The Idiosyncratic Rater Effect Is Ruining Your Performance Reviews

Meredith Wholley
3 min readNov 25, 2020

This article was originally published on December 30, 2019. It has been updated as of September 15, 2020.

You’ve been a manager for some time, and you have a pretty good read on most people. Or, at least, you’d like to think you do. You strive to rate employees in the most objective way possible, but if you’re doing it based only from your own perspective, reviews are not as effective as they could be. If anything, they are really more of a reflection on yourself, not your employees or colleagues.

This doesn’t sound like a very reliable or accurate way to conduct a performance review, yet some are still unaware of this issue. They are also unaware of how it may be ruining the very essence of their performance reviews.

As the Covid-19 pandemic seems to have no end in sight, the purpose for performance reviews are not to weed out poor performers. Rather, it’s to strengthen your organization’s culture and reinforce its values.

Bonus Content: How to Set a Foundation for Effective Performance Appraisals

Ratings Are Ruining Traditional Reviews

First and foremost, it creates a bias. How you see a situation and how another sees it are two very different things. This is not only misleading, but begs the question of whether the review is actually the most accurate. In addition, it may also mean that one reviewer may be factoring in other specifics to adjust a person’s rating. Performance-Appraisals.orgsays:

“The effects of evaluator perceptions introduces highly subjective factors that make many evaluations more or less inaccurate.”

Subjective, single-source ratings are ruining your performance reviews and performance culture. These ratings are used for multiple aspects within the workplace, and relying on just them is detrimental. When it comes to promotions, team building, compensation or terminating an employee, your data must be sound, comprehensive and as far from subjectivity as you can make it. So, now the question is, what do you do instead? The answer: competency management systems.

Read More: 3 Major Benefits of Competency Based Management

The Case for Competency Based Management Systems

These are software reviews that look at how the employee has done in meeting agreed-upon goals, company expectations and as compared to skills suited to their position. When an employee is rated by these three standards (skills, goals and expectations) the rating is far more likely to be accurate. These reviews result in higher employee performance and engagement, which means lower turnover and high productivity. Managers and employees can see the whole picture of the team, employee and department, and work toward goals together, rather than from a subjective one-sided view. Employees can then use the feedback that is given to make themselves and the company successful.

This article was originally published on the ClearCompany blog by Sara Pollock.



Meredith Wholley

As a Digital Marketing and Events Manager for ClearCompany, Meredith coordinates best-practice content and brand-awareness events with HR practitioners.