The performance appraisal continues to be a topic of conversation. Today’s reader question brings up an interesting point about the process.
Hi Sharlyn. I love your blog and learn a lot from it. I’m currently working on a project to implement automated performance evaluations.
I am trying to put together some guidelines for managers who want to modify/edit /change ratings on the evaluations. We receive this request frequently and want to figure out a policy or procedure to ensure fairness and consistency. Any insights would be helpful.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with changing performance appraisal ratings. It’s not illegal. Jonathan Segal with the firm Duane Morris shares, “It is lawful for an employee to make changes based on the dialogue that should accompany the appraisal.” Please note Jonathan’s use of the word “employee”. It would not be advisable to change employee ratings without the employee’s knowledge.
Where I’ve typically run into this situation is in organizations that encourage self-evaluations. The employee completes a self-evaluation and the manager completes an evaluation. During the performance review conversation, the review document is sometimes changed based upon the conversation. Both the employee and manager agree upon the change.
I’ve also run into challenges when managers believe that once they put a rating on paper, they cannot change it. Even when the employee presents a valid reason for doing so. Maybe the manager forgot an incident – it happens. Changing a performance appraisal rating is not a mistake, and shouldn’t be viewed that way. That thinking turns the performance appraisal into a tug-of-war, which isn’t productive. And might be a contributor to the negativity surrounding the process.
Here are a few best practices to follow when it comes to changing ratings during the performance appraisal process:
Include the subject in training. Managers should receive training on both the performance appraisal process and the best way to conduct the performance conversation. Changing ratings should be included as part of that training.
Changes should be acknowledged by both parties. The performance appraisal document should be initialed and dated by the manager and the employee.
Jonathan added that the employer should document separately the reason for the change, such as lack of awareness that the employee had completed a project which the manager thought the employee did not. “Why document the reason? To show, without saying it, that the change was not because the underlying document reflected bias but because of new information, a good explanation for the failing to meet fully expectations, etc. Unfortunately, in our litigious world, even doing the right thing can be manipulated by a lawyer in litigation. Do the right thing but protect yourself, too.”
Now you might be saying, “Hey that’s great if you have a paper process. What about electronic performance management systems?” Very valid question. I reached out to Rachel O’Neil, talent management consultant at Halogen Software, to compare.
Rachel explained that, when it comes to an electronic performance appraisal, the process is similar. Managers complete their portion of the appraisal while employees complete their self-evaluation. The ratings are finalized before or during the performance review meeting.
However, the system configuration will dictate how changes are made. Rachel noted, “There may be an approval step or the ability to edit scores at various stages throughout the process. After the review has been finalized by the manager and employee, then system administrators can facilitate the necessary steps to make changes, if necessary.”
Rachel also added an excellent point about the whole concept of changing ratings and that it should be an exception not a regular occurrence. “The process of assigning scores and ratings should be a thoughtful, collaborative one so that during the performance review meeting, the manager and employee are focusing on discussion with valid, reliable feedback to support it.”
Performance reviews should not be a surprise. Managers and employees should be having regular conversations and feedback so nothing on the review is a shocker. Hopefully, that reduces the number of instances where performance ratings have to be adjusted. That being said, should the situation occur where an adjustment needs to be made, allowing managers and employees the flexibility will create the results you’re looking for – conversations about better performance.
Image courtesy of HR Bartender0