Common Errors in Performance Appraisals

by Neil Kokemuller; Updated September 26, 2017

When managed and delivered effectively, performance appraisals are an excellent way to communicate with employees, set goals, review progress and motivate workers. However, a number of errors can get in the way of quality appraisals, and even cause negative effects on employee progress and morale.

Structure and Timing

Inconsistency and uncertainty in the performance appraisal system mitigates their effectiveness. Employees should know when to expect performance reviews, and the manager should plan ahead and set an appraisal meeting on time. Scheduling and preparing for appraisal meetings helps your employees take them more seriously. Finding a quiet space to conduct the meeting and allowing the employee to share feedback or input is helpful as well, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Strictness and Leniency

Some managers offer feedback that is too strict or too lenient. Being too strict means that you downgrade employees relative to actual performance. Leniency means delivering scores higher than job performance warrants. Keeping emotions out of your evaluation and using objective criteria with data to support your reasoning helps ensure the most accurate results. Accurate ratings improve the ability of your workers to respond in areas where improvement is needed.

Halo Effect

The halo effect means that you assume because an employee is generally "good", that his work in all areas is strong. The halo effect prevents a manager from objectively evaluating the employee on each criterion, according to Virginia Tech. Maintaining a professional approach to relationships, treating each worker equally and carefully scoring each criterion helps protect against haloing.

Likeness and Stereotyping

"Like me" bias and stereotyping are closely related appraisal errors, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. These errors stem from a manager's use of personal perspectives to conduct evaluations. Liking a particular employee may bias the manager toward more favorable assessments. Stereotyping employees leads to preconceived expectations and judgments, which hinder accuracy. Stereotyping also may lead to discrimination. As with strictness and leniency, the key to protect against these errors is objective and carefully scrutinized appraisals. Data-driven assessments also guard against high levels of subjectivity.

Recency Effect

The recency effect is based on a natural inclination to give greater weight to the most recent events. Therefore, an employee who has performed much lower than normal in recent weeks may receive an overly condemning evaluation. Some employees recognize the recency effect and work hard leading up to an appraisal to make a positive last impression. Keeping notes between evaluations and tracking performance data for an extended period of time enables a more thorough evaluation.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.