Won't Employees Self Evaluate Themselves Unrealistically High?

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A lot of people believe that if you have employees self evaluate as part of performance management, they will evaluate themselves in an unrealistic, inaccurate, and overly complimentary way. It's a common perception, but it's really not all that accurate. The answer is, it depends.

The more vague the evaluation criteria the employee is asked to use, the more likely he or she will be unrealistic and evaluate him or herself more highly than let's say the manager.

For example, rating systems tend to be vaguer than asking whether an objective has been achieved. Ratings are more prone to inflation from self rating, BUT, it's by no means universal.

Interestingly enough, there's research to indicate that most many employees (as many as 80%), when asked if they are below average workers, average, or above average, will state they are above average. This is clearly impossible statistically. But before you allow cynicism to take hold, note that asking the question is exceedingly vague.

On the other hand, there is also evidence to show that when given clear and specific self evaluation guidelines, employees will actually be stricter with themselves than would be the manager.

In any event, since evaluations, self and otherwise should be used as a basis for discussion and communication, whether employees are more strict or more lenient than managers isn't a really crucial issue.

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Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992 by consultant and book author, Robert Bacal. Robert's books on performance management and reviews have been published by McGraw-Hill. He is available for consultation, training and keynote speaking on performance and management at work.

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