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Evaluation Time

23 Sep Posted by in Business | Comments Off on Evaluation Time
Evaluation Time

This is the season when throughout the University administrative officials are filing performance reports with their supervisors, who then do their own report which they discuss with the subordinate. It’s an interesting, potentially valuable process — even the performance report itself can be used to improve communication as well as assessment.

Inevitably, the process is time consuming. I am annually reminded that I probably have too many direct reports, though I rarely do anything about the reminder.

What’s really interesting, however, is the supervisory approach taken, which is why the subject is worth a blog. One is assessing valued subordinates with whom one works closely. Any note of suggestion, particularly in writing, can potentially cause hurt feelings and actually disrupt the working relationship. At the same time, it is desirable to point up areas that could use improvement, and in a rare case it’s vital to document bad performance in the event that, down the line, further disciplinary measures become desirable.

Some supervisors resolve the dilemma by simply avoiding the procedure altogether, even though it’s mandated in principle. Others resolve by listing top scores down the line, even though (and I speak here as a supervisor’s supervisor) it may be pretty clear that a few problems could legitimately be noted. For my part, I sometimes try to raise issues in discussion without actually putting them into writing.

But I hope I’m willing to risk a bit of confrontation to take advantage of this annual opportunity to urge improvement even in cases in which performance is basically satisfactory or even (for the most part) quite good. And I am impressed with a number of supervisors who are routinely pretty candid, envying them the context they seem to have established that allows some frankness without provoking mutiny. On the whole, I think we probably need to encourage more nuanced reports, rather than yielding quite so often to the impulse to keep relationships as smooth as possible. But it is an interesting challenge.