Why Is Your Manager Changing Your Performance Rating Behind the Scenes?

Have you ever had a performance review that didn’t go as expected? Maybe you were blindsided by a less-than-stellar rating or your manager’s assessment didn’t align with your own perception of your work. Or maybe you felt you were evaluated unfairly by a biased manager.

SEE ALSO: Ultimate Guide to Employee Check-Ins

If so, you’re in good company—about 7 in 10 employees feel similarly. A Gallup survey found that only 29% of employees strongly agree that the performance reviews they receive are fair and 26% strongly agree that their reviews are accurate.

Only 26% strongly agree that their reviews are accurate. Click To Tweet

Are employees delusional or is there truth to these performance review woes? Consider that in a recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research, 67% of executives admit to having removed negative feedback from an employee’s evaluation. While this seemingly benefits the employee, it can go both ways—managers can just as easily downgrade an employee’s performance. But why would a manager do this?

One possible reason is that your company could have a forced distribution for employee performance ratings. For example, if employees are graded on a 1 to 5 scale, managers may be pressured or required to grade employees on a bell curve in order to identify high performers and weed out low performers. The issue is that employee performance may not always fit neatly into that curve. An employee may be bumped up or down in order to fill a quota, which isn’t an accurate reflection of their work.

Another explanation is that your direct manager’s evaluation criteria may not align with their boss’ criteria. A manager might rate an employee as “outstanding”, a 5 out of 5, while an executive may have a different definition of “outstanding” work. In that case, the manager may have to adjust their initial rating.

This trend speaks to a deeper issue with employee ratings in general. Across the board, there’s a lack of transparency about performance metrics. The survey from Wakefield Research found that 68% of office professionals weren’t briefed on the metrics by which their performance would be evaluated as soon as they started at their company. And 16% of professionals are still unclear about what metrics are used to determine their ratings.

16% of professionals are still unclear about what metrics are used to determine their ratings. Click To Tweet

Companies need to ensure that all management is aligned on how they evaluate and rate employees. And this information needs to be communicated to employees from the day they start.

In addition, organizations should consider a more holistic approach to the evaluation process. Simply boiling an employee down to a single number rating fails to capture that employee’s skills, weaknesses, day-to-day successes, obstacles, potential, and long-term growth. Providing regular feedback and encouraging ongoing conversations between managers and employees can help to fill in the picture and prevent situations where managers have to alter performance ratings.

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