Are we any good at rating our own performance? There is lots of evidence that says we aren’t.
A study in 1977 on professors showed that an amazing 94 percent of them rated their performance better than their peers. 94 percent! Of course it’s impossible for nearly everyone to be better than average—you would think that professors would be well aware of that…
Similar studies, conducted on teachers, truck drivers, software engineers and others, show that professors aren’t the only ones fooling themselves. “While most people do well at assessing others, they are wildly positive about their own abilities,” says David Dunning—a psychology professor at Cornell University—an expert in his field. Two guys from the University of Florida think they know why this happens. They call it the better than my average effect. We look at our best performances when rating ourselves and we look at others being average when evaluating their performance execution.
All of this can create big problems when it comes to performance reviews. Here is how we suggest you deal with it:
Don’t score your staff—use descriptors. We recommend five expectations: well-below, below, meeting expectations, above and well-above.
Explain that meeting expectations is not like getting a C grade. It’s more like shooting par… pretty good.
Explain that your expectations are based on the knowledge, skill and experience of your staff. Some staff has more of it than others. The new guy has less experience than those in the company for a while so your expectation of him will be different while he is settling in.
Have a way to collaborate managers. If one manager’s idea of meeting expectations is much lower than everyone else then managers may mark at a lower performance rate. In this case, performance reviews may actually reduce the overall organization performance—disaster. This is a particular risk when the pay reviews and performance reviews are done at the same time.
How do you prevent the better than my average effect?