Performance Evaluation

April 23, 2011

April showers bring May flowers and annual performance evaluations.  Being slightly narcissistic, I always get more worked up about the reviews than I ought to.  The evaluation itself consists of 20 performance categories on which we are rated from “does not meet expectations” to “exceeds expectations.”  A numeric rating was tried a few years back but deemed to be too harsh.  Who said engineering is an uncaring profession?

Up to three managers will complete an evaluation form for each employee.  Their responses are then aggregated into one sheet via a spreadsheet that I helped develop.  I have to admit that it has crossed my mind to rig the macro so that I’ll always receive perfect scores.  Then again the multiple-choice doesn’t seem to carry as much weight as the comment section.

After all of the reviews have been compiled, we’ll meet one-on-one with our local sector principal – who isn’t nearly as scary as the 1984-ish title would suggest.  I’ve been fortunate to receive very good reviews since working at Thornton Tomasetti.  However, what they said about reputations in high school applies equally well to the office.  It frustrates me when comments about personality receive more attention than quality of work.

At this point, we’re about two minutes into the review meeting.  Some people take pride in finishing up the remaining accomplishments and goals sections quickly and getting back to work within five minutes.  I’m different.  I figure this is my chance to really sell myself; this is, after all, about the only time that it’s not terribly uncomfortable to communicate my hopes and dreams to my boss.  Caution: I have recently learned that this approach is not always interpreted as intended.

I really feel like it has been a significant year for me.  I’ve been involved in some cool extra-curricular projects, worked on over 30 jobs, and even become a father.  After seven years at the same company, I want to grow professionally and take more control of my daily assignments.  I also believe that my genuine interest in (environmental) sustainability could provide an opportunity to carve my own niche within the company.

How should I handle my performance evaluation this year?  Do you have a story about a very good or bad review experience?  Please share your comments.

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  • Interested in why organizations do employee performance evaluation? Employee performance evaluation is both an evaluative process and a communication tool. Done traditionally, employee performance evaluation is universally disliked by supervisors and employees.

    Performance management, on the other hand, provides the advantages organizations seek in doing employee performance evaluation. But, performance management, participated in effectively and with the appropriate mindset, accomplishes the same goals, and more. Performance management also supplies additional advantages to both the manager and the employee.

    The question on the table now is why organizations would want to ask employees to participate in either employee performance evaluation or a performance management system. Good reasons exist for advocating the basic concept of employee performance evaluation. I’m just not a fan of the traditional process.
    Tony @

  • Avatar William M. HaydenJr

    The discussion* on the subject of “performance evaluation” would be better served if it was focused not on people, but on the system within which all people work. As Dr. W. Edwards Deming taught, “It’s the system, not the people.” This means that, at the least, some 94 to 96% of what goes wrong within a professional services firm can be traced to the system of that company which is controlled by its management. 5 to 6% may be traced to individuals. Yet, in most practices, upper management invests almost all of their time, when addressing unacceptable results, by “searching for the guilty and punishing the innocent.”

    When trying to optimize** the overall organization, there is no place for the concept that each department or “silo” tries to win at the expense of others. As an example, it does not make sense for individual departments, divisions, teams and people to compete for the biggest part of the budget to try to get ahead of other departments. Nor does it mean that if each department “meets its numbers” that the overall organization wins.

    The above perspective raises the questions:
    a. Where/when/how is the theory and practice of systems thinking introduced (applied to groups of people) within the formal educational program of our civil engineers?

    b. When evaluating people, if we note that their performance is “X” and the impact of the system is “Y” for what they are accountable to deliver, how does one measure the value of “Y” for the equation [ X + Y = individual’s performance rating]?

    c. In what ways might Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) inform our understanding on the interdependencies between people, process, technology, and leadership?

    * accessed 06JUNE2011.

    ** accessed 06JUNE2011.

  • I’ll go for “they help me recognize my strengths and weakness” in such a way i will know where to improve and what to correct. In that way i will become a better person.

    David M.

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