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Performance evaluation

Performance evaluation

Performance evaluation is a central element in staff development. It is used for staff and career planning, determined the performance-related component of salaries and communicates specific organizational and operational values to staff. The importance of evaluation processes means that a manner of procedure is needed that is as free as possible from prejudice and discrimination. Evaluations which are perceived as unjust are often followed by loss of motivation and performance. A negative evaluation frequently makes the persons who have been evaluated behave in the very way attributed to them in the evaluation (self-fulfilling prophecy).

Performance evaluations are very susceptible to gender-specific bias. Firstly, the evaluation criteria may be influenced by social and organisationally-specific expectations and patterns of perception, known as stereotypes, which are gender-specific in character from the outset. This effect is reinforced by the focus on personal qualities as a subject of evaluation. Secondly, the evaluation process is subject to very strongly subjective colorings by both those doing the evaluating and those being evaluated. In many cases, the evaluation depends to a not inconsiderable degree on the self-perception and self-presentation of performance- relevant criteria by those being evaluated. Both frequently result in significant bias effects with the corresponding consequences for performance.

The task of non-discriminatory performance evaluation is to control and avoid gender-specific coloring and bias. The following questions arise:
  • How can evaluation processes be designed in such a way that discrimination due to gender can be avoided?
  • Which evaluation criteria facilitate a result that takes proper account of gender issues?
  • How can those doing the evaluation and those being evaluated be made aware of their own patterns of perception in the process?
In order to overcome discriminatory evaluations, criteria must be worked out, processes must be changed and those doing the evaluating and those being evaluated must be sensitized to gender aspects.

Revision of criteria:
  • Checking the selected evaluation criteria for susceptibility to stereotyping interpretations; for example, women and men are frequently assumed per se to have different levels of performance in criteria such as “willingness to perform”, “creativity”, “communicative ability”, etc.
  • Creating transparent evaluation criteria which treat competencies that are traditionally stereotyped as male or female equally and with equal weighting
  • Ceasing to evaluate personal qualities and instead concentrating on actual behavior and concrete work results.
Changing processes
  • Creation of a broad basis for evaluation by means of for example regular staff and goal agreement interviews
  • Creation of participation possibilities for those under evaluation within the context of the evaluation process with opportunities for appeal
  • Granting support services for all involved for example in the form of external consultancy
  • Involvement of several persons in the evaluation process – for example works councils and staff councils, equal opportunity commissioners, other staff members, clients, etc. (e.g. 360° feedback)
  • Introduction of upwards evaluation for example management feedback
  • Creation of bodies with balanced membership with control function
Sensitization of those involved
  • Sensitization of those involved to possible gender discrimination (awareness training) and creation of gender competence by means of consultancy and training (skill building training)
  • Robust evaluation process to recognize gender-specific bias effects as early as possible

Evaluation perspective

Performance evaluations usually involve the requirement to create an effective, objective and comparable picture of the performance and capability of members of staff. So it is dominated by a selective way of seeing things, which divides workforces into successful and less-successful groups. This selectiveness is not without its problems with regard to gender aspects. In particular, the quota rule usual in public administrative organizations, according to which for example only some 25 % of those evaluated are allowed to be given the evaluation good or very good, creates a high potential for frustration, as such rules necessarily result in decisions that have nothing to do with performance (quota effect). Those affected are mostly younger members of staff (Benjamin effect) and women (similarity or part-time effect).
With regard to the fulfillment of future tasks, an evaluation that is oriented to individual strengths and weaknesses and takes account of development potential is more accurate. The German Federal Administrative Office has also (see the lecture by Giso Schütz) come to the conclusion in this respect that the evaluation of capability and potential is the more important part for staff development measures. Comparability with others on the other hand takes a back seat.

An example:
The equal opportunity office for women in Munich has carried out a study of the evaluation system of the Munich city administration. By means of a systematic analysis of the statistics of the evaluation results, the evaluation guidelines, the implementation practice, training measures and working aids, it could be shown that the system was not as gender neutral as had previously been supposed.

Important results of the study:
  • Female staff were on average evaluated lower that male staff at all levels, and these differences tended to increase the higher the level in the hierarchy
  • The evaluation criteria for “excellent” leadership capability were clearly stereotyped as male in the guidelines and working aids (e.g. fully available at all times, confident, assertive, dynamic) and written in the masculine linguistic form
  • Evaluation criteria and qualities associated with “average” leadership qualities were clearly stereotyped as female (e.g. friendly, sympathetic, patient, understanding)
From this, proposals for removing disadvantages were developed and put into practice in a process that has been going on for over ten years and is still continuing.

Elements for putting into practice the abolition of discrimination:
  • Abolition of male-dominated descriptive aids and the creation of new guidelines for evaluation
  • Simplification of the evaluation questionnaire and the inclusion of social criteria such as “co-operation and communicative capability”
  • Prohibition of quotas for top evaluations and average evaluations and monitoring compliance
  • Consideration of the influence of gender role stereotypes on evaluations within the framework of general training for those evaluated
  • Introduction of a participative evaluation procedure
  • Working aid for those carrying out evaluations, female members of staff being evaluated for the draft report discussion in which the initial results are communicated and support in the arbitration meeting if agreement cannot be reached.

Literature on non-discriminatory performance evaluation [German]

Here you can find information on the services offered by the GenderCompetenceCenter and a summary and the presentations of our meeting on  "Gender mainstreaming in staff development: Non-discriminatory performance evaluation in public service" [German].
erstellt von Administrator zuletzt verändert: 02.01.2010 20:07