Managing Employees: When All Evaluations Are Positive or Negative
When managers conduct employee appraisals, they must take care not to skew (twist) the evaluation results so that all the employees end up with positive — or negative — reviews. But what motivates managers in the first place to skew results instead of rating employees along the whole length of the scale?
Going positively skewed
The positively skewed evaluations suffer from several questionable assumptions:
They lead to fewer, if any, confrontations, disagreements, and denials in the one-on-one sessions. Sure, the one-on-one sessions will be less stressful because employees won’t insist that their evaluations should be lower. Unfortunately, the feedback is useless, and employees have no guidance for improvement.
Positive evaluations are easier and quicker to write. This too is correct — it’s always easier to write praise than it is to craft negative feedback. But again, there is no point in giving positive feedback for behaviors that are less than positive.
By bestowing heaps of praise, thanks, and adulation upon employees, I’ll be well liked. This is a myth. The reality is that these managers are more likely to be viewed as needy, weak, and easily manipulated.
Providing the employees with positive feedback will encourage them to work hard to continue to improve their performance. Providing positive feedback for all performance renders all the feedback meaningless.
Positive ratings for employees make managers look good in the eyes of their own managers (hence, making them more promotable). After all, if their department is filled with outstanding people, these managers can be promoted and one of the outstanding employees in their department can move into the open position.
Going negatively skewed
An equally problematic set of errors occurs when managers give all their employees’ equally low ratings. And the motivations for this approach are equally questionable:
For some managers, the idea behind the overly negative ratings is to identify the really tough and driven employees. The contention is that when employees are burdened with negative ratings, only the strong will survive.
These managers may also contend that there simply are no outstanding employees, regardless of the facts. For such managers, there is a sense of pride in believing that no one is capable of achieving the high standards that they’ve set for the department.