
Is it the students? Or did the professor (that’s me) do a bad job explaining the task? Likely it is a bit of both. That is, student performance is a function of the ability, effort and time a student spends on the course, and the ability, time and effort of the professor.
Using course assessment as an analogy for the performance review is instructive. Employee performance is a function of the employee, the supervisor and the relationship between the employee and supervisor. Poor communication between them, vague directions and lack of feedback from the supervisor can contribute to lower employee performance. Biased evaluation such as the halo effect, harshness or leniency can also impact employee performance.
So the next time you have a “problem” employee, you might want to consider your contribution as a supervisor to the situation. Is it them, or is it you?