Dear Bob ...
I have a question about employee evaluations.
[ Also on InfoWorld: There's more than one form of employer-employee dialogue, and Bob tells you how to make sense of a feedback-free performance review. | Keep up on career advice with Bob Lewis' Advice Line newsletter. ]
My previous boss retired a few months ago, and I have a new boss now. His arrival more or less coincided with our annual performance evaluations. I have several direct reports (a small department in a larger IT organization), and I gave them all reviews that rated most items "excellent" with a few "meets expectations." I did not give anyone a "needs improvement."
It was pointed out to me that my ratings were kind of skewed and did not fit a bell curve at all. My response to this is that I think that kind of skewed result is to be expected under the circumstances. Here's why.
If this were a random sample of IT workers, I might also expect to see a bell curve, but this is not a random sample. My former boss and I have been shaping this department for many years. We had weak performers in the past, and they either improved to meet our expectations or we helped them find other opportunities.
The employees I have now have all been here for many years. They all get regular training in new advancements in their areas, and I discuss my expectations on at least a weekly (not annual) basis. I believe we have an excellent group of people now and having to find areas in which some of them "need improvement" seems artificial to me.
I'd be very interested in hearing whether or not you think I am off base in my thinking.
- Offering praise where praise is due
Dear Burnt When Offering ...
This sounds like a case where you should have a more in-depth discussion with your new manager about what "excellent," "meets expectations," and "needs improvement" mean.
Your position is perfectly reasonable: Everyone who didn't at least meet expectations is long gone, explaining the absence of a bell curve in your assessments. However, your new boss might be taking a different approach, one in which one of your responsibilities is to continually raise the bar with respect to expected performance. It's also quite reasonable.