Helping Supervisors Define Standards of Performance

By Kniggendorf, Fred | Management Review, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Helping Supervisors Define Standards of Performance


Kniggendorf, Fred, Management Review


In the back of every employee's mind are these three very simple questions: "What is my job?" "How am I doing?" end "Does anybody care?" The extent to which supervisors answer these questions predicts an employee's role, productivity and, ultimately satisfaction on the job. Pretty important stuff. Fortunately, the performance appraisal system can provide these answers. Unfortunately, many supervisors resist this method.

It doesn't have to be this way, though. But HR first needs to recognize the reasons for resistance and then remove the stumbling blocks from the system. Addressing the following barriers to buy-in might just help you sell the concept.

* PROBLEM: Ambiguity. Performance evaluation forms contain vague categories such as teamwork, initiative, dependability and cooperation. This forces supervisors to define these terms on their own--usually on the spot when employees ask questions. This puts them on the defensive at the start.

* SOLUTION: Quantify Behaviors. Ensure that the language used enables supervisors to identify measurable goals. Encourage them to personalize and quantify the behaviors for each category. It's tough to measure what a "cooperative person" does. Ask, instead, what a team player does, and it's more manageable They ask for or offer help when necessary; they put team goals before their own; they congratulate a deserting teammate; and they look for opportunities to educate others.

How about measuring "initiative"? Rephrase that as "self-starter" and you can measure behavior.

* PROBLEM: Negative Perceptions. Both employees and supervisors bring their own negative perceptions to the evaluation table. Employees view the process as a once-a-year, downward criticism, rather than a summary of performance measurements. For supervisors, the form itself is off-putting, since they don't design it; this spells lack of control for many of them since it is meant to be their tool. Supervisors, therefore, tend to view the process as an adjunct to, and sometimes an intrusion into, their "real work. …

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