Improve the Performance Evaluation Process

By Mulder, Armand | Law & Order, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Improve the Performance Evaluation Process


Mulder, Armand, Law & Order


It is that time of the year again; performance evaluations are due by the end of the month. For many a supervisor and manager this is an exercise in writing fairy tales; for others it is sheer misery, and only a handful will do the job right.

Like it or not, performance evaluations are here to stay unless a better system replaces it. Let's be honest about it: who takes performance evaluations seriously these days, other than attorneys who will use the performance evaluation against the agency, management and supervisors during tort or criminal trials? And while many Human Resource Managers insist on timely submittal of performance evaluations, not many review them for truthfulness, completeness and accuracy or they would not accept so many "walks on water" evaluations.

Recipients of these evaluations dismiss them as another useless piece of paper in their personnel files, unless of course the evaluation gives them a less than perfect rating or worse, calls for remedial training of the person being rated.

Credibility Problem

Why has performance appraisals fallen into such a credibility problem? First of all, most folks who do performance evaluations don't know how to do them right, because they were never taught adequately; others just don't care because they know that if they are truthful in their evaluation of staff, upper management- be they inter or intra agency- are not likely to support them when the employee grieves the evaluation. Others know that more often than not the evaluation is often ignored during such times when individuals are considered for special assignments or promotion to the next rank. Unfortunately, many of these promotions and assignments are frequently based on "who in this group of candidates irritated me the least," or "who will give me the least grief," or "who among our favorites deserves it this time."

Other times promotions are made based on the need to maintain the existing "good old boy" network or to meet some internal or external special interest group's agenda. Rarely is the performance evaluation brought to the forefront in such situations, because the decision makers know very well that many evaluations are fairy tales. Another reason performance evaluations are done poorly is because it is not done often enough by a runof-the-mill supervisor or manager for such an individual to develop the necessary expertise. It is thus no surprise that many supervisors feel that the exercise of writing performance evaluations is a waste of time. This perception must be changed.

Shifting Gears

First, we must shift gears in how we think about measuring and evaluating performances. Performance evaluations, as they are conducted now in many public and private organizations (based on a review of many studies on this topic and by the comments made by many law enforcement command officers in recent interviews) do not measure an individual's contribution to the overall mission of the organization or the goals and objectives of that individual's unit.

Instead, supervisors are asked to rate individuals' performances based on a forced feed performance boiler plate/form. For example, many a performance evaluation boiler plate asks supervisors to rate an employee on generic skills and behaviors such as communications skills, initiative, quality and quantity of work, knowledge of rules and regulations, ethics, and so on. Not that these behaviors are irrelevant, however, a direct relationship to the accomplishment of the agency's mission is often missing.

What such generic, forced fed forms fail to do is allow the rater to specifically rate the employee's performance in furtherance of his team's mission, or how he added value to the department's mission and strategic plan. For example, how well did the individual perform in the application of the Scanning, Analyzing, Responding and Assessing (SARA) model in resolving a loitering problem on a known drug dealing street corner? …

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