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Considerations for Your Performance Evaluation

If you are like most employees, you probably dread the annual performance evaluation process. It may seem as though you have no power to influence the outcome, so your strategy may be to just grin and bear it. In actuality, you probably have more power than you realize. Following are ten things to think about with regard to your performance evaluation. You may find that with a little foresight and a proactive approach you can make the evaluation process work for you.

  1. Timetable. Most employers have a fixed schedule for employee performance evaluations. Usually, everyone is evaluated at the same time annually, or each employee is evaluated on the anniversary of his or her start date. Find out when your performance evaluation has been promised, and make sure your supervisor sticks to that timetable.
  2. Purpose. The performance evaluation process should have a stated purpose. If the documents you receive do not contain a stated purpose, ask your supervisor to discuss this issue with you at the start of the evaluation process.
  3. Anti-discrimination laws. Like every other aspect of your job, the performance evaluation process must comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws. If you suspect noncompliance, you should document your concerns and bring them to your supervisor's attention immediately.
  4. Privacy. You have a right to confidentiality of your performance evaluation. In most cases, only you and your supervisor will be involved in the evaluation process. Some companies may include a representative from the human resources department. Others take a team approach. If you suspect a breach of confidentiality, you should document your concern and take it to your supervisor immediately.
  5. Focus. Obviously, your workplace performance evaluation evaluates how well you are doing your job. You have a right not to be evaluated on factors unrelated to how well you do your job. For example, it is legal for your employer to assess your loyalty to the company, but it would be illegal to evaluate you based on your religious affiliation.
  6. Compensation. Is the performance evaluation process tied directly to a compensation increase? If so, what factors determine whether employees get a raise? Find out whether raises are based on merit, cost of living, or some other factor.
  7. Objective versus subjective criteria. Objective evaluation criteria include test results and other measurable goals, such as number of sales calls made. Subjective criteria, on the other hand, are those measured by the evaluator's personal assessment of the employee's performance, such as evaluating tasks on a scale from "extremely satisfactory" to "satisfactory" to "average," etc. A good performance appraisal form includes objective criteria for evaluation as well as subjective criteria for evaluating the employee's performance. If your evaluation form does not include some objective criteria, investigate whether you could suggest some objective criteria to add to the form.
  8. Negative appraisal. As a general matter, your performance evaluation should be specific, and this is especially important when you've been evaluated negatively. If your performance evaluation contains criticism, ask your supervisor to provide very specific examples to support the evaluation, and request specific suggestions for improvements.
  9. Evaluate the evaluator. Although it is rare, some courts have recognized an employee's cause of action against an employer for negligent performance of performance evaluations. In other words, your employer may owe you a duty to act in a reasonable manner in evaluating your performance. Thus, if you feel that the person in charge of evaluating your performance has not acted competently, you may wish to discuss it with human resources personnel, your union representative, or an employment law attorney.
  10. Retain records. Be sure to keep a copy of every performance evaluation, as well as informal assessments of your job performance, such as an e-mail message that commends you for a job well done. These records may be your insurance against arbitrary termination or demotion. Some courts have even ruled that performance appraisals create an implied contract of employment.

Have Questions About These Considerations for Performance Evaluations? Ask a Lawyer

Performance evaluations can be an opportunity for both employer and employee to communicate. However, it is also a risk for both parties, since these exchanges open up the possibility of conflict. Contact a local employment attorney to learn how they can help plan an effective evaluation that minimizes risk to your business.

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