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California State University, Long BeachCalifornia State University, Long Beach

Tips for Preparing Performance Evaluations

During the year and prior to the performance evaluation meeting, the evaluator should: Communicate, Document, Review, and Solicit.

  • Communicate — Regular communication, coaching, and feedback during the year will reduce or eliminate tension and anxiety about the Performance Evaluation on the part of both the evaluator and the staff member. Positive and negative feedback is much more effective when given in a timely manner. A staff member should not be surprised by any of the information contained in the Performance Evaluation since the evaluator should have previously discussed all performance-related issues throughout the year.
  • Document — During the review period, the evaluator should collect and record significant, job-related incidents that pertain to each performance criterion. This provides a factual basis for performance ratings and overall assessment. Documentation gathered should be accurate and specific, both positive and negative, including the context in which they occurred as well as the date they occurred. It is important to distinguish between fact and opinion in documenting performance. Documentation should focus on facts. Facts are events, behaviors, or results. Facts are described through things that are known. (What was seen? What was heard?) Examples of documentation could include copies of a staff member’s work product, notes of discussions between the staff member and evaluator, copies of communications between the staff member and the evaluator, or recorded observations of the evaluator.
  • Review — Periodic review of the position description and revision, as necessary, eliminates misunderstandings between the evaluator and the staff member regarding job responsibilities and expectations. Position requirements and assignments should be clear to the staff member, and they may change. It is important that these changes are documented on the Position Description. Before writing a staff member’s Performance Evaluation the evaluator should review the employee’s position description and confirm that it is accurate. If the position description is not accurate, a revised position description should be submitted to Staff Human Resources within 30 days.
  • Solicit — To help reduce anxiety and create a positive environment for enhancing performance, the evaluator should ask the staff member to submit written input regarding his/her performance, including accomplishments relating to goals from the previous year and possible goals for the upcoming year. The staff member should be assured he/she is not being asked to write his/her own performance evaluation, rather simply being asked to provide his/her perspective. Evaluators should let the staff member know that this input is not mandatory and that lack of written input from a staff member will not negatively impact the staff member’s performance evaluation ratings.

The next step is to prepare a “draft” performance evaluation which is required for Bargaining Units 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9; and strongly recommended for Units 1 and 8.

The performance evaluation rating process has some common pitfalls or rating errors to avoid, including:

Common Rating Problems

  • Lack of Clarity and Agreement in Standards — The Position Description and the performance criteria should be available and clearly understood by the evaluator and the staff member. Periodic review and discussion will overcome this issue.
  • Insufficient Evidence — It is nearly impossible to recall an entire year’s worth of performance in several criteria for several staff members from memory alone. Recording significant and critical incidents of both a positive and negative nature will provide the information needed to communicate the rationale for the rating(s).
  • Excessive Strictness or Leniency — The tendency to be optimistic or pessimistic may influence the incidents documented and the emphasis placed on them. Some evaluators say that “no one is perfect” and deliver very tough, strict Evaluations. Others fear offending staff members or feel that high ratings will motivate the staff member and are overly positive in the review. A wide variety of documented incidents across all the criteria should provide an excellent base for ratings that are specific for each criterion.
  • Halo Effect — It is easy to allow the stellar performance in one or more criteria to influence the ratings in the other criteria. Evaluators should review each criterion on its own merit and have documentation to support each rating, to avoid this rating error.
  • Horns Effect — The opposite of Halo Effect, where an evaluator allow poor performance in one or more criteria to influence the ratings in the other criteria.
  • Central Tendency — Playing it safe and giving everyone a middle of the road rating also does everyone a disservice. Careful reading and consistent application of the criteria language and comparison to documented behaviors will help in giving objective ratings.
  • Similar to Me — Evaluators may tend to give staff members who are perceived to be like them higher ratings than those who are not. Diversity factors come into play, such as age, sex, culture, and educational level. Evaluators should be aware of this possibility and focus on actual job performance and visible results.
  • Recent Effect — The performance evaluation rating should reflect the entire review period. A recent positive or negative event should not color the entire rating.