There are a variety of common issues that supervisors should be aware of when evaluating the performance of employees. Training supervisors properly is an essential step in avoiding potential legal issues, unemployment claims, and employee performance problems. Here are ten common mistakes supervisors make when evaluating employee performance:

Waiting too long— Supervisor should not wait for a schedule performance evaluation date to discuss performance with employees. As soon as a supervisor identifies a performance or behavior issue, it should be addressed with the employee using specific feedback and expectations for improvement.

Rating inflation—As a general rule, supervisors give employees inflated performance appraisals because they are afraid that honest evaluations will damage their working relationships. Evaluations should be comparative and should reflect reality. Inflated performance appraisals give employees a false sense of security, deprive them of an opportunity to improve and create litigation risks for the company.

Prejudice or bias—Management should be alert to possible bias when performing evaluations. Bias can be based on race, sex, age, religion, educational accomplishments, past jobs or anything else that is not job-related, even if subtle or unintentional. If the employee is a favorite or well-liked, a higher rating than the performance justifies may be given. Reviewers also tend to overlook certain weaknesses that are similar to those that he or she personally possesses.

Focusing on the employee instead of the issue— Stay focused directly on the problem, not on the individual. Avoid bringing personality traits into performance conversations. Also make sure you are not blaming one employee for a system or company-wide problem. Consider what else could be causing the performance issue.

Unrealistic goals or objectives—Evaluations may reflect the shortcomings of management. If a supervisor establishes unrealistic goals and then negatively evaluates an employee because he or she has not met the goals, the supervisor is creating problems for the company.

Inadequate observation—Make sure that the individuals evaluating employee performance are completely familiar with all aspects of the employees’ jobs to ensure complete and accurate evaluations. Don’t leave the job of providing employee feedback to HR.

Inappropriate time span for review—Appraisals should cover the complete period of time since the last evaluation, and supervisors should be familiar with prior evaluations for goal-setting and appraisal. However, they should not repeatedly look backward and bring up problems that existed in the past, nor should they focus only on very recent improvement.

Lack of comments—Meaningful and constructive comments and explanations are critical not only if an evaluation must be defended in court, but also for employee improvement. Simply providing employees a performance score from 1-5, does little to allow the employee to improve in week areas and continue shine in strong areas. Regardless of whether comments and ratings are negative or positive, they should always be explained to the employee. Discuss with the employee how to improve on issues, or encourage the person to keep up the good work.

Allotting sufficient time to discuss—The reviewer often does not set aside sufficient time to allow for a meaningful performance discussion. Make sure you schedule enough time when meeting with employees about performance to share your thoughts and give the employee the opportunity to respond.

Not following through—Reviewers often do not follow through with suggested corrective action, decreasing the effectiveness of the performance evaluation. Once you provide employees with a plan of how they can improve, also set up a plan for how you will hold the employee accountable. Set aside time on your calendar to meet back with the employee and discuss the changes they have made. Follow through with any disciplinary action that was discussed should the performance not improve.

Employee performance discussions can be uncomfortable for supervisors and employees alike. Providing adequate training to supervisors makes the feedback process much easier. Helpside has several resources to help with this process.

Visit and check out all of the forms and tools in the Performance Management section.

Also check out these on-demand webinar recordings:

Performance Communication Made Easy

Performance Documentation Made Easy


If you have any questions, reach out to our People Strategy team at or (801) 443-1090.