Collaborative Performance Evaluations

Collaborative performance assessments should be conducted as part of the natural rhythm in a company.  Perhaps the best way to understand how these evaluations work is to watch this video.

The process consists of the following steps:

Sample Meeting

A team of 3 and 15 people piles into the conference room for their regular team meeting.

“Ladies and gents, let’s get through this quickly as we all have a lot to get done.  Dan, you go first.”

And the meeting is off.  The team goes around the room and reports.

Step 1: Self-Assessment

Dan is the first to report.  He knows that the team will have an opportunity to chime in, so he feels that he has to be honest and transparent assessment – his peers know better than the manager what he has done.

“Last week I said I would do drafts for client X.  I did and the client really liked them. I think I should be evaluated at expectations.”

Or, let’s assume a less-than-stellar performance:

“Last week I said I would do drafts for client X.  I did the drafts, but the client didn’t like them.  I confess I was a bit distracted as my dog had to be taken to the vet, so didn’t get as much done as I had hoped.  I should be evaluated slightly below, but I’ll make it up this week.”

Because these assessments happen on a regular basis, there is almost no negative consequence to evaluating oneself below expectations. Why? Because this can be corrected the very next week.  At the same time, such statements build rapport with peers – being honest and respectful is a critical component of any culture.

Step 2: Peer Assessment

Now that Dan has spoken, the manager takes the reins:

“Thank you Dan.  OK, everyone, do you agree with his self-assessment?  Any feedback?”

Most people won’t have a position because they didn’t work directly with Dan.  However, Kyle has some positive comments:

“Dan didn’t get very good feedback from the client, but, to be fair, he did five drafts where usually we only do three.  And I’ve worked with this client before – it’s a difficult client.  I think Dan did a stellar job and this client could lead to a number of others in the same industry – Dan performed well above expectation in my opinion.”

Note that if Dan gets an above-expectation evaluation, this actually costs Kyle because if Dan’s impact is higher, he has a higher relative impact.  So Kyle would not offer a positive response unless it was really justified.

However, in most cases, there will be a neutral response – people around the room will nod in approval of self-assessment or will say that they will trust the manager because they did not have enough interaction.

However, there could be a corrective response.  For example, Diana could say:

“Actually, I disagree.  I feel that Dan could have done a much better job – with the last client he was much more creative.  So I feel that Dan performed below expectation.”

A very important element of the conversation is the outcome.  Because everyone’s compensation is is affected not only by assessment, but also by outcomes, Diana’s feedback is seen as pragmatic, not political.

Step 3: Manager Assessment, Record Evaluation

Now we go back to the manager, Pavel:

“Sounds like everyone feels that Dan performed below/at/above expectation.  Given everything I heard, I am going to record you as Slightly Above Expectation.”

Perception of fairness is very important.  At this point, Dan might not think that what’s happening is fair, but he can offer a clarification and force adjustment of expectations for what the team expects for the next meeting.  So he might say:

“OK, I disagree.  I think I worked really hard and I deserve to be evaluated above expectation.  But now I know that my expectation is, so I’ll concentrate on that in the coming week.”

Or he might say:

“Sounds good.”

The manager records the evaluation on the FairSetup website.


We even experienced the following scenario:

“Actually, I appreciate that you would like to evaluate me above expectation, but I don’t think that that is fair to Emily.  I really didn’t produce more than Emily, but she was evaluated below expectation, so I should be evaluated also below.”

Yes, this actually happened in a real life case.  When asked “why did you take this step that actually is worse for you?” the response was:

“First off, I have to look this person in the eyes every day.  Second, if they don’t feel that what is happening is fair, they won’t work very hard, and this person is critical for successful outcomes.”

Step 4: Manager Adjusts Goals

Now is the time for the manager to adjust goals, expectations, update the team on the changing conditions, etc.

Step 5: Throttle & Confirm Expectations

Finally, everyone can go around the room to confirm their expectations and even adjust their throttle.  For example, Dan might say:

“OK, so I have two projects to finish.  However, my parents are in town, so I am going to spend a bit more time with them.  I am going to throttle down to 60% if that’s ok with everyone.  Diana, would you mind helping me with the workload?”

The manager asks:

“Is everyone ok with this?  Diana, can you help out?”

Everyone nods.  Diana responds:

“Sure.  Happy to help.”

And so everyone is now on the same page and the company can continue rolling forward.

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