Well, it’s a new semester! A new school year! A new beginning!
And so, I’ve committed myself to writing on this blog every week, usually on Fridays. Today, you get a Thursday because I will be OUT OF TOWN tomorrow. Woooooo.
I’m planning on writing on a lot of topics this fall including building a relationship with a new boss, hiring decisions, avoiding burnout, going into library management, re-envisioning positions after retirement, emotional intelligence in management, and just whatever else I feel like writing about in terms of librarianship.
Right now, I’m working on library-wide staff evaluations. We do these before the new academic year starts here. I’ve done these on all kinds of calendar cycles in previous positions. Being that this is my third year here, I’m trying to be much more purposeful and hands on in the way we do things and really thinking deeply about what we say and do and what we put down on paper, which brings us to staff evaluations. This year, I poured over each one in my library (not just for my direct reports) and made suggestions, corrections, and, for a few, flat out rejected the statements and ratings and asked for rewrites.
These are crucial and important documents in almost every workplace. They can be used to calculate raises. They can be used to create a paper trail on problem employees. They should be used to state yearly or long term goals. But, I’ve also seen them used (maybe especially in the non-profit sector) as a reward mechanism, especially during times of low if any raises and in positions of little to no growth. So, I’m here to tell you to stop doing that and also stop expecting it.
Over-inflating evaluation ratings can only last so long and go so far. If you, or I, as a supervisor consistently tell all of our employees that they are excellent in every way in every category, then they’ve reached the ceiling. They have nowhere to improve. Coming into work, doing your job and doing it well, is an average score or a “meets expectations,” depending on your campuses language. I expect that of everyone. It’s what you do that’s truly above and beyond the basic job that gets you the excellent, 5, or whatever rating you use.
And let’s face it. Most people hate to have the evaluation meeting. Most people get nervous about it, whether you’re the giver or receiver of the evaluation and even when you know you’re doing a good job. I have wonderful staff and these meetings make me nervous. I doubt that ever stops. (Just like I am always nervous the first day of class. Still.)
We often really like our employees. Sometimes they become friends and feel like family. But, giving them an inaccurate review does not help anyone, even if it makes everyone feel better. So, the next time you have to write staff evaluations, I’m going to suggest a few steps to avoid over-inflating this important document.
- Go back to the job description. Make sure it’s accurate. Does this person come to work and do all of these things? Then, they are great and doing a good job. (Just average.)
- Are there certain areas in which they excel? Call them out on those pieces.
- Even if they are excelling, are there things they can do to push themselves over the next year?
Also, if you have not already, everyone in your workplace who writes evaluations should sit down and talk about what different ratings mean to you in order to try to standardize the ratings across departments. It is my job as the director to inform staff when adjustments have to be made, but I can see the disparity first hand in how different supervisors rate and describe work. Just like we norm rubrics, we need to norm evaluation ratings. (And we are totally doing this next year.)
I think the best advice I got in writing evaluations came from a friend in HR. She told me to make the process collaborative. So, have the employee send you their highlights for the year first or even fill out the form themselves and identify goals for the next year before you write the evaluation. Also, if there is space for employee comments, encourage your staff to make some. Did they run into specific obstacles in their jobs this year? Do they have specific projects they wanted noted on their evaluations? Appropriate acknowledgement is important.
In terms of writing goals, I also have my employees note how they will measure their success. Our form allows for that, but not everyone fills it out across campus. We fill our forms out correctly and fully in the library because that’s what we do. :) I also encourage them to keep it to three goals. Three is manageable.
Now, even I do not get an “E” rating in every category. I know, this is shocking. And I am very hard on myself in my own pre-evaluation analysis. (Probably also shocking.) But, doing just average in some areas gives me something to strive for and I’m OK with that. So, you should learn to be too.
Well, that’s all for now. Happy fall semester!