It’s that wonderful time of year in my job……evaluations! I actually really enjoy sitting down to review what residents have written about my RAs and my own performance. That probably makes me a little crazy, but I’ve always felt that almost any feedback is good feedback.
As much as I love evaluations, there is an aspect that I have grown to dread. Each year, we have several student staff members who view their performance rating of “Meets Expectations” as indicative of negative performance in their job.
I’ve always found an evaluation to be a useful tool as it has helped me to examine the minutiae of my job responsibilities that I often times overlook or take as a given. We require our RAs to complete a self-evaluation of their own performance as well and then submit it their RD to in turn complete their formal evaluation. The evaluation has several categories that require RAs to rate their performance on a 4-tier scale: “Exceeds Expectations”, “Meets Expectations”, “Needs Improvement”, and “Unable to Judge.” Naturally, the “Unable to Judge” option isn’t used by RAs about their own performance very often, which leaves a 3-tier scale. Over the past couple of years, I have seen more and more self-evaluations with RAs rating their performance as “Exceeds Expectations” and then not providing any concrete examples in the written portion of the evaluation to justify such a rating (something we ask them to do). As their supervisor, I fully admit I don’t always know everything my RAs are doing, however, the written portion is their opportunity to show me how they have gone above and beyond the job requirements. When they don’t do this, and I have no other information about the issue, most likely they will get a “Meets Expectations” for that response in my evaluation.
My concern is that over the past five years I have had several RAs react VERY negatively to receiving a “Meets Expectations” as their overall performance rating. We coach our RAs on the evaluation process before distributing the evaluation documents in an attempt to outline the process. In this meeting, I have always made it clear (in my mind) that “Most RAs are going to receive a “Meets Expectations” in all areas of their job performance. This is a GOOD thing, as it means you are doing the job that you were hired to do.” My overview of the eval process continues for a while longer explaining that the written portions of the evaluation are the prime time to qualify why an RA gave themselves a “Needs Improvement” or an “Exceeds Expectations.”
My question is this: has anyone else observed something similar to “Meets Expectations” being viewed as a negative appraisal of performance? In my mind, this is an affirmation that you are doing the job, and there have been no issues that have risen to the level of questioning one’s job performance. While ratings of “Exceeds Expectations” are rare for me, I feel those should be reserved for the truly exceptional performance of an RA in a given category (programming, community building, helping skills/role modeling, behavior management, administrative tasks, etc).
Do others experience similar sentiments from your students? If so, any creative ideas on how to better educate them about how to critically review their own performance?