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How to rate the fully satisfactory performer

Probably the toughest call that managers have to make is how to rate the individual whose performance all year has been fully satisfactory, where there are no important deficiencies that have to be worked on, and where the person has made some contributions that are well above average. Should Mary, for example, who has performed this way, be rated as Meets Expectations — the company’s middle rating — or is she really over the line and into the Exceeds Expectations category? 

Here’s an informal test that many managers have found useful. In thinking about which rating level — Meets Expectations or Exceeds Expectations — best describes Mary’s performance, think about her résumé. What did Mary do in the past 12 months that was so significant that she had to update her résumé to include it? If your answer is, well, Mary did every part of her job just fine but there’s wasn’t anything that belongs on her résumé, then the right answer is Meets Expectations, not Exceeds Expectations.

Then ask, what skills did Mary acquire over the past 12 months that were so important that she needed to update her résumé to include them? If your answer is, well, Mary went to a couple of training programs and learned how to make PowerPoint presentations, but there wasn’t anything that caused her résumé to need updating, you’re looking at a Meets rating, not an Exceeds.

Finally, ask yourself, who are the people Mary so influenced that they said, “Make sure I’m listed on your résumé as a reference”? If your answer is, well, Mary gets along well with everybody but there’s nobody . . .”

You get the point. If a person has performed well but not at a level where her résumé has to be changed, that’s a good indicator that Meets Expectation is the most appropriate rating.

About the Author

Dick Grote has been a management consultant for almost thirty years, specializing exclusively in the field of employee performance appraisal and management. As a consultant, he has created employee performance management systems for several hundred of the world’s best known and most respected companies, including Texas Instruments, JCPenney, Miller Brewing Company, American Airlines, Macy’s, Raytheon, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, and Herman Miller.


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