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Performance Evaluations: Tell It Like It Is

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - In performance evaluations, is it more important to be honest or to be gentle?

Bucking the kinder, gentler "we're all winners, let's give everyone a trophy just for participating" ethos, The Denver Police Chief made headlines last month when he rejected scores of performance evaluations, saying that they were too high and that "not everyone is outstanding". Tru dat.

While he's not currently up for Mr. Popularity, the Chief is right that performance evaluations play an important role in employment law, and honesty (in conjunction with kindness) is important.

One of the prime pieces of evidence that someone will use in a lawsuit for wrongful termination is that she'd gotten only positive evaluations and so her termination was unfair and unlawful. So, where performance is lacking, it's imperative to let employees know or they'll be shocked when they get fired. That said, managers are reminded that the point of an evaluation is to motivate, not to frustrate and language that belittles serves no one's purpose.

So, while Chief Popularity understands that the word exceptional shouldn't be applied to average, we also need to remember that being constructive in the criticism is important as well.

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