Maintaining the appropriate balance between neutrality and familiarity makes this a tricky question. Performance reviews require detailed knowledge of the individual under review, so a person who’s too distant may not accurately assess an employee’s ability. This will almost certainly mean the manager is relying on secondhand information. However, someone too close may be biased for or against the reviewee. Consider the potential consequences before deciding whose input to seek for the review.

Understanding the Role of the Manager in Performance Reviews

In many companies, the employee’s manager conducts performance reviews by default. The manager has a responsibility to assess worker performance, and putting him or her in charge of the review only formalizes that obligation. But managers also need the right combination of impartiality and intimacy to accurately assess a subordinate’s conduct.

Potential Problems:

  • Sometimes the distance isn’t enough or the manager has his or her own biases. A particularly common form of bias is the halo/horns effect. The halo effect means some employees can do no wrong in a supervisor’s eyes. The opposite, called the horn effect, is true when the employee can do no right. Appropriate training can limit the effect of these biases, but it’s still difficult for people to get the right balance of fairness and knowledge for a good performance review.
  • Managers also have tasks beyond the performance review. When this becomes their main duty, other work suffers. Striking a balance between responsibility to the company and to employees can be a difficult process. As such, managerial training can help create a hierarchy of priorities. Alternately, other entities, like the HR Department, may be better suited to doing the assessment.

Consulting the HR Department for the Review

Sometimes the human resources department of a company conducts the performance reviews in addition to its formal duties. A human resources employee has more objective distance than other reviewers and is concerned with the overall health of the company. These individuals may be an ideal alternative to a manager.

Potential Problems:

  • Human resources employees probably won’t see these employees outside of specific situations. They’re likely to only see them when something has gone wrong or during the review process itself – when the employee is likely to be on his or her best behavior. In this case, too much distance can lead to an inaccurate valuation.
  • What seems right for the business might not be best for the worker. Since the human resources department is more responsible to the company than the employee, the duties of assessment may not be appropriate.

When Co-Workers Review Each Other

An employee’s co-workers can offer a unique perspective on the performance review process. Like managers, co-workers see their fellow employees on a daily basis. Often they interact differently with the individual under assessment than a manager. Supervisors may see the reviewee at their best; co-workers are likely to see the employee under a number of different circumstances.

Potential Problems:

  • Due to these daily interactions, co-workers may be significantly biased. Reviews can also be given out of self-interest. Mutual agreements to give good reviews are one potential problem, but if there’s a rivalry between these individuals, the reviewee may receive an unwarranted bad review. Everyone wants to believe their employees are fundamentally honest, but you have to account for these possibilities.

Using a Client Review as an Assessment

In certain jobs, a client’s perspective can offer invaluable insight. You want your patrons to be satisfied with your company’s services. Asking them directly for feedback regarding your employee’s performance can give you this information. It also allows you a different perspective on your employee’s personal interaction.

Potential Problems:

  • Like human resources employees, clients only see your personnel for a limited time period. They have no idea whether someone always performs at a specific level or if a person is just having a good or bad day. Sometimes an employee and client have a personality conflict that has nothing to do with the job. You also have no idea what the usual disposition of a client is. These individuals may be extremely strict with ratings or could be particularly generous.

How Self-Ratings Fit Into the Review

Self-rating can lead to more accurate assessments, but it’s also helpful for the employees. If they use the same tools to evaluate their performance as managers do, they should come to similar conclusions. This assumes personnel understand how to use the rating tools and are operating with the same set of definitions. Of course, employees should always be asked to justify their ratings with specific examples.

Potential Problems:

  • Sometimes an employee’s ratings differ from the manager’s. If the reviewee is overly strict with his or her interpretation, a worker can award a much lower rating than deserved. A more common problem is when employees are overly lenient with their ratings.

Who Should Assess Management?

If a manager is being assessed, you may want to ask his or her subordinates to conduct the review. Managers have a significant responsibility to these individuals, after all, and you want to ensure they’re handling them appropriately.

While employees can offer valuable insight into a manager’s strengths and weaknesses, they may exhibit positive bias, particularly if they’re worried about their feedback’s anonymity. In all cases, you should remind the reviewers that their feedback is confidential. It can be particularly useful to aggregate multiple scores so the reviewee doesn’t know who gave component ratings.

Combining Multiple Sources for an Unbiased Review

As every source of review has potential problems, using multiple sources and creating aggregate reviews may be the best method. With this approach, prejudices are spread across all scores. If predispositions are random, they’ll likely cancel each other out.

Qualitative and quantitative assessments can be aggregated. If a particular issue shows up multiple times, it’s clearly a recurring problem. Tell the employee about this type of concern, and give examples. This will make your feedback far more effective than simply reporting aggregate scores. A rating by itself is worthless; consider creating an assessment with examples to help an employee improve his or her work.